Saturday, February 18, 2017

Lumens for Giant Pumpkin Seed Starting

Let me say up front, I'm not an expert on lumens and growing under lights, but I have done it for 8 years now so I'm not a novice.  When I start my pumpkin seeds I start them indoors under lights.  My setup includes putting the plants on the top of one of those standard plastic shelves that you can by almost anywhere that has a grated shelf.  On the bottom shelf I have a thermostatically controlled space heater and everything is in a closet.

In my new house I have a dedicated grow closet that is used for starting plants and the rest of the year I store my growing products in it.   At my old house I had florescent and T5 lights above the plants with full spectrum 6000K CFL bulbs on the side that are in brooders pointed at the plant.  This setup has always worked well.  The plants have always been short, stocky and not leggy which can happen when the plants don't get enough light.   The color always looked good too.

At the new house my florescent fixtures are too large to fit the grow closet so I just bought some additional T5 fixtures.  I like the T5 fixtures because they don't get too hot and they are nice and bright. With the T5s I'll continue to use the cfl bulbs with the brooders.

Now, for how much light do you need on your plant?  A T5 bulb 3-5 inches above the seedling with a CFL bulb in a brooder pointed at the plant from the side seems to be enough light.  I like to put the plants in the sun anytime I can, because you can't duplicate the sun and you need to get the plants used to the sun's brightness.  Also, a light wind is a good thing to help get the plant to harden off a little.  I think it also encourages root growth some.

A minimum of lighting needed for your pumpkin plant is around 2,000 lumens per square foot.   That would equal about two 23 watt CFL bulbs on a seedling. Mid-range would be around 5,000 lumens per square foot.  That would equal three 23 watt CFL’s.  What would be considered optimal for most indoor grows would be around 7,000-7,500 or higher, but for young seedlings I'm not sure that would be ideal or necessary.  That would equal five 23 watt CFLs.

For my T5 setup with the CFL bulb, I'm getting about 4,600 lumens, but there are multiple plants, so I have multiple bulbs in the area of each plant.  I would guess that each plant is getting right around 5,000 lumens per plant or a little more and it seems to be adequate to get the plants started until you can get them into the hoop house to get them fully going.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

How to Plan Your Pumpkin Season During the Doldrums of February

This time of year can be kind of boring during the pumpkin season.  Not much going on when the ground is frozen and there is a foot of snow on the ground.  Or is it?  A few things you should consider doing is planning for 2017.  Start developing a fertilizer program to use during the season, research new techniques, put together a fertilizer program for the season, do test plantings to make sure your seed starting techniques are good, watch videos on how to grow giant pumpkins and network with other growers.  All of these things are great things to do now to be prepared to grow a personal best pumpkin this year.  I find that when you stay ahead during the season things tend to work well.  When you are running behind, it is very hard to catch up.  Do everything you can do now to make it your best season ever. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Soil Heating Cables for the Pumpkin Patch

I might be one of the few people in the world who would get a "ball of wire" for my birthday and be thrilled. Two new 48 foot soil heating cables for the pumpkin patch. Yea!!!  The heating cables will heat the soil which will get the biology going in the soil and promote root growth.  This will be helpful in the cooler Midway, Utah climate.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pumpkin Patch #2

With an above average warm fall, I've managed to get the 2nd pumpkin patch prepped and I didn't think I'd be able to do that, but the weather has been kind.  This second area is larger than the first, with enough space for 3 full-size plants.  I'll grow one plant and the kids will grow a plant each in this space.  I put in about 5 yards of compost along with some sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorous and humic acid in the patch and then tilled it all in.  After that I sowed a winter rye cover crop.  The soil in this area was very compacted from construction vehicles, so I'll need to work it good again in the spring. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Winter Rye Cover Crop for the Pumpkin Patch

Friday of last week, I put down winter rye seed for a cover crop.  Look how well it is doing already.  Warmer than average temperatures hasn't hurt, but good management practices is the key.  Night time lows have been between 31-38 degrees for the last week, but winter rye doesn't mind that much.  It is pretty hardy, so as long as you can keep it wet and you don't have a hard freeze, it will germinate.  A trick that Joe Scherber taught me is putting clear plastic over the planting area to get it to warm up a little more.  It also helps keep the moisture in, which makes a big difference.  Pre-germinating indoors in a bucket of sand with a little kelp and humic acid also helps ensure a higher germination rate.  These grass blades are already about 2 inches high, which is pretty amazing a week after sowing the seed.

