The Biggest Threats To Your Pumpkin Patch This Fall

When you think of autumn, you probably imagine buckets of candy corn, beige cardigans, and orange leaves, but the time of year's biggest identifier is the pumpkin. Pumpkins are a staple of the fall season, from pumpkin spice lattes to carved Halloween jack-o'-lanterns to delicious pies served for dessert. That is why raising a pumpkin patch will not only make you the envy of the town but will also be a great source of cheer for your family and community. However, while a pumpkin patch will bring magical sentiment and camaraderie, it may also bring some unwanted threats in the form of furry pests. Human beings aren't the only interested visitors you'll attract to your pumpkin patch. Plenty of hungry animals like deer, squirrels, and groundhogs will want in, too.

Pumpkins are a delight to grow for the festive season, but if you're not careful, your fall garden could suffer in the hands — or jaws — of some animals who want to celebrate a little too early. In order to be well-prepared, you have to be acquainted with the three biggest threats, besides weather and insects, you could face. You'll also need to know how best to manage them before it's too late.

Keep your eyes peeled for these pumpkin patch pillagers

If garden pests run amuck in your pumpkin patch, prepare to find chunks of your pumpkins missing at random. There are three threats you need to be on the lookout for during the fall. Sighting deer in your yard from your balcony or porch may be an exciting thing, but if you have a pumpkin patch, don't encourage these four-legged cuties into your garden. They are often repeat offenders, starting in on the young leaves and shoots and returning for the main course once the pumpkins have grown. They can turn from cute to voracious eaters in the blink of an eye.

Squirrels are everywhere, but that doesn't mean we ever tire of seeing them flit about our lawns. However, as adorable as they can be, these rodents are notorious yard criminals and will definitely munch on your pumpkin patch. Left unchecked, squirrels can eat almost every part of the plant, including the vine, leaves, rind, and seeds. Once you spot these critters lurking around your garden, you have to act fast. 

Last on the list of renowned pumpkin thieves are groundhogs, which could also eat every part of your pumpkins. These rodents live in burrows underground and are typically nocturnal, which means they sneak into your pumpkin patch at night when it's hard to see them. Their sharp teeth, long nails, and ability to burrow provide them with easy access to your pumpkin patch.

Natural ways to curb your furry threats

Discovering that your precious pumpkins have been pilfered and gobbled up by these animals can be disheartening, but never fear. There are simple, humane ways that you can ensure your pumpkins survive until harvest. To ward off deer, install some motion-activated sprinklers. These sprinklers will effectively chase deer away, and they'll never see it coming. You could also use a deer repellent solution. To make this, mix together 8 ounces of vinegar with several drops of peppermint and rosemary oil, shake it up, and spray it onto your garden. Deer hate the smell of these herbs, so this should keep them away. 

Fortunately, squirrels are very sensitive to strong smells and equally hate the smell of peppermint, so you'd be getting rid of two pests for the price of one with the above repellent. If you have a squirrel problem, try adding some hot cayenne pepper flakes to that mix — they can't stand spiciness, either. Groundhogs are trickier to get rid of because they attack from underground. Build a wire fence around your pumpkin patch that's 2 feet deep in the ground and at least 3 feet high above it. Make sure the wire is thick and strong so the hog doesn't just chew right through it. You could also try spreading kitty litter or garlic around the area, since they dislike these smells. Once you've steered these three pests away from your pumpkin patch, you'll be able to enjoy your harvest.