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.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Big Thanks to Ralph Laub

I drove out to Vernal, UT yesterday and got a very nice tour of Ralph Laub's high tunnel and setup.  It was very kind of him to give me a couple of hours of his time to show me not only what he has, but why he has done it the way he has done it.  I know he saved me from some trouble on my geothermal system because of some comments he made.   Ralph was the same person that turned me onto the NRCS high tunnel program and saved me a couple of thousand dollars.  That isn't a small thing, so a big thanks to him.  Wish I would have been smart enough to take some pictures yesterday.

Some Utah growers probably woudn't know it, but Ralph grew the 3rd biggest official pumpkin grown in Utah last year.  He took that pumpkin to another state so I'm not sure most people ever saw it.  The pollinator on that pumpkin was Matt's big one, so some nice genetics in that seed.

Ralph has a nice setup.  A greenhouse that is twice as big as the one I'll be growing in this year with some nice enhancements added to it.  Sounds like Ralph isn't planning on growing this season and instead is going to be doing a pumpkin tour this summer.  I'm sure after that he'll come back with some very nice new ideas for next season.

I ordered my high tunnel today.  Sounds like it could be arriving by the end of next week.

In my own "patch" the 1974 seed seems to be the most aggressive grower so far.  Matt told me it was by far the most aggressive plant in his patch this last year, so it will be interesting to see if that continues to hold true for this season. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Grow Closet

I mentioned last year that in my new home I setup a "grow closet" to start my plants in.  Did it on the cheap.   It consists of some T5 lights, brooders with some full spectrum CFL bulbs, plastic shelving and a smart plug.  Outside of spring, it just stores some pumpkin growing supplies.  But this time of year I put a thermostatically controlled space heater at the bottom of the closet and a bunch of lights to get my plants started.  The space heater is set to 80 degrees.  I have two wireless monitors in the closet right now.  One is sitting on the top of a pot nearer to the lights and the other is sitting on the shelf.  85.4 degrees at the top of the pot and 81.8 degrees at the bottom on the shelf.  Nearly perfect.   As the plants grow the lights will be lifted.  I try to keep the lights 4-5 inches away from the plant.

The smart plug in a new edition.  Got it for $10 on Amazon for Christmas and it works nicely.  I'll use it in the greenhouse also.  With it I can set the lights on a timer.  I can also turn them on and off via an app.

The 2145 seed is the first to pop through the soil.  Is is it a sign?  Probably not, but is better than it not showing up at all or really late.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Seeds are Soaking and the Pumpkin Season has Begun

I sanded and have the pumpkin seeds soaking right now.  Two 1764 McConkie, three 1974 McConkie and one 2145 McMullen.   Put a little humic acid and kelp into the water to help with the germination process (no that is not an Amber ale).   Those will soak for about six hours and then will be put the seeds into wet paper towels and a warm place to help complete the germination.  By tomorrow evening I should start seeing some roots.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Finding the Square Footage of Your Pumpkin Patch or Anything Else

In addition to doing my patch prep right now, I'm trying to complete the landscaping for the backyard.  Then very soon I'll be doing the greenhouse.  Three big projects in a two month period.  Not ideal.   But I pretty much have to get it all done. 

While trying to figure out how many square feet of landscaping rock I needed for the yard I ran into a problem.  I need a lot of rock, but the areas that will be covered are hard to measure because it mostly isn't simple square areas.  There are lots of different angles.  It then occurred to me that I may be able to find a solution using Google Maps satellite view.  I had used a tool once that would allow you to calculate a distance in feet on the map, so I wondered if there was a tool that allowed you to calculate an area on a map.  Low and behold there was:

This website allows you to pick points for the corners of the area and it then figures out the square footage.  You can do multiple areas which it will then total.  So you can easily look at the satellite view of your pumpkin patch.  Pick the corners of the patch and within about 1/2 foot have an accurate measurement for the pumpkin patch or any other area of any size.  Pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Patch Prep 2018 Has Begun

Today I dug out the area for the heating cables in the south patch.  Put them about 8 inches down into the ground and then buried them.  This will be the same area that the hoop house will go in a couple of weeks.

The corner flags will stay there all season.  They help me make sure I don't till them and make it a little easier to dig up the cords in the fall.  The center flag is were I'll be planting the pumpkin plant.  

I'm going to start my seeds five days later this year.  The first weigh-off is a week later this season and I felt like I was cutting it too close last season with getting the plants frosted.  Last frost for me is around June 1st.  I was out of the hoop house well before that and had some nights around 38 degrees last year, so better safe than sorry.   I'll still have two more days of growing this year, so I think I'll be in good shape in the weather will cooperate. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Pumpkin Season has Begun (Kind of)!

This time of year for years I've done the same thing.  As the weather starting warming up and you start seeing some of the crocus and daffodils peaking through the ground, my pumpkin growing fever starts to rise.  To curb the cravings I like to start something off that can be productive.  I've talked on this blog a couple of times about getting myco going in pots before you start your actual seeds.  I won't be start my plants for a couple of weeks, but it takes a while for myco to become mature enough that it is actually providing some benefits to the plant, so it is good to start it now. 

At the Niagara seminar Neil Anderson of RTI, whose company makes more myco than probably any other company out there, stated (somewhat quietly), that it may take a couple of months for the myco to get to the point that it is bringing back nutrients and water back to the plant.  I stuck around after his seminar and asked some additional questions about that.  He suggested during the seminar that "pre-starting" some myco before you started the seeds and then transferring that seed starting mix to the pots may be a good idea.

Typically I would have started some seeds a week ago, but I only got these started two days ago, because life has been very busy lately.  Using the paper towel method I started two 747 Johnson seeds.   Those sprouted and I then put them both into one pot with two different brands of myco, Azos and some other beneficial bacteria.  I also put a pinch of a WOW Super Start Pack in the seed starting mix.  The day or day before I start my actual seeds I plan to grow this season, I'm pull the plants from this pot and mix the soil in the seed starting mix of my other pots, so each pot will get some of this more mature myco.

I'll still put some additional myco and microbes in the pots of the plants I'll actually be growing this season.  

The other benefit of doing this is that it forces me to get my stuff pulled together in advance of when I start my actual plants and gives me a little practice.  For example, in the pot I put the seeds in today, I should have put a little humic acid into.  Hopefully this will help me remember when it becomes more important.

In about 3 days I suspect I'll start seeing the plants popping through the soil.  I start two plants in the soil to get more roots going throughout the pot quickly.  I figure more roots means more myco getting fed.  

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 1RAW Phosphorous/nitrogen (mono ammonium), B-vitamin, liquid seaweed/kelp, compost tea, myco, microbes & Azos, yucca
Week 2fish, compost tea (alfalfa), fulvic acid, yucca, silica
Week 3compost tea, humic acid, yucca, fish, enzymes, amino acids
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.