In the spring, that grass will take off when it gets warm and grow like crazy.  I'll till it into the soil as a green manure to increase the organic matter in the soil and then I'll plant another cover crop of winter rye in the patch, except for the planting areas, at that time to help suppress weeds, keep the soil from getting compacted, help get the biology going in the soil and add additional organic matter.  When the pumpkin starts to vine out, I'll till in that 2nd cover crop well in advance so that it will be broke down in the soil by the time the roots and vines get out that far.

I really like winter rye because it establishes well in the fall and it is easy to get rid off when it is time to till it in.  You can fairly easily just pull it out of the soil in your hand, which is great, because you don't want to have to fight it off like a weed after establishing it.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Limestone Soil in the Pumpkin Patch

Back in March, before our new home was built I got a soil test.  The soil was high in potassium and surprisingly high in calcium and organic matter.  I believe my property some years ago was a farmers field, so I could account for a 5.3% OM, but I was surprised by the high calcium reading.  The last two weeks I started working on the front yard landscaping and there were a lot more of the pot rock in the backyard.  I figured this rock to be limestone, but I wasn't sure until I found this yesterday.

It is a sea shell, like you would find on any beach.  It looks like it could have washed up on the shore yesterday.  Although at 5,800 feet at the top of the Rockies, it is unlikely.

Friday, October 21, 2016

We Have a Pumpkin Patch in Utah!

It has been over a year since I could say I had a pumpkin patch.  With the move, I didn't grow last season and it was a little sad to see my neighbor cover the old patch with piles of dirt.   Yesterday evening I tilled about 3 yards of compost into the new patch along with some nitrogen, sulfur, humic acid, peat moss, manganese and iron.  Last night I also took a bucket full of sand and put in a little humic acid and liquid seaweed with some winter rye grass seed and wetted it to help pre-germinate the seed.  I then put that seed down at lunch today when things warmed up and racked it into the soil and then gave it a good watering.  I'll then cover the patch with plastic to help warm it up and which will increase the germination rate.

Weather here in Utah lately has been relatively warm.  Early mornings lately have hovered right around 32 degrees, but day time temperatures are forecast in the 60s and low 70s for the next week, which will be ideal for getting that cover crop going before the first hard freeze.  That winter rye cover crop will be tilled into the soil in the spring which will add organic matter and nutrients that will be available to the pumpkin patch next year.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Compost for the New Pumpkin Patch, Dump Trailers & A Big Thanks

Today I got about 20 yards of compost for the pumpkin patch and new yard.  This house is a brand new build, so I tilled the entire front yard to get the soil loosened up because it was very compacted from all of the heavy machinery.  My new 8hp Troy-Bilt tiller worked great.  The compacted soil was hard to work, but after few passed it started to dig deep.  It will work very nicely in the patch.  Not as powerful as the Barreto tillers I've been using, but in loose soil it will till the patch faster.

A big thanks to everyone at Power Equipment Rentals in Heber City, Utah.  They hooked me up with a dump trailer, truck to haul the dump trailer and a front loader to load up the compost.   They also gave me some very nice finished compost that looked to be 2-3 years old.  My soil at the new place is relatively nutrient rich, so this fully finished compost will be a very nice amendment to the pumpkin patch to get the organic matter increased in my sandy loam soil.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Greenhouse Geo Thermal Heating & Cooling for Giant Pumpkin Growing

Now I wouldn't purport to be an expert on setting up a geo thermal heating and cooling system in a greenhouse, but after watching a number of videos, reading blog posts and talking with some people I feel like a know enough to do what I want to accomplish.  What is a geo thermal heating and cooling system?  Basically it is a way to use the earth to heat and cool air in order to heat and cool a greenhouse or some other space.  Living in Midway, Utah now, I have challenges with temperatures that come with living in a mountain valley at 5,600 feet.  I'm actually only about 200 feet higher than where I was at in Denver, but the average day time temperature is about 5 degrees cooler during the day and night and that makes a big difference, particularly with giant pumpkins.  45-55 degree nights is not ideal for packing on the pounds.  It makes for nice sleeping however.

So what I have to do is make the pumpkin plants think they are in Napa Valley, Ohio or Rhode Island.  The greenhouse I will build will help with that.  That will help warm the plants up more quickly in the early morning and will get the humidity up a little.  It doesn't do much to keep the plants warm at night however.

