Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Some Nitrogen for the Pumkin Plants to Push the Vines

My soil test showed relatively low amounts of nitrogen in early spring so I asked the soil scientist if I should add the recommended amount at that time or some now and some later.  He suggested the latter, which makes good sense to me.  So I added about 60% of it when I did my initial patch prep and been adding small amount since.  This morning I did a mixture of 24-0-0 and 6-2-0 with iron.   The 24-0-0 will be relatively fast acting because it is ammonium sulfate, while the 6-2-0 is more of a slower release nitrogen which is a nice balance.

Last night I finally hooked up my Daan micro sprinkler lines in the 2145 patch and will be turning them on for the first time this morning.  Those lines are hooked up to the fertigation line which will allow me to mix fertilizer right into the irrigation for a fairly uniform application of both water and spoon fed fertilizer.   If everything works properly it should be ideal.  I still need to get the hot water heater hooked up completely but that is next and it will be something of a game changer I believe.  Problem is I'm about 2-3 weeks behind on everything this year and when you run behind it is nearly impossible to make it up.  Next year will be interesting however because I can concentrate on growing rather than on all the side stuff.

Some Aminos for the Pumpkin Plants & Weeding

Yesterday I gave the plants some aminos (7-0-0).   Amino acids have a dramatic affect on calcium uptake by the roots; especially amino acid blends rich in the primary chelators--glutamic acid and glycine. In the soil calcium tends to react with phosphates and sulfates, precipitating out of solution as “lime scale”. Lime scale makes calcium unavailable to the plant (I have high lime soils--occasionally I find ancient sea shells in the soil).  Aminos help open up calcium ion channels in the roots making it more available and is a natural chelator.

Make sure not to use synthetic amino acids produced by acid or alkaline hydrolysis.  They have a “right-handed” orientation and are not biologically active. By adding l-amino acids derived from enzymatic hydrolysisure you can make sure to give your plants the full benefits.

I noticed a couple of days ago that some little weeds were just starting to pop up in the areas where a tilled in the cover crop weeks ago, so I took a rake yesterday evening and raked both patches to pull those weeds up.  One advantage of growing a cover crop and then  tilling it later is you have to a lot less weeding in the pumpkin patch.  When you have 2,500 square feet of patch, it can be a blessing to not have to do a ton of weeding.  I've had to weed around the pumpkin all season, but for the most part I've done very little weeding to this point of the season.  Now it is going to be a battle for the entire 2,500 feet for the rest of the season.  The key is to get the weeds early so you keep it under control.   

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fish Fertilizer for the Pumpkin Plants

The last two days I sprayed some liquid fish 2-4-1 fertilizer on the plants and on the soil.   Looks like I'll be pollinating the 1974 plant tomorrow.  Hoping I have some 2145 pollen to pollinate with.   The previous pollination of the 2145 plant didn't take, but I have another female coming on that should be ready later this week. 

Also sprayed down some enzymes on the soil.   Still have a fair amount of the cover crop that hasn't broken down yet.  I was too late getting that cover cropped tilled in this year.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Little Grandular Fertilizer for the pumpkin plants

This morning I gave the plants a small amount of 6-2-0 granular fertilizer.  Got to keep feeding those plants so they will push out those vines.

Monday, June 11, 2018

TKO the Pumpkin Plants

Okay, I didn't knock out the pumpkin plants.   But I did give a soil drench of TKO to the plants.  I made sure to not contact the leaves, because the multi-mineral I gave the plants the other day have copper in it and it doesn't mix well.  TKOs active ingredients is phosphites and potassium.   Basically it gives the benefits of phosphorous, but because it has one less oxygen atom it can transport more easily and do some additional things including fight fungus diseases.   I'm hoping to prime the plant for more fruit and flowering, so TKO seems like the right thing for the plant this time of year.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Windy, Windy, Windy

Plants got fairly beat up yesterday in the winds.  Lots of tattered leaves.   Just a pain to deal with  when you have some nice plants.   Hopefully that wind will start calming down as the season goes on.

