Thursday, April 18, 2019

Soil Heating Cables in the Pumpkin Patch

This evening my son and I put in soil heating cables in to the pumpkin patch planting areas about 6-8 inches down in the soil.  These cables will be left in the soil the entire season and will help make sure the root zone is at least 70 degrees.  When the soil is warmer, to a certain limit, more biology will be active in the soil and will help feed the plants.  In the spring, in particular, the soils can be cold, and if you transplant into cold soil it can make for very unhappy plants. 

Right now I have the soil heating cables in and then clear plastic on top of the soil which will further help to heat the soil.  Prior to installing the heating cables I tested the temperature about 7 inches down.  It was 63 degrees.  Not bad, but in the next week I expect it to get up to at least 70 degrees which will keep the plants happy.

In the greenhouse I'm not adding the heating cables.  It will use the geothermal system, which I still need to get the fan hooked up to.  I checked that soil and it is 69.8 degrees right now in the planting areas.  I have clear plastic on the planting area it and when I get the greenhouse closed up I should easily get the soil to about 75 degrees in the next week.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

We are Growing

All of my initial seeds germinated except for one of the 2255s.  So I started a second.  I had almost given up on it at about the 48 hour mark, but then it popped.  All of the seeds are now pushing plants up through the soil now except for the newly germinated 2255.

I kind of thought that 1409 Miller would be the hardest seed to germinate, but it has been one of the most aggressive.  I've had no luck with the 282 Scherber seeds so far that my son is supposed to grow.  The first two didn't germinate.  2nd two are just past 48 hours and haven't germinated either, so I may not have a 282 seed for him.  I have a 1478 and a 1146 seed, which are both a selfed 282 seed, so they will be my backups if plan A doesn't work.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Seed Starting Time!

Yea!  The first true day of the pumpkin growing season.  My son and I have started soaking our seeds.  We first started by sanding the edges of the seeds.  The, in some warm water, we added a touch of humic acid and a small drop of liquid seaweed.  Those two things will help the seeds germinate.

We are going to soak the seeds for about 4 1/2 hours and then transfer the seeds to lightly wet paper towels that we will put in zip lock bags.  That will then be placed in a closet with a thermostatically controlled space heater and a heated seedling mat. That should get the seeds to about 85 degrees.  About 80-90 degrees is the target range.  In about 22 to 30 hours the tap root will start coming out of the seed.  At that point I'll put the seeds in a pot that has a soilless growing mix (ProMix BX), mycos, azos, humic acid and Actinovate.  Those pots will be in the same closet with the space heater and has grow lights.

I'll take the plants out for sun from time to time, but the plants will stay in the grow closet for about two weeks.  At which time, I'll plant them in the patches.

My 2019 lineup (hopefully at the end of the season I'll read this post foundly):

2005 Haist (1867 Barron x 2003 Haist) - I like seed because the pumpkin this seed came from had a good shape and the 1867 Barron has grown some nice pumpkins consistently.   Also like all of the 2145 genetics in it.  The orange color is a bonus in my opinion.

The 2003 pollinator was beautiful for its size.  Very orange and shiny.  A little too ribby to be perfect, but I feel in love with that pumpkin and knew I had to grow a seed from it.  But then I discovered the 2005 and thought it had an even better cross.  The fact that it is also a seed from the 4th biggest pumpkin ever grown last year was also a nice bonus.

2005 Haist (seed pumpkin came from)
Pollinated with this one














2255 Zaychkowski (2145 McMullen x 1495 Stelts) - More great 2145 genetics in this seed.  I've known Eddy for a number of years and he has really taken his growing to a new level and has put together a great setup to do it.  But anytime a grower goes from a personal best of around 1,100 pounds and then nearly doubles that best with a one ton pumpkin you have to take notice.  And that pumpkin got damaged and probably had a fair amount of weight to put on the last three weeks.  I have a video post on this blog that shows Eddy's pumpkin

My son is growing the 282 Scherber.  He and I are doing a crazy little project together with it.  The 282 Scherber is clone of the 1725 Harp plant that grew the first one ton pumpkin.  That clone was selfed to produce the 282.  So genetically speaking it is the closest genetically to the world record 1725 plant you can find.  That 1725 plant was crossed with the 1409 Miller and the seeds from that pumpkin (2009 Wallace) produced a number of world record pumpkins and a large number of one ton pumpkins.  Most all of the biggest pumpkins today have 2009 Wallace in their lines.  The funny thing is that nobody ever did another 1725 Harp  x 1409 Miller cross.  It is past its prime now (I was going to do this cross 4 years ago), but if you look at the numbers, the 2009 seed isn't much behind the 2145 McMullen seed in terms of big progeny.   So we are hoping to get these somewhat older seeds to germinate and do that cross this season.