The corrugated pipe that you see in the picture below were buried about 2 1/2 feet down in the ground.  One one end of the pipes will have a tube that will go up to the top of the green house and it will have an inline fan hooked to a thermostat that will blow the hot air down into the tubes at a high enough volume to circulate the air volume in the greenhouse.  When the air goes down into the ground it will warm the soil, which is great for the roots and will get the biology in the soil going.  In return the air will be cooled by the earth as it passes through the pipes and then will be blown into the greenhouse, cooling the air in the greenhouse.  In all of my research, this is the most efficient way to heat and cool a greenhouse.  If it were up to me I'd heat the greenhouse at night with a propane heater (i.e.expensive), but my wife is mean and won't let me.  Lol

I also mention that this system will also heat the greenhouse.   Another thermostat will kick on during the night, when it gets too cool and the reverse will happen.  Cooler air will be blown into the pipes and will be heated up by the earth, that has stored the heat from the heat of the day and on the other end, warmer air will be blown out.

I've also purchased an number of soon to be black water barrels that will be on the southwest side of the greenhouse.  Those will soak up heat during the day and then at night will release the heat into the greenhouse.  The guy I bought the barrels from, who has a greenhouse, said he has checked the temperature of the water in the barrels during the day and 85 degrees is pretty common for him.

All of this together I hope will make for some giant pumpkins in 2017.

New World Pumpkin Giant Pumpkin Weighs 2,623 Pounds

Congrats to Mathias Willemijns of Belgium on his new World Record giant pumpkin weighing in at an amazing 2,624 pounds.  The pumpkin was grown on the 2145 McMullen seed and went 21% heavy.  One of the seeds I plan on growing next year is the 1685 Scherber which is the 800 McMullen (reverse cross of the 2145) crossed with the 2145 McMullen.  Five of the top 20 pumpkins grown this year where grown on the 2145 McMullen seed, so there is a lot of great genetics.  The 1685 Scherber smashed the previous Colorado state record by over 200 pounds so it is an intriguing seed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

One Ton Pumpkin in Colorado?

Will this be the first pumpkin ever grown in Colorado that weighs over 2,000 pounds?  Come find out at Jared's Nursery in Littleton this Saturday.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

What to Do When Your Pumpkin Isn't Growing As Fast As You Would Like

This is one of the things that all growers struggle with when a pumpkin isn't growing as fast as they like.  There are a number of factors that can contribute to slow growth.  Some can be fixed and others cannot.  Genetic factors of course can't be fixed.  Some pumpkins just want to grow slow.  The smallest pumpkin I ever grew was right next to the pumpkin plant that grew my biggest pumpkin ever and both plants got the same amount of water, fertilizer, etc.  

If you don't want to go to the expense of doing a tissue test to find out what the plant has and needs, then trying to give the plants a little more fertilizer isn't a bad idea.  These plants are heavy feeders and they can "bonk," because although there might be a lot of nutrients in the soil sometimes it is locked up or just out of the reach of the roots. 

Doing small, divided doses of additional fertilizer may not be a bad idea, but spoon feed and see how the plant reacts.  Be patient with it.  Over doing it, even slightly, can sometimes have a negative effect on the growth of the pumpkin.  Doing it this way will probably give you better results.

To figure out what the plant needs take a look at the color and growth of the plant.  Potassium can help push the pumpkin along, but low nitrogen or other nutrients can also limit pumpkin growth.  Slow and steady wins the race in pumpkin growing.  So look at everything that could be a limiting factor and do small tests to see what yields you the best results.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Greenhouse Geothermal Heating and Cooling for the Giant Pumpkin Patch

I've been doing research over the last couple of weeks for setting up a geothermal heating and cooling system for my new greenhouse and pumpkin patch.  One of the gurus for this setup (Sunny Johns) is right here in Colorado, but unfortunately his website isn't live anymore (read more below).  You find tons of references to it however when reading on the subject.

Basically what I'll be doing is running a bunch of 4 inch pipes under the pumpkin patch about 3 feet down.  I'll then run a pipe to the top of the greenhouse and in that pipe will be a thermostatically controlled fan.  That pipe will go into the soil in one far corner of the patch and attach to those pipes that are running through the soil.  That pipe will then pop out of the soil on the other far end of the patch.

What will happen, during the heat of the day, is that fan will suck the hot air at the top of the greenhouse and run it through the pipes which will heat the soil.  Pumpkin roots like warm soil because it activates the biology in the soil.  Then cooler air will be blown out the other end of the pipe system at the other end of the patch.