They showed that near freezing forecast for today's today weather, but the low of around 35 degrees is actually for tomorrow morning.  I'm going to run the sprinklers starting at about 4:30am and probably run them until at least 7:00 to help protect the leaves.  A couple of weeks ago I tested the water temp and it was 58 degrees, so hopefully that will be enough to protect the plants.

This morning I gave the plants some compost tea with RAW enzymes in it, an foliar application of multi-mineral and a small touch of granular ammonium sulfate. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Little Frosty, Cool Nights & Pollination Time

This morning I did a foliar application of seaweed, humic acid, b-vitamins and liquid fish.   Lows tonight are forecasted for 35 degrees here in Midway. Scary close to freezing and we tend to be a couple of degrees cooler than the forecast.   Foliar kelp can help reduce frost damage.  I will spray some more on this evening.

Nighttime lows haven't been very good, even though the daytime highs have been in the low 90s lately.  We haven't been above 45 degrees at night for the low since the plants got out of the hoop houses.  That obviously slows down growth.  Winds have been a constant challenge each day as well, but that is standard.  The wind fence next to the 1974 patch seems to be helping.  Right now one section of the fence is open on the windy corner for access to the backyard as I landscape, but I should be able to close that up today which will help.  I noticed my son's plant seems to be relatively protected with that wind fence.

Regardless of the challenges the 1974 plant is growing very well.  I looked at photos of past seasons around this same date and I've never had a plant this large by this date as this 1974 plant.  It is early and there isn't a pumpkin growing, but it is a seed I would recommend.   There is a female at the tip that I'm guessing we will be pollinating around Friday or Saturday of this next week that will be at about 14 feet on the main vine.    That would be perfect.  That plant is going to explode in size over the next week and will be sufficiently big enough to start growing that pumpkin.   That would put the pumpkin at 105 days old.  About the maximum number of days a pumpkin would grow, so it gives enough time to get everything I can out of that plant before the weigh-off.

The 2145 plant isn't growing quite as fast, but growing as it should.   It has a female at about 10 feet that should be ready to pollinate around Wednesday or Thursday of this next week.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Spoon Fertilizing the Pumpkin Plants & Watering System

Another busy week.  Vine burying has kicked into full gear.  Warmer weather has been pushing the vines out.  Nights are still too cool however.  Got the watering lines valves and piping for the 2145 patch yesterday, so I plan on putting in the Daan micros with the water heater this weekend I hope.   Yesterday I gave the plants some Biotamax (beneficial bacteria and fungi) along with some Azos.  Today I sprayed on the soil some 3-12-12 with a half dose of 20-0-0 mixed in with it and then watered it all in.

Yesterday I also put some well broken down compost on the buried vines.  That will provide some additional nutrients for the plants.

If I get time, I'll add some pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Tilled the 2145 Patch & Fertilizer

Yesterday evening I tilled the 2145 cover crop and amendments into the soil and re-positioned the wind fences around the plant.   That plant is starting to kick into gear now.  I noticed a few female in the vine tip, so 10-14 days from now we should be pollinating.  That should be about perfect timing.  It gives an ideal number of growing days to the weigh-off and the plant should be at an sufficent enough size by that point to be able to start pushing to the pumpkin. 

This morning I sprayed a light mixture of 3-12-12, Omina (14-0-0) and fulvic acid on the soil.   I haven't been quite as diligent as I would have liked on my fertilizer program.  I've followed the program, but haven't been quite doing the daily spoon feeding.  Tomorrow or Thursday I plan on having the daan micro sprinklers setup in the 2145 patch with the fertigation setup running.  That will automate the fertilizing which will be nice.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Craziest Growing Day Ever (except for the massive hail storm my second season)

So I went with my son on Friday night to a father and son's camp out with a large group from church.  The campout was only about 2 miles from my house, which was great, because the forecasted low was for 37 that night and I was nervous for the pumpkin plants (I knew my Big Agnes sleeping bag would keep me okay).   At about 4:30am I woke up and it was cold out.  Checked my patch temperature app and and it was 35 degrees.  That meant I had two whole hours until sunrise and only had two degrees to give until the plants froze.  So I drove home and poured warm water on the plants as there wasn't much else I could do.  In the end, it got down to 34 degrees.   Camp ground had a good covering of frost on it, but only 3 leaves on one plant showed any frost damage.  Phew.  My friend whom I gave seeds that lives just two blocks away said he lost his plants.

