Saturday, March 17, 2018

Amazingly Grateful: High Tunnel in the Pumpkin Patch in 2018

When we decided to move to Midway two years ago, I immediately decided that I would need a greenhouse to grow a pumpkin of any size. Overnight lows in the low 50s in July and a growing season that is literally a month shorter than Denver's (which isn't very long) I knew it would make it a challenge to grow a pumpkin that is 1,500+ pounds.

Last season I realized it was worse than I thought. High minds plague my area and I saw considerable damage to the plants as a result. To my rescue, Ralph Luab came. He didn't know it, but he had just what I needed. He was kind enough in early June to bring me some pollen from one of his plants because it was looking like I wasn't going to have pollen available to pollinate a female that was going to be opening the next day. He came all the way from Vernal to help me out. When he arrived I showed him the patch and was complaining about the terrible winds we had had for the previous two weeks and how beat up my plants looked as a result. He said, "I've got the same problem in Vernal. I found a government program that pretty close to gave me a free high tunnel." My ears perked up and I immediately said, "Do tell." He then began to tell me about a conservation arm of the federal government called the NRCS that does financial assistance for high tunnels.

A high tunnel is basically a greenhouse, but without power. For the program you basically have to do a lot of paperwork and if approved they cover about 95% of the cost for the high tunnel. Budgets change year to year for the NRCS, but for my NRCS office I think there were about 12 people that applied in the previous group, initially 10 were approved and then they got some more funding, so they were able to get everyone that applied a high tunnel. I filled out the paperwork and in the end of November the deadline ended and then after some more paperwork and a site check I found out this last week I was approved and signed the contract for my high tunnel. I'll be installing a 24x32 high tunnel which will have enough room for one plant and I should get funded this next month.  Pictured to the right is a larger version of the same one I'm getting.

Why would the government do a program like this? I don't know all of the details. I know part of it is for land conversation and I know another is to get more people farming, either in their neighborhood backyard or on larger agricultural farms. I was told when signing the final paperwork for a high tunnel this last week that the High Tunnel System Initiative came from Michelle Obama. As you may recall, she kind of had two initiatives that she headed up as first lady. One was to get kids fit. The other was gardening. They had a nice garden at the white house and had some small high tunnel hoop houses as part of it.  The high tunnel initiative kind of came out of this.

As you may recall, I put some pipe in the ground where this high tunnel will be going in about a year and half ago.  This was added even before we moved into the house as near as I can recall.  That pipe will be used as a geothermal system to help warm the hoop house during the night and cool it a little during the day.  An inline fan will pull the hot air at the top of the high tunnel into the underground piping, heating the soil.  At night, when it has cooled down in the high tunnel it will turn that inline fan on again and push warm air back into the high tunnel, using the warmed soil to heat that air that is going back into the high tunnel at the other end.

I also have four 50 gallon water barrels that will be painted black and put on the west side of the high tunnel.  Those barrels will heat up during the heat of the day and then will release their warmth back into the high tunnel at night.

On Ralph's advice, I've also purchased a portal water heater (made for showering outdoors) that I'm going to use to warm the irrigation water that waters the plants in the early morning hours (about 5:00am), when the temp in the high tunnel will be at its lowest.  Ralph said he was able to output water at about 80-85 degrees and the high tunnel warms right up after that and stays warm for a good while.

I'm hoping that between these three things, I can create an environment in the high tunnel that is more like the growers have in Ohio or Rhode Island, rather than what I have now at over a mile in altitude surrounded by mountains on all sides (it does make for some pretty views).  My day time temperatures aren't too bad.  By 1:00 to 2:00 it can start to get a little warm, but my highs on average are about 5 degrees cooler than Salt Lake.  If I can get my average night time temperatures 5-10 degrees warmer and protect the plant from the wind, I should be in good shape.

