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/

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Pumpkin Growth Pattern

The 2145 pumpkin has continued to slow down.  The morning lows have consistently been in the 40s the last two weeks.  Day time highs have been nice in the mid-80s, but with those low temperatures it takes a long time for the patch to get warm enough that the pumpkin grows.   There probably isn't more than 12 hours of growing a day right now.  It would be interesting to see what the daily gains would be if the plant were kept above 70 degrees each night.  I'd bet pumpkin growth would double.

Sprayed on the leaves some some TKO today to give the plant a little boost and to help fight the powdery mildew that has started to come on lately.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Pumpkin Growth

Growth on the pumpkin this last week was about half of the previous week.  Not sure if it was because of the cool weather if it is the new growth trend.  I continue with the fertigation.  Each time I mix it up a little.  This last changeover I did nitrogen and potassium.   Before that I did 7-3-4.   I like to go a little lower on the phosphorous.  Vine growth has picked up a little on the plant the last two weeks, so the extra nitrogen seems to be working.  With 45 days remaining until vine cutting, I need to average 7.5 pounds a day to get where I would call the season a success.  Problem is that last week we weren't averaging much more than that.  The weather is cool again this week, so I'm not sure I'll see much of a change in the growth pattern.  Really wish I had the greenhouse up right now.

I like the shape of this pumpkin.  Barrel shaped is perfect.  The 2145 tends to go heavy, so I'm hoping we go that direction, but I've been burned by that thinking before.  This is a picture from last week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mitigating Risk in the Pumpkin Patch Late in the Season

So you've got a big pumpkin growing and you are going into the close of the season.  What do you do now?   To get your pumpkin to the scale is no small feat.  Almost half of the pumpkins I've grown didn't make it to the scale or made it to the scale damaged.   There are some things you can do to help increase your changes that you end the season strong.

  1. Watch your watering.  As the days get shorter and the temps cool off you can probably back off on the water some, which will decrease the risks of fungus and rot.
  2. Spray for powdery mildew.  This time of year powdery mildew likes to form on the leaves.  It is common to get some, but if it gets out of control it can cause big problems.  Actinovate or a good fungicide work well to prevent.  Don't wait until you see it growing.
  3. Check the pumpkin for damage and splits.  Often times you can stop rotting in its tracks if you catch it early.   A 10% solution of bleach and sulfur powder will often knock it out when it is small.
  4. Keep insecticide programs going.
  5. Some foliar sprays of seaweed on the leaves in September is a good idea.  It helps protect the leaves and seems to keep them going a little longer.  Can also help prevent light frost bite.
  6. Check stump and stem for soft spots and oozing.   If you find any, keep the area dry and apply a 10% solution of bleach and sulfur powder. 
  7. Nutrients can start getting depleted in the soil late in the season, so make sure plants are getting what they need.  Some growers attribute splits in pumpkins later in the season because of calcium and nitrogen deficiencies.   Nobody has proven that as far as I know, but ideal growth comes from just the right amount of nutrients in the soil, so keep the plants fed.   Possibly a little more foliar applications wouldn't be a bad idea at the end of the season.

Monday, August 20, 2018

RIP Grandpa Dee

The pumpkin named after my grandpa whom pasted away on New Year's eve bit the dust this last week.  When I measured it on Thursday I was surprised to see no growth because six days prior it seemed to be growing at a steady rate.   Today I measured again and no growth.  My son's plant next to it seems to have yellow vine disease, but this plant and the pumpkin show no signs of disease or a split.  It happens.

I haven't measured the 2145 pumpkin (Uncle Sam), but it is easy to see that it is still growing.  It is the final hope now.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Putting a Rumor to Rest

A first year grower friend of mine went to the UGPG club patch tour this last weekend.  I wish I could have been there, but our annual family reunion happened to fall on that same weekend so I was in Yellowstone.  I texted her from the cabin and asked how things went and if there were any big pumpkins.  She said that the rumors were that I had a 1,300 pounder in my backyard.  Apparently this blog isn't very highly read by all.  Lol

I'll put those rumors to rest.  My effort in the pumpkin patch this year has been minimal.  Too many other distractions, which is disappointing to me.  I think I had some good genetics to grow on this year, but I haven't got out of the plants what I should have because of a lack of time.  I would be the most suprised person if I had anything close to 1,300 pounds.  An outside chance of being able to best last years pumpkins, but I'm not sure that will happen.

I measured the 1974 pumpkin today for the first time in 6 days.  It only showed 1/2 inch in new growth on the circumference.  It may be shutting down.  The plant looks perfectly healthy however, so I'm not sure what is going on.

2145 seems to be growing at the same rate.   Vine growth hasn't been good over the last few weeks.  I hit it with additional nitrogen over the last two weeks, but it didn't seem to make much of a difference.  Pumpkin seems to want to take everything.

Friday, August 10, 2018

2145 Has Surpassed 1974

The 2145 pumpkin is bigger now than the 1974 pound.  I could see a little more than a week ago that the 2145 pumpkin, which is a week younger, was gaining on the 1974 pumpkin.   Did a measurement on the pumpkins this morning and the 2145 pumpkin is about 30 pounds more and seems to be still growing faster per day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Some Grandular Nitrogen for the Plants

Today I gave the plants a mixture of 21-0-0 and 5-2-0.  I did the mixture because the ammonium sulfate is pretty fast acting and the 5-2-0 is an organic fertilizer that will be slower release.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Time to Start Combating Powdery Mildew Before it Starts

Powdery mildew is a white, powdery looking fungus the grows on leaves.  Pumpkin plants seem to be particularly susceptible to it and once you get it, you can't really get rid of it unless you use some very powerful fungicides that I prefer not to use at all.  An ounce of prevention is worth  a pound of cure in this case.

Usually around the first few weeks of August I'll start seeing some signs of powdery mildew.  Getting a little isn't a big deal, but if it gets out of control it can take a plant down.  Usually that isn't a problem for healthy plants, but powdery mildew will damage leaves and as a result affect pumpkin growth.   So what I typically do around this time of year is use Actinovate.  It is an organic fungicide that seems to work well if applied a couple of weeks before the powdery mildew starts showing up.  It won't knock out powdery mildew once you have it, but from experience I can say that it reduces the amount of powdery mildew and can help slow it down when you do get it.

The day before yesterday I started brewing some compost tea and put a touch of Actinovate in the brew at the beginning.  I then added some more the last 15 minutes of the brew.     That compost tea was then splashed on all of the leaves of the plants.  I found that works pretty well.   So far this year I've seen no signs of powdery mildew (knock on wood).

When powdery mildew does start, another organic way to help contain it is spray some silica on the leaves.  It will actually be used by the plant to form a silica barrier around the infected area to help contain the infection.

Feed the Machine

I've been using the fertigation that I mentioned on the 2145 plant, so it gets fertilizers at each watering.  Yesterday I gave both plants some compost tea.  The day before that I gave the 1794 plant potassium and aminos.  I also gave both plants some granular 7-2-1.