I've put on hold the Pumpkin MythBuster Series for now.  Might do one post tomorrow, but I'll restart it again in the next three weeks.  Need to concentrate on growing right now and the weather isn't being kind to get the last pieces in place.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Soil pH and Nitrates

I got the lab results back two days ago on my soil samples.  As any good grower will tell you, getting your soil tested is the starting point to growing a big pumpkin.   If you don't know what is in your soil then you don't know what to add and you need to keep everything in balance.   Yesterday I called Western Labs to talk with John Taberna.  I usually give him a call after getting my reports back to understand pieces of it better and he usually ends of adjusting some of his recommendations based on the questions I ask him.  He is the best soil scientist I know of.  He sometimes gives more detailed recommendations on what specific types of fertilizers to use when I talk to him on the phone than what is in the report and he usually will have recommendations on how and when to best apply them.

One thing I asked him about is why one patches nitrates where way higher than the other and why the nitrates where much higher than I've ever had before on any previous soil report.  I treat both of my patches the same and typically put down in the fall about the same amount of compost on each patch.  The answer was interesting, but should have been obvious.   The nitrates in the greenhouse soil were about 6 times higher than the outdoor patch.  I asked why?  The answer, after some discussion, was that the nitrates in the outdoor patch had leached out from all of the winter snow. 

I don't know what our total accumulation of snow was for the winter, but for the better part of the winter we had 3+ feet of snow in the yard.  That means we probably had at least 4" of precipitation or more that percolated through the soil, leaching out the nitrates from the soil.  The greenhouse soil was covered so it only saw a small percentage of water from the irrigation I gave it from time to time during the winter.  Nitrates don't stay in the soil very easily and can leach out.  John says the nitrates in the outdoor patch are still there, but farther down then the 5-8 inches I was getting my soil samples from.  After knowing that and seeing the amount of organic matter in the soil he adjusted down the amount of nitrogen to give the soil during the season.

The other part of the conversation that was interesting with John was about soil pH.  I think sometimes we as growers get too caught up on some aspects of different parts of growing when in fact is that it may not be as important as one might think.  

When looking at my soil pH which is at 7.6, John said, "That is right about where you want to be."  That surprised me.  He then mentioned that Steve Daletas and Ron Wallace have pH's that are about the same as mine.  A lot of what you read is about nutrient uptake for most plants is best around 6.5-7.0, so most growers do everything they can to raise or lower their pH to something in that zone.  For my soil that is nearly impossible because of the amount of lime in my soil and higher pH waster.  The fact is that it is true that 6.5 is ideal, but not in the way I thought and I have a better understanding of it now.

To some degree, the only thing that matters when it comes to the soil is what is in the rhizosphere  around the roots.   The rhizosphere is the area around the roots and that is where almost all of the magic takes places.  To put it simply, the root hairs excrete acids to get at the nutrients in the soil.  That acidification can decrease pH  by as much as 0.75 pH units.  So although the soil pH may be too high, the rhizosphere that is important might be just right. 

John mentioned that the acidification of the soil typically goes out about a quarter of an inch, but with myco that may be extended as much as a couple of inches.  The ideal soil pH is about 6.5, but that is in the rhizosphere and not the overall soil.   If you have a high pH soil, do you need to add sulfur to adjust the pH then?  Yes for a few different reasons.  But it may not be as critical as some growers make it sound.  There have been lots of big pumpkins grown in higher pH soils.





Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Pumpkin MythBusters: Can Azos Help Grow Bigger Pumpkins?

Sometimes scientists will go through all of the data from previously published studies from different journals (called a meta-analysis) to try to get an overall picture of results from the different studies.  In one such meta-analysis from 59 different articles on Azospriillum (Azos) they looked at the effects of Azos on wheat growth.  

When it comes to beneficial bacteria and fungi, I have 2nd hand knowledge (but from very reputable sources) that some of the mykos on the market is about is worthless as kitty litter.  I know the grower that sent samples into labs, contacted the distributors and in some cases the problems were corrected and in other cases they were not.  So when it comes to beneficial bacteria and fungi know the source and know the expiration date because sometimes what is on the label isn't accurate and in other cases what is in the bag is largely dead and not viable.

So back to the studies.