There is going to be a lot to figure out this next season, since it is all new to me.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Giant Pumpkin Growing 101: How to Grow a 1,000+ Pound Pumpkin

This video covers everything you need to know to grow a 1,000+ pound pumpkin. All of the "secrets" to giant pumpkin growing are revealed.   The entire growing season is covered step-by-step in this informative how-to video.  Everything for beginners to experienced growers.

Giant Pumpkin Growing 101 Plus Advanced Growing Tips Video Coming

Since we got started a little late yesterday at the seminar, I didn't have a chance to complete the presentation yesterday, so what I've decided to do is create it into an online video and I'll post it here.  Download the presentation at the link below and watch for the video to come out very soon and be posted here.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Beginning Growers Seminar

You can find here the full Giant Pumpkin Growing 101+ presentation that I showed at the Utah Giant Pumpkin Grower's Spring Seminar at the link below.  This presentation covers seed selection, soil testing, how to build good soil, protecting plants, seed starting, how to plant your plant, vine pattern, vine burying, controlled pollination, fertilization programs and much more.  It is a great guide for both beginning and experienced giant pumpkin growers.  Download PDF

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Plant Growth-Promotion Bacteria & Fungi; Feed the Plants

Many gardeners don't know this, but without bacteria and fungi in the soil, plants couldn't get at the nutrients that they need.  Most natural nutrients are not in a form that plants can uptake, so without bacteria and fungi creating a synergistic relationship with the plants, life would not exist.  Most plants develop their root systems to explore the soil to find nutrients to sustain growth.  There are different parts to roots, but the root tip and hairs are most important region in terms of interaction with soil microbes and nutrient mineralization.

Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) colonize root hairs and lateral roots and provide nutrients and water to the plants and in return the plants produce and give back sugars.  Not only do the microbes give nutrients, they also produce growth-promoting hormones which can stimulate root elongation and lateral root growth.  What does this mean for the giant pumpkin grower?   More roots and bigger roots and possibly a bigger pumpkin as a result.  Microbes can also produce hormones that help the plants deal with things like drought stress better and help protect the plants from pathogens.

So, what types of bacteria and fungi can have the best overall affects for your plant?  I think scientist would agree that this is an emerging field of study with not enough research to draw any solid conclusions.  For my pumpkin patch, I'll be using RAW Microbes (different strains of mycorrhizae and bacillus), Biota Max (different strains of bacillus and trichoderma), Actinovate, Azos and WOW mycorrhizae.  There are other items I would like to add to this mix (namely Rootshield and Companion), but at some point you have to draw a line when it comes to costs and some of those patented biologicals can be pretty pricey.  Although the research says they are good.

One new thing I found out this week when doing some research is that there are three different types of Azos (amazonense, brasilense, and lipoferum).  This was something I wasn't aware of.  Azos is listed as a nitrogen fixing bacteria, which is true, but I think it is the less interesting aspect of the bacteria.  The more interesting part of Azos is the growth promoting hormones (IAA) that are produced on the roots, which can increaes the root mass.  All three types of Azos have been found to be effective.  But each of the three have characteristics that are unique to them.

Azospirillum amazonense seems to do better in lower pH soils.  Azospirillum brasilense is the most well studied.  It is best known for helping plants use carbohydrates.  Azospirillum lipoferum is set apart from the others for elongating the roots in plants more than the other species.  In the past I've used Azospirillum brasilense on my plants.  This year I'm trying Azospirillum lipoferum.  I doubt I'll be able to find an big difference between the two, so this decision is more economic than anything else, but better root elongation sounds good to me.

Monday, February 26, 2018

2018 Giant Pumpkin Secret Fertilizing Program

The following is a modification of my "secret" giant pumpkin fertilizing program for 2018.  Each year I try to refine my fertilizer program based on my own experience, other growers feedback and new science.  Most of the fertilizers and nutrients products are NPK Industries' RAW fertilizers which can be purchased here at a discount.