Right now it is 91 degrees.  Welcome to Rocky Mountain growing.

1974 McConkie
This afternoon I took the hoop houses off the plants.  This was not an easy task.  The 1974 was maybe four feet our of the hoop house and had side vines coming out of holes I cut in the sides on each side of the hoop house.  I've never kept the plants in the hoop houses this long.  It paid up with the high winds we had two days ago and then the cold nights last night.  Big thanks to the family for helping take off the hoops.  They did it with the precision of a surgeon.  It as a little scary, but not snapped vines.  Warm temps and making the plants slightly dehydrated I think helped.

Weather hasn't been horrible this spring, but not great.  But the plants look good.  I started a week later this year, but it appears the 1974 is ahead of my plants from last year.   It is probably the most aggressive plant I've ever grown.  Really beautiful plant.

2145 McMullen
Today I gave the plants some 3-12-12 to help blossoms come on along with some silica.  I'm hoping a female shows up on the main in the next three days on both plants.  This afternoon I gave the plants some b-vitamins, yucca and actinovate.  Also buried the vines with mycos and azos.

I should probably call my plants McPumpkins this year because of the seed names.

I've got to get into the 2145 patch early next week and till the rest of the cover crop in.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Goodness, Life is Busy

It has been a bit since my last update from the pumpkin patches.  Worked my tail off last memorial day weekend, but unfortunately most of it wasn't in the pumpkin patch.  Trying to finish the landscaping in the back yard so I can plant grass seed and that has consumed my non-job hours lately.

Two days ago I sprayed insecticide on the plants.    I've found a lot of these little caterpillars in the soil.  Haven't been able to figure out what they are going to grow up to be, but I sprayed everything to keep the plants safe.

Yesterday I sprayed some 7-4-5 under the leaf canopy of the plants.  Today I gave the plants some compost tea with seaweed, blood meal, compost, molasses and alfalfa pellets in the brew.  

Weather this week has been cooler, with sporadic clouds.  On average temps have been a little too cool.   Seems like the 1974 plant has been close to its same growth, but the 2145 has seemed a little slower this week, but vine growth still has been descent.

The plan was to take the hoop houses off last Saturday, but they are still not off.  Today was calling for high winds and tomorrow the low is getting down to 37 so I've kept them on.  The plants are feet past the end of the hoop house and I've had to cut holes for the side vines.   It will take a surgeons skill to get the plants safely out of the hoop houses on Saturday, but that is the plan.

The female on the 2145 opened yesterday.  I didn't pollinate it.  1974 will probably open on Saturday, but I won't pollinate it either.  

I'm giving the plants just enough love right now to keep them happy, but it doesn't feel like I've had the time to do the little things.  Hopefully two more females will show up in the next few days and that would put me on target for mid-June pollinations, which would be perfect.   The plants should have good size by then and primed to start growing.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Putting Tech in Giant Pumpking Growing on the Cheap

I've been killing myself off over the last few weeks trying to get the backyard landscaping done, get a greenhouse setup and do the regular pumpkin patch prep you do each spring.    I'm pretty excited about it all and hope I get it all done. 

First, the low tech updates.  For the south patch, I've added a 4 foot tall wind screen on the south side of the patch.  Here winds only blow from the north and south and the south winds are usually strongest.  It is windy about 90% of the growing days, so this wind screen will help.  I've also added 6 sprinkler heads to that patch.  A nice improvement over the single head on a hose that I moved around the patch manually.  I'll get much better coverage now because water will hit from multiple directions.