In looking at the value of Azos and its effect on wheat the conclusion was that "A mean increase of 8.9% in seed yield and 17.8% in above ground dry weight was found to result from inoculation of wheat with Azospirillum."  Now I know that pumpkin growers aren't growing wheat but you won't find 59 studies on Atlantic Giant pumpkins (more money in wheat) so you have to extrapolate.  But if I could get a pumpkin 8.9% bigger by using Azos I'd do it every time.

As I understand it Azos has an affinity for grasses, so the effects on cucurbits might not be the same.  I can't find any studies done on cucurbits, but I can give the observations from my own experience and a few other growers.  About the time that Azos became commonly available on the marketplace myself and three other growers applied azos to pumpkin seeds when they went into the pot.  All of the growers saw the same thing.  Faster and aggressive germination.  As near as I can recall I all saw the same thing.  Each of us lost one cot leaf because it was tore off as the seed popped from the seed shell.  It could have just been a coincidence, but it seemed to common for it to be just that.  Because of that, I put my Azos about half way down in the pot so it doesn't come in contact with the roots immediately.  

For is this myth busted?  I don't think so.  The data seems to suggest that Azos can possibly produce bigger pumpkins.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Pumpkin MythBusters: Do Bloom Boosters Work?

If you go into any garden center you'll find one or more bags of bloom boosters in the isles.  Any grower who sees those bags at big box stores and garden centers could easily conclude if you want more flowers on your pumpkin plant around pollination time then adding some bloom booster could give you the desired results.  But does it?

Most bloom booster formulas have a higher amount of phosphorous, potassium or both and usually a lower amount of nitrogen.  The amount in each formula tends to differ, which suggests their isn't a consensus on the perfect bloom booster formula.

Pumpkin plants need a certain amount of phosphorous and potassium to grow properly.  The goal of any grower looking to grow big has to be to keep nutrients within the narrow margin for optimal growth.  Too much of most nutrients and you'll have problems.  Have too little and you'll have problems. Get it right in the Goldie Locks zone and you'll grow big all the time.

Phosphorus is critical for plant growth, but plants don’t need a lot of it. The American Rose Society says “Commercial  growers of roses for cut-flower production typically use fertilizers with a 3-1-2 NPK ratio.”  Most soils are not deficient in phosphorous and phosphorous does not leach from soils so typically very little is required.  So adding extra phosphorous to the soil may be creating a less than optimal or even toxic soil if it is overdone. 

One study looking at flowering rate based on nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium application rates found that "the P requirement...is low for reproductive development. Each plant produced over 20 flowers, even when no P was applied."  Suggesting that as long as their is sufficient phosphorous for flowering that adding more will have little to no impact on flowering.

Potassium plays an important role in regulating water and nutrient movement in a plant.  You'll also find high levels of potassium in a pumpkin.  Basically potassium acts like a pump in moving water between cells and with that moving nutrients through the plant.  Unless a plant is very potassium deficient to the extent it is impeding water and nutrient movement, it won't affect flowering.  Potassium, as a result, has little direct effect on flowering.

So what does affect flowering?   Plant hormones.   Auxins (IAA), cytokinin and gibberellin in particular. When the right levels of each hormones are in place than there are signals to the plant to go from vegetative growth to flowering and fruit.  This makes sense right?   When your pumpkin plants main vine gets from 7 to 12 feet out from the stump then suddenly flowers start appearing, right?  It wasn't the addition of potassium or phosphorous that suddenly made the flowers appear.  There is a clear change in the plant that happens around that stage of growth and that change is hormonal and not so much nutrients as long as the minimum required amounts are available to the plant.

So the myth of "bloom boosters" is busted.  If you want more flowering and earlier flowering then you'll need to manipulate the plants hormones and not the nutrients.  Although that probably isn't advisable.  Give the plants what it needs and be a patient grower and you will probably yield bigger pumpkins by the end of the season.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Pumpkin MythBusters: How Big is a Pumpkin Root System?

I often see posts from growers asking how far down the tap root goes down and how far out the root system goes out from the stump on a pumpkin plant.  I found this old study many years ago and thought I would share it here again.  Too often I hear growers share their opinion about the width and depth of a pumpkin plants root system that are just wrong.  I think the best growers understand that when you bury vines, the entire patch can be covered in roots if the proper environment is created.

In a “one-of-a-kind” research project in 1927, John Weaver and William Brunder, botanists at the University of Nebraska, grew many different vegetable crops and, over time, excavated and mapped the course of the root systems. They published their work in a book titled “Root Development of Vegetable Crops,” published by McGraw-Hill Company, New York. To my knowledge, no one since has attempted such a difficult task.