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

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

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

August (focus on the fruit)
Week 13NPK, foliar multi-mineral, compost tea, silica, Actinovate
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

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Join Me March 10th for the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Spring Seminar

I'm going to be teaching at the speaking at the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Seminar on Saturday, March 10th at the Mountain Seed Co. in Salt Lake.  The seminar is from 10:00 to 1:00.  Meet a great bunch of growers as well as learn the basic and advanced techniques of giant pumpkin growing.  I'll be pointing my Power Point presentation from the seminar here.

I apologize for it being so long since my last posting. Usually in the winter I post less, but things have been a little crazy for the last two months.  I was hoping to have a big announcement here by now, but some different things have held that up, so I'm hoping in the next month to talk a little more about what is coming.

Monday, December 4, 2017

2018 Pumpkin Seed Lineup is Now Set

Thanks to the kindness of others, I have my seed lineup set for next year.   I'll be plantinga 2145 McMulllen (1756 Howell/Jullivette x 1625 Gantner), a 1974 McConkie (2261 Wallace x Self) and a 1764 McConkie (1937 Urena x 2261 Wallace).  Basically if there isn't a capital M in the middle of the growers last name then I won't grow it.  lol

I'm really excited to start these seeds next year.  Like I talked about in my last post, the 2145 has been the best performing seed ever (hope I got one of those).  The two McConkie seeds I think have similar potential.  I saw both plants and they were very impressive growers.  In particular the plant that grew the 1974 was a very aggressive grower and I like that.  In my cooler climate I need the plants to get as big as they can as fast as they can.

Monday, November 20, 2017

2145 McMullen Pumpkin Seed & a BIG Thanks

Every so often a hot seed pops up that grows some really big pumpkins. Some are kind of flashes in the pan, where a few big really pumpkin come about, but not a lot seem to come from the progeny and the popularity falls off.  Others seem to create dynasties where most all of the big pumpkins seem to come through the same seed's line.

The first seed in the time I've been growing to create a dynasty was the 1068 Wallace.   If you grow a 1068 Wallace there was a much higher change or growing a personal best pumpkin than from any other seed.  Not every 1068 Wallace was going to create a World Record, but your changes of growing a big pumpkin were probably 50% higher than any other seed of its time.

Since then there was the 998 Pukos, 1161 Rodonis, 1409 Miller that were kind of flashes in the pan, but the next dynasty seed was also a Wallace seed, the 2009 Wallace.  That seed was also a game changer.  I believe every world record pumpkin grown since the 2009 either was grown from or had 2009 genetics in its line.  It could be argued that even today, if there were any seeds left, that the 2009 seed would still be the best seed available.

The new dynasty seed is the 2145 McMullen.  The current world record holder of 2,624 pounds was grown from the 2145 seed.  Also the 2nd biggest pumpkin ever came from the 2145.   This year 15 of the top 30 pumpkins had 2145 genetics.  That is pretty incredible considering the number of different seeds planted in 2017.

A month or so ago a grower who is a good friend contacted me and asked if they sent me a 2145 seed if I would grow it.  Of course, I said YES!   It is a very hard seed to come by.  Today it arrived in the a mail.  I owe that individual a big thanks.  Will give it my best shot to grow a big pumpkin from it next year.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Winter Rye Cover Crop

The cover crop I planted 2 1/2 weeks ago is finally taking off.   It started to pop up last Friday.  The day time highs have been relatively warm the last week, but previous to that things were fairly cool so it took some time to get the grass coming up.   The lows have been at or below freezing every night for weeks. 

This cover crop will do a few different things for the soil.  It will help prevent erosion and compaction.  It will help keep the biology in the soil going.  It will suppress weeds.  And it will also make a nice green manure that will be tilled back into the soil in the spring adding organic matter to the soil.  

What I'll probably do is amend the planting area and till it in the early Spring.  About a 10x10 space.  The rest I'll mow down from time time time to keep it manageable until June, when I'll till the rest in, about the same time that the pumpkin plants are about to grow out of their hoop houses.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Nice End to a Challenging Season

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.   Two months ago if you would have told me that I would have grown my 2nd and 3rd largest pumpkins this year I would have been surprised.  Early on, I was estimating the pumpkins to end up in the 700lb range.  Wind damage, hot days and cold nights seemed to limit the pumpkin growth.  The pumpkins at their peak only got to 25lbs per day.  Far from the 43 pounds a day my biggest pumpkin hit during its peak growth four years ago.

