Sunday, December 2, 2018

Greenhouse Extending the Pumpkin Season

So a little less than two weeks after sowing the winter rye grass seed in the greenhouse the first of the grass seed started popping up.  That is with freezing temperatures every night sometimes as low as 9 degrees.  The other patches grass, which was sown a month ago, but doesn't have a greenhouse, I haven't seen any signs of the grass growing yet.  It isn't a surprise but it answers my question about how that grass would do since it was planted so late in the year.  Temps in the greenhouse right now are 30 degrees warmer on a slightly overcast day right now.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Why a Pumpkin Goes Heavy / Light

I've seen discussions around this for years.   Why do giant pumpkins sometimes go heavy and why do they sometimes go light relative to their estimated measurements?  The simple answer is that there is no simple answers to that question.  But there is good evidence that there are different factors that come into play.  Let me say from the outset, that my conclusions here are not scientific, but they are based on real data and more than a decade of growing giant pumpkins.

In my experience and from soil samples from many growers across the country, there are three mail factors that contribute to where a pumpkin goes light or heavy.   These are in no particular order:  genetics, environment and fertilization.

Genetic Factors
Let's first talk about genetics.  There does seem to be a genetic factor that influences if a pumpkin goes heavy or light.  In my earliest days of growing, the 898 Knauss was known to produce off spring that tended to go heavy to the charts.  A good example of that is the 901 Hunt and its offspring.  The 901 was 19% heavy and of its 27 progeny, only three went light with the average pumpkin going an amazing 10% heavy and some going as much as 27% heavy.  That is statistically significant.  The numbers say that only 50% of those 27 pumpkins should have gone heavy, but in this case 88% went heavy and they went a lot heavy on average.  That tells us something.  Genetics plays a factor if a pumpkin is going to go heavy or light.

Environmental Factors
For this one, I have good data, but I'm not 100% sure if there is one main factor.  I'm pretty sure it is going to be temperature, but humidity could be a factor as well.  I've grown in two states with similar environments.  Warm/hot days with cool nights and a somewhat shorter growing season.  Years ago I noticed a pattern that was different than most of the Orange Belt states where the biggest pumpkins are grown.  In Colorado and Utah the vast majority of pumpkins end up going light on the scale.  Particularly in years that are very hot weights tend to be down and pumpkins tend to go light.  I've seen years in Colorado where the vast majority of pumpkins went light.  For example, in 2012, which was a hot summer, only six of 31 pumpkins went heavy.  This year in Utah, out of 31 pumpkins that went to the scale at Thanksgiving point, only 4 pumpkins went heavy and it was a hot summer this year in Utah as well.   Different growers using different growing practices and a wide variety of seeds, so really only the weather can account for how only 12% of the pumpkins went heavy when statistically 50% of the pumpkins should have gone heavy to the charts.

One thing that immediately stood out to me when Beni Meier had his amazing world record year was how all of his pumpkins were world record size and all of them were well over the charts.  When I learned how he was using a meter to help determine how much fertilizer was in the soil, I realized that most growers were under fertilizing including myself, because I couldn't think of another way to account for how high over the charts his pumpkins were.  It could be genetics, but he pretty much grew the same type of genetics for all of the pumpkins and he on average was heavier than even the biggest of pumpkins from the same seed.

This last summer Ralf Laub did an interesting experiment that he shared with me the data on.  He took soil and pH readings on different growers patches across the country as he toured around.  Some of these growers had one ton+ pumpkins.  The TDS (total dissolved solids) numbers were all across the board for the growers in the sample, but the number that seemed to have a pattern for is if your TDS was under 350 then you were going to go light on the scales.  There were growers who had a TDS of over 1,000 and had pumpkins that went light.  There were many growers who had one pumpkin go light and one pumpkin go heavy and assuming the the TDS stayed consistent through the growing season and the care and the health of the plants were the same, then you have to assume that something other than fertilization was a factor.  But common sense says that if a plant is under fertilized then it cannot meet its full potential and if the TDS is below 350, then a pumpkin most likely is going to go light.  Not enough data here to have a solid conclusion on fertilization role in going heavy or light, but there is enough to say there is a role.