Vines of ‘Small Sugar’ pumpkin were about 16 feet long at maturity and the top 12 inches of soil were filled with roots. The taproot of mature pumpkins grew 6 feet deep and had 10 or more lateral branches that extensively branched outward for 5 to 17 feet or more. Many of these lateral roots were 2 to 4 feet long and all complexly and minutely rebranched, forming a “wonderfully efficient root complex”. The second and third feet of soil were also thoroughly filled with roots, with the fourth foot of soil containing many vertically descending roots.

It is probable that the root systems of larger pumpkins varieties such as Atlantic Giants may be much more extensive than those reported in this book.  In no post asking about the depth of the roots have I ever seen anyone post that the roots go 6 feet deep.  Usually comments are about just a few feet.  I'm busting that myth here.  Would be interesting to see how much bigger a root system of a 2145 McMullen in world class soil would look like in comparison to a Small Sugar variety.

Growers should carefully consider their walking boards and how far out they are properly preparing their growing area.  If you aren't prepping at least 16 feet out from the stump in all directions you may be missing some opportunities.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Pumpkin MythBusters: Areated Compost Tea -- Does it Work?

This is the first of a series of posts on different pumpkin growing myths.  The hope of these posts is to get at the heart of what is best to grow a giant pumpkin and see what the science says in regards to what works and what does not.  Now science is sometimes fact (i.e. the world is round) and sometimes theory that leans towards fact (i.e. black holes exist).  Much of what we are going to be talking about in this series leans more towards the latter, because you won't find any scientific literature or descent tests that have been done with Atlantic Giant Pumpkins so anything posted in this series is theory based on the best data and research available.  Having said that, in most cases you'll find the best results often times if you go with the data, so the point of these posts is to get the best information to grow the biggest pumpkin.

Aerated compost teas (ACT) are very popular with many growers and in particular organic growers.  I myself have used compost teas on my plants for years.  The idea behind compost teas is that by using aerated compost to brew a tea you select beneficial bacteria and fungi which are then added to the plants to help feed and protect the plants. The question is does it work?

A 2007 meta data review on compost tea by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott concluded that “Clearly, the science is not strong for aerated tea use on crop plants, much less on lawns, shrubs, and trees."  Why would that be the case?   Let's take a look.

The most interesting study on this titled “Wood Chips and Compost Improve Soil Quality and Increase Growth of Acer rubrum and Betula nigra in Compacted Urban Soil”, by Bryant C. Scharenbroch and Gary W. Watson which looked at how trees that were treated in a variety of ways; only water, compost tea, commercial bacterial concoction, wood chips, compost or fertilizer affected tree growth.  The aerated compost tea was created using good standard practices and then the tea was sent to Soil Foodweb Inc, associated with Dr. Ingham, for testing.  The trees were grown in soil that was previously compacted so there would be less biology already in the soil and it looked at the resulting soil and tree growth.

The aerated compost tea (ACT) was made from compost and had the following microbes in it:

Note:  the brewing process reduced the bacterial population by 68% and the fungi population by 99%. This does not mean however that brewing reduces the number of microbes because if you take compost and add it to a large amount of water the overall volume naturally decreases. Assuming a bulk density of 650 Kg/cubic meter, bacteria increased by a multiple of 52 and fungi doubled.  Not bad right?

As compared to the other amendments, this is what was applied to the soil (CBP is a commercial biological product containing sugars, yeast extract, seaweed, silica and humic acid):

To find the effect on the soil by the different amendments, the following were used to determine the health of the soil.  This was the research results for each:

Aerated compost tea (ACT) did have some effect on density, but other than that the testing found little to no difference.  ACT shouldn't have added much in the way of nutrients.  It is mostly just water.  The interesting thing is that respiration did not increase at all.  Increased microbial activity over time should show an increase in respiration (more microbes should mean more CO2), but it did not in this study.

The more interesting thing from this study for giant pumpkin growers is how just adding compost does show the type of response that you would have expected ACT to show in terms of respiration.

So the question I have to ask myself is if the point of taking the time to make ACT isn't showing much of a response in terms of microbial activity, but just adding compost does give you that microbial response, then why not just top dress with compost?

Depending on what your soil has in it already, there might be good reasons to not top dress with compost.  Mostly adding more nutrients in an already overloaded soil.  But if you want to increase microbial activity, then compost is clearly the better way to go than ACT.

So what was the long term affects on tree growth in this study by ACT and the other amendments?