I weighed my 1685 Scheber pumpkin at Hee Haw Farms on Saturday and it ended up a little bigger than the 747 pumpkin at 965 pounds.  4th place again.  Overall I felt relatively satisfied with that.

Both of my pumpkin plants I think had more to give from a genetics standpoint.  Particularly the 747 Johnson plant which lost about 1/3 of its leaves this spring in the strong winds we get here.  It was an aggressive plant that did really well considering its challenges.

Looking at the data about 1/4 to 1/3 of my day the pumpkins weren't growing because it was either too cold or too hot.  When I moved here I anticipated the cool night problem.  The hot days was worse than I thought it would be so I misted to help with that.  There wasn't much of anything I could do about the night time lows however and I think that was a big limiting factor.

The fact that both pumpkins peaked at about 25lbs per day and both ended up at about the same weight tells me that there is an environmental cap.   Just a guess, but without that cap I think 1,300 pounds would have been probable, but I might be wrong.  There may have been other limiting factors that I haven't discovered yet.

One limiting factor that I should have corrected next season is irrigation.  Pretty much both plants only had a single impact sprinkler head watering the entire patch for most all of the season.  I knew that as a problem, but when you move into a new home in the mountains in October you don't have time to get irrigation lines setup.  I was lucky to get the soil tilled (which wasn't easy because of all of the compaction from the construction equipment).  You don't get even watering from a single head.

My soil wasn't in bad shape this spring, but it could have been a little better.  Again, limited time only allowed for so much patch prep, but I did work it pretty hard last fall and this spring.   I should be in much better shape next spring however.  On Saturday, after the weigh-off, I put down a cover crop of winter rye which will be tilled into the soil in the spring.  With the big Kubota tiller I was able to till 8-10 inches deep and get the last of the compacted spots out of the patch.  The soil looks really nice now.  Very fluffy.

A big thanks to Amber, my wife, for helping to make this all possible.  She doesn't help with the pumpkin growing, matter-o-fact, I'm not sure she went into the pumpkin patch more than twice this year, but she puts up with a lot to allow me to do all of this.  Love that girl.

In the coming months I'll talk more about what I'm going to do to change things up to overcome some of the environmental challenges I've had and to try new things.   My goal for the last 4 years has been 1,500 pounds.  I know that is obtainable.  4 years ago, I thought I had a 1,500 pounder until the pumpkin went really, really light on me.  So, I know I can get a pumpkin to that size with a good seed and changing things up.  What I know for sure, is if you are growing the same sized pumpkin almost every year and trying to grow bigger using the same old techniques, it will only happen if you get a magic seed.  They do come along from time to time, but if you want to grow with the big boys, you have to re-invent how you grow.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Final Pumpkin of the Season & Patch Prep Has Begun

Today I lifted the 1685 pumpkin.  Measurements are bigger than the 747 pumpkin, but we'll have to see if it weighs more.   My guess is that it goes light. 

Big thanks to the team at Power Equipment Rental in Heber for the equipment.  Used the telescoping fork to lift the pumpkin and then used the Kubota tractor to put compost into both patches.  When I asked if the had a tiller attachment, they said no and then went out and bought one for me to use.  They even supplied some very nice compost.  So a BIG thanks!

I put down grass clippings from the lawn that I saved all summer, elemental sulfur, yards of compost and some 8-2-1 fertilizer.  That big Kubota made nice work of the soil.   Three swipes in the smaller patch and it was done.   Also used the Kubota to till the entire backyard in preparation for putting in a lawn the spring.