The tech stuff is being done in the north patch.   The greenhouse and geothermal heating and cooling system I've talked about previously.  In the greenhouse I'll have an Acurite wireless temperature gauge.  Same kind you use to check outdoor temperatures at the house.  I've connected the data for that to weatherbug.com (easy to do).  Weatherbug.com has an API.  So I'll connect into that data on a website to decide when to do things in the greenhouse.   So, for example, I'll have a simple fan (free cheap one) like you would get at Walmart that we were given) at the top of greenhouse that will be set to turn on anytime after 10:00am but before 8:30pm if the temperature is over a set amount.   The geothermal fan ($40 ebay) will be set to turn on if it is after 1:00 or before 4:00 if the temperature is above a certain amount.  This will pull heat into the soil and blow cooler air out the other end.   And it will be set to turn on after 1:00am but before 7:00am if the temperature is below a certain amount.  This will blow the heated air out at night.  The coding for this is more complicated if you don't know coding, but if you own a website design business it is relatively easy.  The on off switch will be done by an outdoor wifi enabled smart plug ($30).  Using its API the two fans will be turned on and off.

I'm also adding mister foggers ($50 dripworks.com) to help cool the plants during the heat of the day.   These will be connected to a valve that will also be controlled in the same way as the other devices, with misters getting turned on every 15 minutes or so during 10:30am and 5:30pm when the temps are above 86 degrees.

Last change is that irrigation for the north patch.  For the watering I'll have my old Daan micro sprinklers watering under the canopy.   That is hooked into a portable camping water heater ($120 on sale at  Amazon) and then that goes into a fertigation siphon ($15 ebay).  So basically I hope to warm the water to 80 degrees.  The watering will get turned on at about 5:00am which is right before the lowest of the nighttime lows.  That will not only water the plants, but will get the biology in the soil going and heat up the greenhouse.  The fertigation will allow me to constantly add low levels of fertilizer to the plants constantly.  That way the plant will be constantly pushed and never in need.

My hope is that with these changes I can better control the environment and get greater gains for longer during the growing season.

Friday, May 25, 2018

King of the Patch and Final Amendments

Last night I amended the 1974 plant's patch and tilled in the winter rye.   I put down some 32-3-8 with iron, humic acid, manganese, boron and kelp meal and tilled it deep.  The 1974 plant is king of the patch right now.  Big leaves and aggressive grower.  It is about 8 inches from the end of the hoop house right now.  I'll leave the hoop house on it as long as I possibly can.  Will probably have to take it off on Saturday.  It has a female in the vine tip that will be at about 9 feet when the vine lays down (this plant has cobra vines).

The 2145 plant is maybe a foot behind in length and also looks good.  Been delayed on the greenhouse setup for it, but hope to get back to it after the weekend.  The female on this plant has a bit of color to it, so I think it will produce orange pumpkins.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Female Flower on the 2145 at 6-7 Feet

I won't keep it, but I noticed on the 2145 plant that there is already a female flower on the main vine.   That is a somewhat good sign.  Means the plant is kicking into gear and sometimes it means it is a plant that will throw a fair number of females.  That is a good thing, because at 10-14 feet from the stump you want a female(s) to appear when the plant has gotten sufficient in size/mass to start growing a pumpkin.    It is kind of frustrating when a plant doesn't produce many females. 

I once had a plant have a female at 8-9 feet.  I foolishly took it off.   Next female didn't show up until about 20 feet.  The pollination took and was growing really well, but I had to take it off because the pumpkin was badly male formed.  A segment did form correctly and the pumpkin would have definitely split.   It was another 5-6 until the next female showed up and at that point I was way to late into the season.  Lots of female flowers means lots of pollination opportunities.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Updates from the Pumpkin Patch

The last week has flown by and I've been real busy with the greenhouse.  About 1/3 of the way done with its setup.  I hope and plan on having it done next week.

Today was selection day.  Kind of like ripping a child out of the ground.  Always have to think what opportunity is lost when you take out the 2nd plant in a hoop house.  But it has to be done.  I like to look at the characteristics of the plants before making a selection.  It isn't always the biggest plant that is kept.  Today that was true.  For the 1974 hoop house, I went with the plant that was maybe a foot shorter in length.   The two plants for the most part were duplicates of each other, but the one I kept had a much thicker main vine.  I remember Pap once say, "Can't grow a giant pumpkin if the pipe to the pumpkin is a small one.  I've seen plants with massive vines, but small pumpkins however.

For the 2145 hoop house, it was an easy pick.  You don't toss out a plant that is from a seed the grew the world record pumpkin and north American record.  Not only that, it was the obvious choice.  The 1974 plant that was in that hoop house was the runt, but it started wiring up in the last week and I could tell that if it had more time it probably would have made a nice plant.  But we'll never know now.