Water and ACT had about the same amount of impact on tree growth according to this study.

Now, obviously this study is on trees grown in compacted soil and we aren't growing trees.  There are other studies that have found similar results although more encouraging results however with different plants.  Is putting ACT on leaves beneficial?  There isn't enough good science to give an opinion either way.   Will I be using ACT on my plants going forward?  Yes.  But let me explain why.

I think the myth of using ACT on the soil to build biology is busted (mostly) according to current research.  The science doesn't show that it adds significant value, but there is some.  But I think there could be a case for putting it on leaves and I think you could even make a case for putting it on the soil if used in particular ways.   Here is my reasoning.  I like to brew compost tea with alfalfa pellets.  My thinking is that by doing so I can extract triacontanol (a growth regulator) from the alfalfa.  It is clear from the studies that some biology comes from the compost tea that adds some value, but I think the triacontanol from the alfalfa could have more benefit and it is good way to add it without adding all of the NPK from the pellets if you don't need it.

Would it just be better to add alfalfa pellets to the soil?  Definitely.  I always add some in the spring when doing my final prep, but alfalfa has a lot of NPK and heats up a fair amount as it breaks down and I don't want roots burning up by applying it later in the season, so compost tea with alfalfa seems to be the next best solution.

Some further notes on ACT.  There hasn't been a lot of great studies done on it.  Some of the challenges is the researchers in order to get their paper into a peer reviewed science journal have to be able to lock down variables and show what in a compost tea is producing results (if any).  To do that with an ACT would be very challenging because there is a lot of variables and a lot of recipes with different brewing times that would all have to be evaluated, but bases on current data ACT may not be worth the time it takes for the results from soil application.  I'm sure you could find more than one world record pumpkin grown without ACT.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Giant Pumpkin Growing Myth Busters

Inspired by the popular Myth Buster's TV show, my plan, starting Sunday, is to do a series of posts about commonly held giant pumpkin growing technique myths and debunking those that aren't true, based on scientific literature and actual testing.   Too often there are commonly held ideas in gardening and giant pumpkin growing that get passed on from grower to grower that just aren't true or there is no proof of their truth.  The end result is that we end up spending a lot of time or money doing things that are either are not overly helpful, are overly time consuming or we are spending a lot of money for something that has little value.

For example, I've heard it said by more than one grower/gardener that you shouldn't water during the heat of the day, because the water droplets act as magnifying glass and on a sunny day your leaves will get burnt.  Most things like this have a common sense element to it, where if you think about it, a water droplet on a leaf does have a shape of a magnify glass and it could focus the sun's rays and as a result you get a burnt leaf.  That makes sense, right?   The other side of it is have you heard of forests going up in flames after a rain storm followed by sun?   Obviously water droplets aren't causing rain forests around the world.   So the trick is to just not go by common sense and try to get at what testing and science can tell us as to what works and what doesn't.

Now does science know everything?  Obviously not.  You have to look at the source, how the testing was done, what the scientists/tests goals are in the experiment, what the sample size was and what type of crop the scientists were using in their testing, because not all plants are Atlantic Giant pumpkins and each plant is a little different.  But good science is pretty objective and should get us closer to the truth and as a result get us a bigger pumpkin.

Some of the things I'll be posting were a real surprise to me.  A few I even read from well respected "growing personalities" and heavy hitters and I believed were true.  But the science and testing is saying otherwise.  So stay tuned next week for the start of the giant pumpkin growing myth busters and maybe like me you might learn something new too.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Pumpkin Prep Time

Next 30 days is going to be busy.  I got soil samples from the patches, now that the snow is gone, that is drying and then I'll send into the lab this week.  When I get my soil test results back I'll then amend the patches around mid-April and then I'll then start heating up the soil in preparation for planting around the first week of May.  Today I'm starting some pumpkin seeds, but these won't be the plants that I'll grow.  I've put some myco and azos into a pot.  This will be used to get the myco maturing early and I'll then transfer that myco to the pots of the plants I'll grow in two weeks.  The seeds I'm starting now will feed the myco until it is transferred into the new pots.

April 13th will be my seed starting date.  Once I get the greenhouse figured out I'll maybe start seeds earlier in future years, but with a last frost date around the last week of May, I have a fine balance between giving the plants as much growing time as possible and giving the plants the best growing environment. So this year I'm going to play it more on the safe side.  For everything else I'm going to put the pedal to the floor this year.

