Sign in to comment!

Fox News Weather Center

Jack-o'-lanterns will be smaller in northeastern US this fall as hot, dry summer shrinks pumpkins

This summer's high heat and abnormal dryness has left many crops across the northeastern United States with something to be desired, especially for pumpkins.

"If you don't have a live plant, you have a lot of problems," said Candy Wasson, owner of Wasson Farms in State College, Pennsylvania.

Wasson Farms hosts thousands of people every fall as they visit for a range of fall activities, from pumpkin picking to maze running to petting farm animals.

However, this year, the high temperatures and lack of rain made it difficult for farms to grow their crops. Wasson Farms was no exception.

"We really never had any rains at the right time this year," Wasson said. "We either had a lot of rain all of a sudden or we didn't have anything."

Pumpkin planting season was especially dry, according to experts.

"With hot and dry conditions for much of the summer across the Northeast, the pumpkin crop likely would have been impacted significantly," AccuWeather Meteorologist Ed Vallee said. "During planting in the late spring and early summer, most areas in the Northeast did not see much significant rainfall."

Farmers had to fight to keep crops alive despite the dry conditions.

The lack of rain wasn't the only factor that made it difficult to raise pumpkins. The heat led to an increase in bugs, which farmers had to work to prevent them from eating the plants. However, there was a decrease in the one kind of insect the pumpkin plants need: bees; they are needed to pollinate the blossoms.

"If they're not flying, they're not pollinating, and you're not getting pumpkins," Wasson said.

Despite the rough conditions, in the same way the show must go on, the fall must have pumpkins.

"We always plant plenty of acres of pumpkins," Wasson said. "We plant them at different times; we always do have a plentiful amount of pumpkins available."

While some visitors may come looking for that massive jack-o'-lantern to scare trick-or-treaters, they may have a hard time finding them.

"You will see a reduction in size on the pumpkins this year," Wasson said. "There aren't going to be as many large pumpkins this year because of the dry weather.

While there may be fewer of the giant orange squash to pick from, Wasson said the perfect pumpkin is still out there. You just need to know what to look for.

"Everybody always looks at the stem," Wasson said. "The stem is the biggest thing people look for."

The farm owner also recommends to head out to the farm the second or third week in October to get the perfect pumpkin, as well as checking the overnight forecast for any frost advisories.

While this year may have been a lot of work to pull together the pumpkin yield, for Wasson, it's all worth it.

"It's a family time of year... seeing the kids faces on the hayride [is my favorite part]," Wasson said. "A lot of people have told us the reason they like coming here is we're real. We're a real farm."