I've had pumpkins go 18% heavy and I've had pumpkins go 18% light.  Both were a real surprise and both plants grew on the same spot. It can be a real kick in the teeth when they go that light, but the scale doesn't lie.  I think there are some things a grower can do to help control the factors that determine if a pumpkin will go light or heavy, but it is not completely controllable.  At least not without considerable investment.  But if a grower understands those factors they may be a little less surprised come the weigh-off.  

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cyber Monday Deals on Now for Giant Pumpkin Seeds, Fertilizers & DVDs

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Patch 2 is Now Amended & Tilled

The greenhouse was officially completed on Friday, so on Saturday I had some time to amend the soil.  I put down yards of goat compost along with ammonium sulfate, soil sulfur and humic acid.  I've said it before here.  Probably about 80% of the pumpkins growth starts with what you do in the fall.  Those amendments where all then tilled into the soil.

After that, I then put in a cover crop of winter rye. I've never amended the soil this late in November, so it will be interesting to see how the cover crop does in the greenhouse.  Temps on a sunny day will be 20-30 degrees warmer than outside, but night time lows will be the same.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Patch Prep in Patch #1 is Done

Scrambled over the last couple of days to get the fall patch prep done.  After a descent stretch of warm weather I got the greenhouse up, but didn't have time to work the soil.   Weather is going to start turning tomorrow and I needed to get the soil worked and more importantly get the cover crop in.

To get the cover crop seed going I used a trick that I've used for years.  Winter rye can germinate in almost any temps above freezing, albeit slowly.   Temps will be hovering around freezing the rest of this week, so I put the rye seed in a bucket of sand 24 hours before planting, added warm water and some humic acid and then put the bucket in a warm place.  I then sowed the seed today.  I learned from experience that you don't want to go more than 24 hours because those seeds germinate quickly and you can end up with clumps of sand bound together with roots.

This fall I'm putting in about 50% more compost then I did last year.  I'd like to get my organic matter higher.  I feel like my soil loses moisture and nutrients too quickly and the organic matter will help with both.   Along with the compost I added soil sulfur to help drop the pH, humic acid to help make the nutrients in the soil more available and nitrogen tohelp break down the organic matter in the compost over the winter.

A few things I noticed when working the soil.  A descent amount of worms.  Exactly years ago there were zero, so the soil food web has been building nicely in the soil.  Also the tilth and looseness of the soil has improved.  Two years ago it was rock hard and now it is looking more like nice garden soil.

The greenhouse soil will get worked over the next couple of weeks.  No mud or snow worries in the greenhouse and it will stay much warmer in there all winter long.  If you have any experience with cover crops in greenhouses over winter please share any advice you have.  Not sure how to water it and keeping it under control where it doesn't grow too much over the winter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Nearly 10,000 Views on the Giant Pumpkin Growing 101 Video

Was pleasantly surprised today to see that nearly 10,000 of you have wanted my training video on how to grow a giant pumpkin.  If you are a first time grower or a grower looking to break the 1,000 pound mark for the first time, watch this video and hopefully you will learn some great tips:

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Yea! Hoping this Greenhouse will be a Game Changer

A greenhouse is no substitute for good growing practices, but I'm hoping for me that it can even out the playing fields some when it comes to the growing environment.  I know in the past I've complained a lot about cool nights, hot days and strong winds.  A greenhouse isn't going to fix all of that, but at least it can help me moderate it some.

Yesterday we finally got the covering on the greenhouse. Still more work to do, but it finally looks like a greenhouse.  Like I've said in the past, I'll put together a video that explains some of the technology I've put into the greenhouse that will help me control the environment and help me save time.  

Ideally I wouldn't have put the cover on the greenhouse now as we head into the snowy season, but I didn't have much of a choice.  In order for the NRCS to fund the greenhouse, they have to see it 100% completed and my deadline is March so if I didn't do it now, before the snow flies, I was going to have trouble trying to do it after the end of this month.  Fortunately I finally got a beautiful, mostly windless Saturday and good friends and family to help.  Thanks to them for that!