Tomorrow or the next day I'll put in a cover crop of winter rye into both patches.  I was hoping to do it today, but was working the soil until past sundown.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Pumpkins are for Children at Heart

For years we've taken the pumpkins to local schools.  It really makes all of the hard work worthwhile, because anyone who is a child at heart appreciates a giant pumpkin.   The questions and the level and enthusiasm are always the same.  "How much does it way?"  "How to you lift it?"  "How many pumpkin pies can you make?" "What will you do with it?"

Matt McConkie said it well on TV.   I challenge you to see a giant pumpkin and not smile.   One of my favorites is driving the pumpkin around and watching people at the side of the road light up when they see the pumpkin.

To answer the last child's question about what we will do with this pumpkin?  One will be on our driveway for Halloween, so make sure to stop by if you are trick or treating in Midway.  The other pumpkin will be at Signam Signs in Midway.  Both are the biggest pumpkins ever grown in the Heber Valley, so they are kind of fun.

Monday, October 2, 2017

See Ya at Hee Haw Farms Pumpkin Championship on Saturday

The plan is to take the 1685 pumpkin "Cujoe" to the Hee Haw Farms weigh-off this Saturday.  I've never been to this weigh-off before.  I knew it is traditionally much smaller than the Thanksgiving Point weigh-off, but looking forward to attending.   Starts at noon, so come on by.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

1685 Pumpkin is Still Growing

Put the tape measure on the 1685 pumpkin today to see with the cold weather if the plant survived at all.  The leaves were all frosted away two days ago.  Was a bit surprised to see that it is still growing and growing a descent amount for this late in the season.  Actually measured it twice because I didn't think the numbers could be right after two mild frosts this week.  Yesterday and the day before we dipped just below freezing.  But according to the measurements, let's just say a half-ton pickup truck might not be able to carry this pumpkin now.  The truth is on the scale and I think this pumpkin will go light still.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Best Growing Temperatures for Giant Pumpkins

From the research that I've done to date and my own experience, it would appear that the mid to high 70s would be the ideal temperature to grow giant pumpkins at, in terms of the above ground temperature,  if you could keep the temperature constant 24 hours a day.  Few people can do that however.   The soil temperature you would probably want a little warmer than that so microbes could have high activity to feed the plant.  So if you could control the soil temperature, you would probably want soil heating cables making the soil a little warmer.

I have a temperature gauge that records the backyard temperature at 10 minute increments.   I downloaded that data and then found the average temperature from July 17th to September 24th.  It was all of the data I have available, but it is probably a pretty good average of a season, since it is pretty much the middle of the season to the end.

Pumpkin plants pretty much shut down above 91 degrees and below 54 degrees.  So you really need to stay at least a few degrees above and below those temperatures to be growing all the time.  It isn't infrequent for me during the summer to get above 91 degrees, although it surprised me that on average I do not go over 91 degrees when looking at the data at specific times of the day.  I do however, on average, go below 54 degrees 16% of the time.  So my bigger problem is cool temperatures rather than hot temperatures when looking at averages for a specific times of the day.

From 4:20am to 8:05am on average I'm 54 degrees or below.  At 5:15am on average I drop down to 53 degrees.  I'm looking at ways I can cheaply put heat into a high tunnel using warmed water.  I think if I water starting at either 4:20am or 5:00am I can raise the temperature in the high tunnel prior to the sun rising and will be able to keep more sustained growth.  From previous data I looked at, 25% of the time I'm outside of the 54 to 91 degree range.  If I can add heat in the hoop house in the early morning I can get that number down to 9% and using shade cloth. fans and misters to cool the plants during the heat of the day I think I can get that number down to 2%.  The would get me a tremendous amount of additional pumpkin growth.

Monday, September 25, 2017

1685 "Cujoe" Pumpkin is Trying to Beat Out "Jumbo"

Took a measurement on the 1685 pumpkin just now.  Haven't measured it in nearly 3 weeks.  I was considering taking it off the vine this Friday, but I may hold off on that.   Its estimated weight is greater than the 747 pumpkins, but I don't believe it will actually be heavier.   For one, its shape is one that tends to go light.  Also, before it turned into a satellite dish that fell over, I had another pumpkin on the vine that I decided to take off because it was growing slow.   It came in about 10% light, so I suspect this pumpkin will go light also.

