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.

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 seeds.giantpumpkinman.com.


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 www.utahpumpkingrowers.com/events.html.

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

Visit:  www.hebervalleylife.com/the-pumpkin-man/