One thing that amazed me this last week was the growth of the winter rye.  Last fall I sowed winter rye seed in the non-greenhouse patch, just as the weather started getting cold.  Two weeks later in the greenhouse I sowed winter rye and a week later I had it popping up.   The other patch I never saw the grass sprout at all.  Eventually the outdoor patch was covered in snow and we got a lot of snow this year that stuck around all winter.  Maybe three feet deep at its deepest.   Last week the snow was still at least a foot deep in the outdoor patch so I cut some 2 foot wide holes in the snow in the hopes I could get some spots to dry out faster so I could get soil samples this week.  The last two inches I couldn't dig out, because it was all ice.

The beginning of this week those holes melted out even though the surrounding areas still had 4-5 inches of snow on them.  What surprised me was to see the winter rye popping up in the holes I had cut, even though everything around it was still solid ice/snow.  Now the outdoor patch is greening up everywhere nicely.   I'll till the planting areas in both patches in two weeks, to get the grass breaking down before planting.  The rest of the grass I'll let grow with a few mowing as long as I can (probably late June to early July).

The greenhouse grass isn't very tall at all.  Deer have mowed it short.  I didn't get much water in the greenhouse this winter.  Hose froze in the snow (silly me for leaving it out), so once every two weeks I'd shovel a bunch of snow in the greenhouse to keep it going.  With the warmer weather now I can see it starting to take off with the regular irrigation.



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Soil Prep Time & Time for Amendments in the Pumpkin Patch

This is an excerpt from a write up posted by Soil Scientist John P. Taberna.  In my opinion John is the leading soil scientist in the area of giant pumpkin growing and might be the best for western soil farmers period.  He is one of the few that has done some research on giant pumpkin growing and as such is a wealth of knowledge.  The following are his fertilizer recommendations.  The numbers he is quoting is the total amount in the soil and not the total amount to add:  John's recommendations:

Phosphorus (P) 
The lab recommends 4 pounds of Phosphate per 1000 square feet. You're going to use 1152 Ammonium Phosphate. CALCULATION: 1 x .52 = .52 pounds of Phosphate per pound of 1152.4 pounds of recommendation / .52 = 7.69 pounds per 1000 square feet. If you take example 1 (1.925) x 7.69 = 14.80 pounds of Phosphate per garden. 1152 also contains 11% Nitrogen. CALCULATION: 1 x .11 = .11 x 7.69 pounds = 85 Nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Nitrogen (N) The lab suggests 3.5 pounds of Nitrogen. Never apply more than 1 pound of Nitrogen when using Ammonium Sulfate. Never apply 1.5 pounds Nitrogen when using other Nitrogen products. If you take example 3, by using 1152 you’re adding .85 pounds of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet already. If you added one pound of Uriah per thousand you’d be adding an additional .46 pounds N per 1000 square feet. If you add the two together you’ve added 1.31 pounds per 1000 square feet, which is okay.

Potash (K20) 
The lab recommends six pounds of Potash per 1000 square feet. The best source for pre-plant K is 0-0-50 Potassium Sulfate. You will need to apply 12 pounds 0-0-50 to get 5 pounds per 1000 square feet. Two pounds of Potassium Sulfate equals one pound of K2. You would apply 12 pounds every 1000 square feet to meet the 6 pound recommendation. During midseason, if you notice marginal burning, add 2 pounds of 0- 0-60 Potassium Chloride per 1000 square feet and thoroughly water with overhead irrigation. This would equal 1.2 pounds of K20. Potassium was the biggest deficiency from midseason on for Ron Wallace when he hit the 2,009-pound giant pumpkin. Sulfur (S) All products suggested contain Sulfur. There is no need to add more.

Magnesium (Mg) 
The lab recommends 0.7 pounds of Magnesium. Epsom Salt is the easiest to find and it contains 10% Mg. 0.7 pounds/0.1= 7 pounds Epsom Salt to apply per 1000 sq. ft. When burying the vines, always add ½ teaspoon of Epsom Salt. Be sure to thoroughly mix. When drenching, add ½ teaspoon Epsom Salt to the drench. During midseason, if you see mottling and blistering, foliar spray 1 teaspoon per plant twice a week. If you can find the product Kmag, this would satisfy the K, Mg and S needs. Add 1 teaspoon to foliar or drench per week per plant.