This pumpkin has to be right up there for one of the strangest looking pumpkins I've ever grown.  Because of the bird bath shape I haven't posted any pictures of it for a long time because it has been under a canopy structure and it is hard to take off because I had to sire the tarp onto it in order to keep the strong winds we have from blowing it away. 

The cross for this pumpkin is 1685 x 747, which basically translates to a whole lot of 2145 genetics crossed with a whole lot of the 2009 genetics.   So it is an relatively interesting cross.  Have no idea what the progeny would look like.  I suspect a bit orange, but the shape would be a mystery, because each side of the cross is so different.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Fun Few Days & The End of Growing, But Not the Season

On Friday we had our 10th Annual Giant Pumpkin party at the house.  The first pumpkin party was started out of necessity.  My first season I had a 755 pound pumpkin and I needed muscle power to lift the pumpkin.  I invited friends and family to a "party" so I could get the pumpkin on a trailer to take to the weigh-off and it became an annual event.

This years pumpkin party I would guess we had 75 people or more in attendance.   It is always hard to tell as people come and god.  I'm a terrible host because I'm focused on taking care of the pumpkin and there is always a lot to do so I feel guilty that I don't get to spend more time with everyone.  This year it was particularly fun because almost nobody had seen a giant pumpkin before and there is a certain wonder when you see a 900+ pound pumpkin for the first time.

The next day I drove the pumpkin to the weigh-off. Also something that is a lot of fun as people see the pumpkin and either their jaw drops or they smile, wave and take pictures.

A number of great pumpkins at the weigh-off at Thanksgiving Point.  But one stole the show.  Matt McConkie's behemoth estimated at over 2,000 pounds, but looked particularly large because it was somewhat of a wheel and was extremely tall (look at the fire hose vines on that thing!). Pumpkins always look bigger when they are tall.

As I sized up the pumpkins at the event, an eyeball estimate had me in 5th or 6th place.  The truth only happens when the pumpkins are on the scale and I kind of hoped my pumpkin would go heavy because the pumpkin my seed came from was 19% heavy, so I was hoping I had some of mama in my pumpkin.

I had been asked to be a judge for the weigh-off.  So we measure and judged all of the pumpkins to make sure there were no pumpkins with defects that would eliminate them from competition.  Fortunately only one pumpkin had to be disqualified and the grower knew about it beforehand and expected it.

The Utah Giant Pumpkin Grower club puts on a first class weigh-off.  Major flag ceremony at the beginning and the like are just part of the show.  I've been to big weigh-offs from coast to coast and it this one is a very good one here

Had some interesting conversations with different growers about growing techniques during the weigh-off.  In particular had an interesting conversation with Ralph.  I think he is a grower that is under the radar.  Has a big pumpkin on the vine right now that is going to another state's weigh-off, but he has interesting ideas around the environmental issues we both face.  Our challenges are somewhat different than growers in the Salt Lake valley, so I think we can help each other grow bigger.  I suspect that Ralph is going to have some very big pumpkins in about two years.

After three hours and a lot of pumpkins, my pumpkin finally hit the scale near the end of the event.  I had my pumpkin estimated at 947.  The official measurement, which I wasn't part of, had it at something like 939.  I hoped it could go 6% heave to get it to 1,000 pounds, but no luck.  It ended up at 943 pounds.  I wasn't disappointed however.  Earlier in the season I wasn't sure it would go much more than 700 pounds.   The 747 Johnson pumpkin named Jumbo, was the little engine that could.  It never grew fast.  Only hit 25 pounds per day at its peak, but it grew long.   Much longer than any pumpkin I've had in the past.  Was still growing at 109 days old when I cut it from the vine.  My plan right is to grow that seed again next year.  I think it has more to give and there is only one other seed I like better right now and crossing the 747 into it would be very interesting.  This is the 2nd biggest pumpkin I've ever grown.  Far behind my best at 1,220 pounds, but in some ways this one is special because between heavy winds, cold nights, bad powdery mildew, poor watering system and deer, this pumpkin did better than it should have.