Here are pics from today.  The first is the 1974 plant.  Like I mentioned previously, Matt said his plant was very aggressive.  This plant doesn't seem to be an exception.  King of the patch right now.  Big leaves, thick vines and a fast grower.

The 2145 plant below has also been a nice looking plant.  The other day I saw roots popping out of the ground around it.   I've only had one other plant do that and it grew my personal best.   So far, I'm very pleased with both plants.   I think they will both be out of the hoop houses next week.  That makes me a little nervous.  Tough springs here in Midway, UT.  Lots and lots of wind with cool to cold temps from time to time.  I've bought some wind cloth and will put that on the windy side of the 1974 plant.  It should help.  Hopefully the 2145 plant will have the greenhouse over it soon, so we can protect it as well.

Today I gave the plants some compost tea with liquid fish, alfalfa, pinch of blood meal, pinch of 6-2-0, actinovate, friendly bacteria, yucca and a tablespoon of liquid seaweed.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Little Fertilizer & Compost Tea for the Pumpkin Plants

Today I gave the pumpkin plants some compost tea with a descent dose of alfala pellets in the bag.  I also included a drop of liquid seaweed, a touch of Biotamax and 1 1/2 tablespoons of fish in the 4 gallons of tea.  That will go on all plants.

One 1974 vine should be laying down today.  The 2145 plant's main vine is probably the longest, but it is hanging in the air because of a fairly thick stump which isn't allowing it to lay down easily.  On all of the plants, a few days ago I put a bamboo stick against the main vine at a slight angle.  It helps support the main some as it grows out, but allows the main to slide down the stick as it grows out.  This helps keep the main vine from snapping off from its own weight.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Making a Fertilization Plan and Sticking to It

I find one of the hardest things to not do with pumpkin growing is not doing too much.  Too much fertilizer and water can be just about as bad as not enough.   If you make a plan before the season begins I find it helps keep those "urges" in check and it helps make sure you don't accidentally miss something.  

For example, I put together this fertilizer program before the season started:


Will I follow that plan exactly?  No.   I watch the plants and see what they are telling me and make adjustments, but for the most part I'll following what I outlined.  There are specific things given to the plant at specific times for a specific purpose.   Every plant during vining needs nitrogen.  So unless I see bloated, overly dark or over sized leaves, I will follow what is outlined in my fertilizer program. 

Soon I'll start giving the plants spoon feeding amounts of fertilizer every day.   I know some excellent growers who do that from the very start.   I lean a little more towards letting the plant get what they need from the soil they were just planted in initially.  I figure there should be plenty of nutrients available that first week.  The 2nd week after planting I'll start adding a little light fertilizer occasionally aand then in the 3rd week I'll start putting the hammer down.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Pumpkin Plants are in the Ground; Let's Role!

I've finally gotten the pumpkin plants in the ground.  Yea!  Forecasted night time lows was for 35 degrees the last two nights and even with heat lamps I didn't want to risk it.  Probably was a good idea.  Power went out around 5:30am today for a short bit.

This is my 2145 and a weak 1974 in this hoop house.   I'll got with the best plant.  I'm guessing it won't be a hard decision for this one.   That 1974 took twice as long to do anything.  Was late germinating, late popping through the soil and slow growing since.  The other two 1974 plants have looked very good however.  Not all seeds are created equal.

These 1974 plants I think will also make for some nice plants.  The 2145 is the biggest, leaf wise so far, but the root systems on all three seemed fairly equal.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Latest Pumpkin Plant Photos

Here is the latest picture of the pumpkin plants.  They have really taken off the last five days.  The ideal would have been to plant them last Friday, but I held off because forecasted lows were for 35 degrees the last few days and I decided not to risk it.  I noticed two of the plants are getting lighter color just today, so they are probably not 100% happy in the pots anymore, so the plan is to plant them today or tomorrow.  Interesting to compare these photos with the ones from last Friday.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Pumpkin Plants

Here is the picture of the pumpkin plants.  The 2145 plant is the larger plant on the lower left.  A 1974 plant is on the lower right.