Calcium (Ca) 
If you are having blossom end rot or collapsing of the pumpkin, it’s generally related to Calcium, Boron and Potassium. After pollination, when you’re burying the vines; add 1 heaping teaspoon Gypsum, 1 level teaspoon 0-0-50 and ½ teaspoon borax each time. Don’t forget to thoroughly mix with your mycorrhiza, peat moss and other secret amendments. Also, don’t forget Taberna’s Secret Formula to stimulate bacteria and beneficial fungal growth: 2 cans of beer, 2 multivitamins, 2 aspirins, then pee in the hole after waiting an hour. This is a man’s thing that naturally occurs in the backyard, so if you are a gal raising giants… put your significant other to work!

Micronutrients 
When pre planting, it’s best to use Metallic Sulfate materials. It’s been found that sulfated forms of micronutrients retard onset fungal diseases.

Zinc (Zn) 
The lab recommends 2 oz. of Zinc per 1000 and you are using Zinc Sulfate which contains 36% of Zn. 2/.36=5.6 ounces Zn to apply per 1000.

Manganese (Mn) 
The lab recommends 1.5 oz. of Manganese. Manganese Sulfate is 24% Mn. 1.5/.24=6.3 oz. per 1000.

Copper (Cu) 
The lab recommends .7 Copper. Copper Sulfate contains 25% Cu. 0.7/.25=2.8 oz. Copper Sulfate per 1000.

Boron (B) 
If Boron is recommended, it’s best to foliar or drench with 1 tablespoon of Borax. When burying the vine, don’t go over ½ tablespoon of Borax.

In season when you’re applying micronutrients, use chelated products. Some examples are amino acid chelates, or citric acid chelates. I suggest buying individually and not taking the shot gun approach. Fancy EDTA materials are fantastic but very poor for foliar application. EDTA is stable at any pH for 2 months in soil. These materials are prone to leeching. Giant pumpkin and melon growers tend to water heavily and may leach expensive chelated below the effective root zone. The amino acid and citric acids are readily absorbed by plant tissue. It also wouldn’t hurt to add 1-teaspoon product to vine burial mix.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Yea. Greenhouse is Wired Up!

A little excited.  The greenhouse is wired up now with power.  Those electrical plugs will be connected to smart plugs which will control fans and watering system.  I'm hoping and plan in the next three weeks to have everything in place and I'll post a little video on how to automate your growing on the cheap.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Steve Deletas Giant Pumpkin Watering Presentation

Steve Deletas has consistently been one of the best growers in the world for a lot of years.  As a profession he is a pilot, so he is away a lot.  Because of this he has come up with an automated watering system to make sure his plants get the perfect amount of water all the time.  I met Steve a number of years back.  A very nice guy.  The following is his presentation this last weekend at the GPC spring seminar.


Saturday, March 9, 2019

2019 Giant Pumpkin Fertilizer Program

In 2018 I cut back some on the usage of seaweed in my fertilizer program.  After a discussion with a scientist at the Utah Giant Pumpkin Grower Spring meeting today, I'm putting it back in, but mostly on the soil.   This scientist talked about keeping the roots young and seaweed is a good way to do that.  Seaweed can encourage root hair elongation/growth and root hairs typically will only last about two weeks.  Foliar application effects a plant much differently than soil applications.  So in 2019 I'm going to do more soil applications and less foliar applications.

One interesting part of the presentation was this chart.  In a lot of ways it nicely matches what I've been trying to do with my fertilizer program.  The right fertilizers at the right time for the greatest impact.  The following chart shows this from the presentation:
The Amine N is basically urea form of nitrogen.  

Another interesting part of the discussion I had was urea verses ammonium sulfate for nitrogen.  By the end of the discussion my conclusion was that for soil applications, sulfur coated urea is a little bit better way to go. 

Also enjoyed Ralph's presentation today.  He had shared a lot of what he presented with me previously, but pulled away with some new ideas as well.  Basically I'll be doing much more soil testing this year of dissolved solids (NPK) to make sure the nutrients are staying within the 500-900 range.  I know I've been too low in the past.  

The following is the 2019 fertilizer program I'll be using:

May (focusing on the roots):
Week 1RAW Phosphorous/nitrogen (mono ammonium), B-vitamin, liquid seaweed/kelp, compost tea, myco, microbes & Azos, yucca, humic acid
Week 2fish, compost tea (alfalfa), fulvic acid, yucca, silica, seaweed, humic acid, foliar multimineral
Week 3NPK, compost tea, humic acid, yucca, fish, Azos, enzymes, amino acids, iron
Week 4NPK, compost tea, RAW 7-4-5, Omina, silica, fulvic acid, seaweed, calcium