Here is one piece I was very excited to see this morning.  Temps got below freezing last night and at 7:30am it hit the low.  It was still 10 degrees warmer in the greenhouse.   That isn't typical, but the more interesting thing (although not surprising), is that not long after sunrise, when the greenhouse got out of the shadow of the house the greenhouse temps inside were 30 degrees warmer than outside.  That is a game changer.  I'm going to have other issues to deal with (keeping it cool enough during the heat of the day, disease pressure from higher humidity, etc.), which I have plans for, but if I can get the temps in the happy zone 2-3 hours earlier each day that should add up to a couple to a few hundred more pounds more on the pumpkin by the end of the season.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Final Day & Party Time

Even though my pumpkin is relatively small, this is still one of my favorite days of the year.  Tonight is the giant pumpkin party and the cutting of the pumpkin from the vine and then the weigh-off tomorrow.  Pictures to be posted later.  I just measured the pumpkin and even after nightly frosts and lots of cool/cold rainy weather, the pumpkin managed to eek out a few more pounds.  That is 111 days of growing.  Not bad.  The scale will tell the truth tomorrow.  I hope it will go heavy.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Weigh-off Time!

This coming Saturday is the weigh-off at Hee Haw farms in Pleasant Grove.  Start time is at noon.  I'll be taking my pumpkin there.  Certainly not my biggest pumpkin, but I really like the shape and genetics for this pumpkin.  Neglect didn't give it the best chance to grow this year, but I'm hoping the improvements made this year will allow for a big one next season. May grow a seed from this pumpkin.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Pumpkin is Still Growing

My pumpkin plant has pretty much not had any leaves on it for the last two weeks.   Pumpkin is still growing however.  Main vine was buried so the 4 frosts haven't totally killed the plant yet.  Its put on about 35 pounds since that first frost.  I think it will be done tomorrow however.  Supposed to get down to something like 26 degrees tonight.  Pumpkin is pretty small, but would still love to get every pound that I can on the pumpkin before the weigh-off.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Some Great Growing Tips

Ralph came by this evening to help me figure out some stuff with my irrigation and he had some great tips.  I'm writing this as some notes to myself, but I need to increase my fertilization next year.  Target would be between 1.8 and 2.0 on the EC tool.  Ralph always has some great ideas to share.  Some proven and some that he is still kicking around.  My bet is that Ralph grows a big one next year.  He has spent the better part of this year researching and meeting with growers at their patches to learn from some of the best.  He and his good wife had quite the tour this season.

Irrigation Water Temperature and Growing

It isn't something that the average gardener would think about, but your irrigation in some ways may be limiting the growth of your plants if the water is too cold.   Biology in the soil tends to be more active when the soil is warm.  If you are watering with 50 degree water then you may be cooling the soil and slowing the biology that feeds the soil.  It is one reason I use soil heating cables.  In the Spring, when my plants are smaller I typically warm my water before watering.  As the plants get bigger that becomes more of a challenge.  I know growers that have large, black painted water tanks that are used to warm the irrigation water.  I don't have that, so I installed a portable hot water heater that I'll still working with to get working properly.

I just checked the temperature of the irrigation water.  Right now it is 60 degrees.  I would guess it was probably 5-10 degrees warmer a month ago.  For early morning watering, that is warmer than my typical outdoor temperatures, but not ideal.  I'm hoping to water early in the morning with 75-80 degree water.  Not sure I'll be able to get enough volume out of my hot water heater to get it that warm.

Giant Pumpkin Growing Video

Pleasantly surprised to see my how to grow a giant pumpkin video has already hit 8,278 views since March.  If you watch the video and grew a pumpkin this year I would love to hear how things turned out for you.   If you would like to watch the video, it is free.  If you need growing supplies, top fertilizers or seeds visit

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Family Fun: Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off Time

Looking for some fun fall events for your family?  The Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers have two fantastic events for you.  This Saturday attend the first giant pumpkin weigh-off of the season at Thanksgiving point.  Start time is 11:00am.  See the largest pumpkins in Utah.  Two weeks later, on October 13th, go to Hee Haw Farms.  I'll have my pumpkin at this weigh-off.  Stuff for all the kids at both events.  More at

Friday, September 7, 2018

Heber Valley Life

On news stands now in the greater Heber Valley is the Heber Valley Life magazine which has a short sidebar article on my pumpkin growing. Grab your copy today before they sell out.  lol


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Pumpkin Growth Pattern

The 2145 pumpkin has continued to slow down.  The morning lows have consistently been in the 40s the last two weeks.  Day time highs have been nice in the mid-80s, but with those low temperatures it takes a long time for the patch to get warm enough that the pumpkin grows.   There probably isn't more than 12 hours of growing a day right now.  It would be interesting to see what the daily gains would be if the plant were kept above 70 degrees each night.  I'd bet pumpkin growth would double.