The cap stone of the day was Matt's pumpkin going to the scale.  After a moving speech by Matt, they revealed the weight.  A somewhat disappointing 1,974 pounds.   I'm sure Matt wanted a one-ton pumpkin, but I'm also sure a new Utah state record and personal best wasn't disappointing.

In the end, I ended up in 4th place and was only 49 pounds from second place.  Most of the pumpkins went light and since mine went to the chart I leaped over some larger pumpkins.  On the way home, with the pumpkin in tow, I had a humbling experience however.   I stopped at a light and the guy in the cart next to me asked if I got first place?  I said 4th.  He then asked how far from first my pumpkin was.  It hit me when I said, "One THOUSAND pounds" that I have a long way to go next year.  The good news is that I have stuff in the works for next year that I think can help close that gap.  More on that to come in posts over the winter.

Today I was exhausted.  After getting a nice ovation in church when they announced my pumpkins weight (a bit of a surprise and  appreciated), I went home and took a nap.

Today we got snow, so the hope of any more weight on the 2nd pumpkin (Cujoe) went away, so growing pumpkins is done for the year.  I've got it under a tarp and blankets so the goal now will be to keep it cool and dry until the weigh-off in two weeks at Hee Haw Farms.  I haven't measure Cujoe in about two weeks I think.  It was only 20 or so pounds behind Jumbo at the time, was growing slow but gaining a little on Jumbo.  I expect this pumpkin to go light, so I would be a little surprised if it got to 900lbs, but anything is possible. Pictures of the "satellite dish" pumpkin to come.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

She is Still Growing

Shocked!  Two weeks ago I wouldn't have believed if you told me that Jumbo would still be growing at this point.  I did a final measurement today, because tomorrow is going to be busy and rain is in the forecast.   Measuring tapes don't matter and the scale will tell the truth on Saturday, but I wouldn't have thought I could get much growth with the cold weather we've had for most of this week and the pumpkin being 108 days old.  16 pounds in four days.  Not bad!

A Pumpkin Season in Review

More of a learning curve than I anticipated this season, growing in a new pumpkin patch.  The season isn't quite done because tomorrow we will be cutting the pumpkin from the vine and loading it onto a trailer to take to the Thanksgiving Point weigh-off on Saturday, but the growing is done now.

My takeaways from the 2017 season:
  • The wind in Midway are a bit too much and I need a greenhouse to grow a truely big pumpkin.  As you can see in the photo, all the leaves from the stump to the pumpkin are gone and have been gone for two months.  I let every sucker vine vine grow and haven't terminated anything for almost two months because I knew late in the season I would almost have no leaves if I didn't.  That is why it is green all around the edges and brown in the middle of the patch
  • Extra fertilizing I did this year I think had an effect on growth.
  • Need to get my sprinkler system installed next year.  Watering was uneven with the single sprinkler head watering the patch.  Time was an issue this year and we'll get that corrected next year.
  • About 5 degrees of extra warmth would make a big difference in growth.  Using data from my temperature sensor I looked at how often the plant was under 54 degrees or above 91 degrees in August.  A little more than 1/4 of the time the plant was outside those growing range temperatures.  So pretty much 1/4 of the time the pumpkin wasn't growing at all.
  • The 747 Johnson seed is a good seed.  I loved the pumpkin's long shape (reduces the potential for splits) and smooth skin.  Vine growth was fairly aggressive.  Hopefully it carries the heavy gene.  This plant went through a lot this year and things turned out okay regardless.
  • Earyly season growing is a challenge.  I got lucky this year.  Started my seeds early and pollinated early, but 6 degrees cooler one day and I would have lost the 747 plant.  Last frost was earlier than average, so I need to figure out a way to work with environment and mitigate risk with the plants a little better.