June (focus on vine growing):
Week 5blood meal (for nitrate nitrogen), phosphorus, potassium, enzymes, humic acid, compost tea, yucca, RAW 7-4-5, azos
Week 6foliar multi-mineral, phosphorous (flowering), fulvic acid, microbes, RAW 7-4-5, azos
Week 7(pollination) humic acid, compost tea, RAW 3-12-12, Omina, iron, azos
Week 8nitrogen, TKO, humic acid, yucca, compost tea, azos

July fruit (focus on transiting from vine growing to fruit):
Week 9enzymes, NPK, compost tea, fulvic acid, seaweed
Week 10NPK, humic acid, compost tea
Week 11(pumpkin gearing up), TKO, microbes, nitrogen, humic acid, compost tea, B-vitamins, Omina, seaweed
Week 12cane molasses, humic acid, NPK, compost tea, iron

August (focus on the fruit)
Week 13NPK, foliar multi-mineral, compost tea, silica, Actinovate, seaweed, humic acid
Week 14Azos, yucca, humic acid, NPK, compost tea, Omina, foliar multi-mineral
Week 15silica, humic acid, NPK, Actinovate, compost tea, enzymes
Week 16TKO, cane molasses, fulvic acid, NPK, compost tea

September (finish the race)
Week 17humic acid, foliar seaweed, B-vitamins, RAW 3-12-12, compost tea, Omina
Week 18TKO, nitrogen, foliar seaweed, foliar humic acid, cane molasses, silica
Week 19foliar potassium, nitrogen, foliar seaweed, humic acid
Week 20foliar potassium, foliar seaweed, humic acid

Friday, January 4, 2019

Interview with 2,255 Pound Pumpkin Grower

Ever wondered how someone grows a one ton pumpkin?  I sat down with Eddy Zaychkowsky of Alberta, Canada at Christmas time to ask how he grew a 2,255 pound pumpkin this last season and Eddy shared it all.  He loves the idea of experimenting with different things and then sharing the data to growers in the hopes it might help all growers grow bigger.

I've visited with Eddy a few different times at his house.  He has some very nice greenhouses that he grows in.  Without the greenhouses I'm sure it would not be possible to grow as big as he does because of his short growing season and and cool nighttime temperatures.  Many of the things he is doing could not be done without the use of a greenhouse, but the principles he is using I believe apply to all growers.

Previous to this last year I believe the biggest pumpkin Eddy had grown was just over 1,100 pounds.  Anytime you can find a grower who has doubled his personal best has figured out something that works and when that grower has grown the biggest (unoffical) pumpkin ever grown in Canada you know he is doing a lot of things right.

This is year three of Eddy's experimentation.   He said he learned a lot from those first two seasons to get what he got this last year.  In year two he was having phenomenal growth but lost the pumpkin relatively early (as I recall around 1,600 pounds) as he probably blew the pumpkin up as a result of  giving the plants CO2 later in the season and the growth was too much.  This last year he stopped the CO2 around July 1st but still lost the 2145 pumpkin in September with a lot of time left to grow.

I'd like to thank Eddy for the time to meet with him and being so willing to share what he has learned from his experimentation.

Before listening to this audio file, please download the pdf.  The first three pages are a handout from Eddy explaining what he did throughout the season with his plants.  The last three pages are the three tissue tests that Eddy and I are talking about at the very beginning of the interview.

The audio interview:
Download Audio File (29 minutes):  interviewWithEddy.mp3

See the Pumpkin:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

2019 Pumpkin Seed Lineup

Back in October and November I started researching seeds to grow in 2019.  I think I have the seed lineup finalized now, but not sure.  One seed I'll be growing next year is the 2005 Haist.   Any seed that is from a one ton pumpkin is interesting and has potential.  I liked the shape of the 2005 pumpkin, its smooth texture and its color.  The kicker for me is that pollinator in the cross.  The 2003 Haist grew the fourth biggest pumpkin in the world last year (2,416) and it had good shape and a really great orange color.  Lots of 2145 genetics on both sides of the cross, which I like.  I'm hoping I can get this one to germ and grow a big one next year.

The other seed I'd like to grow, I haven't acquired yet.  My plan is to go out of the country, knock on that grower's door and ask them for a seed or two personally in a couple of weeks.  I'll let you know how that works out.  I hope to have a nice video from discussions with that grower as well for what they did last year to grow a big one.  I'll post it here if that works out.

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.

Fertilization
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

Save 15% on your next order in the checkout by using discount code 'christmas15.'  Find the lowest prices of the year on items to help you grow bigger in 2019.  Almost makes great gifts for grower friends and gardeners.  Visit seeds.giantpumpkinman.com today!

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.