Sprayed on the leaves some some TKO today to give the plant a little boost and to help fight the powdery mildew that has started to come on lately.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Pumpkin Growth

Growth on the pumpkin this last week was about half of the previous week.  Not sure if it was because of the cool weather if it is the new growth trend.  I continue with the fertigation.  Each time I mix it up a little.  This last changeover I did nitrogen and potassium.   Before that I did 7-3-4.   I like to go a little lower on the phosphorous.  Vine growth has picked up a little on the plant the last two weeks, so the extra nitrogen seems to be working.  With 45 days remaining until vine cutting, I need to average 7.5 pounds a day to get where I would call the season a success.  Problem is that last week we weren't averaging much more than that.  The weather is cool again this week, so I'm not sure I'll see much of a change in the growth pattern.  Really wish I had the greenhouse up right now.

I like the shape of this pumpkin.  Barrel shaped is perfect.  The 2145 tends to go heavy, so I'm hoping we go that direction, but I've been burned by that thinking before.  This is a picture from last week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mitigating Risk in the Pumpkin Patch Late in the Season

So you've got a big pumpkin growing and you are going into the close of the season.  What do you do now?   To get your pumpkin to the scale is no small feat.  Almost half of the pumpkins I've grown didn't make it to the scale or made it to the scale damaged.   There are some things you can do to help increase your changes that you end the season strong.

  1. Watch your watering.  As the days get shorter and the temps cool off you can probably back off on the water some, which will decrease the risks of fungus and rot.
  2. Spray for powdery mildew.  This time of year powdery mildew likes to form on the leaves.  It is common to get some, but if it gets out of control it can cause big problems.  Actinovate or a good fungicide work well to prevent.  Don't wait until you see it growing.
  3. Check the pumpkin for damage and splits.  Often times you can stop rotting in its tracks if you catch it early.   A 10% solution of bleach and sulfur powder will often knock it out when it is small.
  4. Keep insecticide programs going.
  5. Some foliar sprays of seaweed on the leaves in September is a good idea.  It helps protect the leaves and seems to keep them going a little longer.  Can also help prevent light frost bite.
  6. Check stump and stem for soft spots and oozing.   If you find any, keep the area dry and apply a 10% solution of bleach and sulfur powder. 
  7. Nutrients can start getting depleted in the soil late in the season, so make sure plants are getting what they need.  Some growers attribute splits in pumpkins later in the season because of calcium and nitrogen deficiencies.   Nobody has proven that as far as I know, but ideal growth comes from just the right amount of nutrients in the soil, so keep the plants fed.   Possibly a little more foliar applications wouldn't be a bad idea at the end of the season.

Monday, August 20, 2018

RIP Grandpa Dee

The pumpkin named after my grandpa whom pasted away on New Year's eve bit the dust this last week.  When I measured it on Thursday I was surprised to see no growth because six days prior it seemed to be growing at a steady rate.   Today I measured again and no growth.  My son's plant next to it seems to have yellow vine disease, but this plant and the pumpkin show no signs of disease or a split.  It happens.

I haven't measured the 2145 pumpkin (Uncle Sam), but it is easy to see that it is still growing.  It is the final hope now.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Putting a Rumor to Rest

A first year grower friend of mine went to the UGPG club patch tour this last weekend.  I wish I could have been there, but our annual family reunion happened to fall on that same weekend so I was in Yellowstone.  I texted her from the cabin and asked how things went and if there were any big pumpkins.  She said that the rumors were that I had a 1,300 pounder in my backyard.  Apparently this blog isn't very highly read by all.  Lol

I'll put those rumors to rest.  My effort in the pumpkin patch this year has been minimal.  Too many other distractions, which is disappointing to me.  I think I had some good genetics to grow on this year, but I haven't got out of the plants what I should have because of a lack of time.  I would be the most suprised person if I had anything close to 1,300 pounds.  An outside chance of being able to best last years pumpkins, but I'm not sure that will happen.

I measured the 1974 pumpkin today for the first time in 6 days.  It only showed 1/2 inch in new growth on the circumference.  It may be shutting down.  The plant looks perfectly healthy however, so I'm not sure what is going on.

2145 seems to be growing at the same rate.   Vine growth hasn't been good over the last few weeks.  I hit it with additional nitrogen over the last two weeks, but it didn't seem to make much of a difference.  Pumpkin seems to want to take everything.