During the night, another thermostat will kick on when it gets too cool.   This time the warmed soil with heat the cool night air in the greenhouse warming the greenhouse slightly during the night.  The whole system is very inexpensive to run and efficient.

I own a website design business ( and when I found that the Sunny Johns site no longer existed I decided to try the Wayback Machine.  The Wayback Machine is an initiative where they crawl websites every so often and then store them.  So you can literally see what a website looked like on a specific date.  The cool thing is that the Sunny Johns geothermal site pages mostly still exist on the Wayback Machine so you can still get all of the good information that is posted there.  Visit here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Some Big Pumpkins in Denver

Went to a pumpkin patch yesterday and saw a couple that could be giants by the end of the season.  One is probably growing at least 48 pounds a day right now.  Weather has been a little warm this summer, but it doesn't appear to be affecting these plants.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pumpkin Patch Tour & Greenhouse

A little bummed that I'm going to miss both the Utah club's pumpkin patch tour and the RMGVG patch tour.  The Utah tour is the weekend before we move to Utah and the Colorado tour is the weekend after.  I couldn't be moving at a worse time.

I'm looking at getting this 24x28 foot greenhouse for the new house.  If anyone is familiar with the quality of the Grower Solutions greenhouses please let me know.  I want to make sure I make the right purchase.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pumpkin Pollination Time

It is that time of the year.  If you want to grow a pumpkin over 1,000 pounds you should have a fast growing giant pumpkin plant at this time of the year that should be close to being ready to pollinate.  Ideally you want a plant that has a female flower ready to open that is 10 feet or more our from the stump.  What you'll want to do is either cover that flower the nigh before it opens (I like to use a fine mesh bag) or close the flower petals with a rubber band so that he bees can't get inside the flower in the morning before you have a chance to hand pollinate it.  You can tell when a flower is going to open the night before because the petals really yellow up the evening before and become elongated.  After closing up the female flower, cut some male flowers that will be ready to open the next day and put them in water and place them on a window seal in your house.  Early the next morning take the male flowers and take off the petals and rub the stamen around the inside of the female flower to cover it with pollen.  Within a few days you should see that little pumpkin at the bottom of the petals on the female flower growing and ideally, 90 days later, that thing should weigh 1,000+ pounds.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fertilizer Moving Sale; Everything Must Go

As we prepare to move to the new house, I'm going to offer a 25% off discount code on all fertilizers at  This means an extra 25% off the already lowest prices you'll find on the internet.  Just enter the discount code of 'moving' during checkout to take advantage of this great deal.  This offer will end on July 12th, so stock up now.  Limited quantities of some items are available, so you'll not want to wait.  Place you order today!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

How to Choose Which Pumpkin Plant to Cull when You Double Plant

I like to put two plants into each hoop house at the beginning of the season because I think it increases your odds of getting a good plant.  I got an email today from a grower who double planted and asked for advice on how to choose which plants to go with.  In summary, this is what I told him:

Deciding which plant to cull is a hard decision.  When I'm deciding which plant to go with I like to look at the parents and see how they looked and look at the health of each plant.  Some plants will be aggressive growers, but that doesn't indicate how big of a pumpkin it will grow.  I've heard more than one world record holder say, "It was my third best plant, but once it set fruit the pumpkin wouldn't stop growing."  Because of this I like to find out what kind of traits mama and papa had and see how your plants compare.  If mama and papa were aggressive growers but your plant isn't very aggressive then it might be a less desirable plant.  If mama and papa weren't aggressive growers and your plant isn't aggressive then that might just be its genetic trait.  Skinny vines and thick vines are kind of the same thing.  I love a thick looking vine, because it looks cool, but it doesn't indicate a big pumpkin.  However if mama and papa had thick vines and yours seem kind of wimpy it might be a less desirable plant.

Probably more important than the before mentioned items are things like the color and the overall health of the plants.  Again, a darker color can sometimes be a genetic thing, but I would take a dark green leafed plant over a lime green plant.

If you planted on plant later than another I wouldn't worry too much at this point of the season if that one plant is "behind."  8 days doesn't mean much at this point of the season.  If you are only 8 days behind and the plant sounds like growth wise it might be only 4-5 days behind then two weeks from now the plants might be equals.  What you find is that as far as what will effect pumpkin growth, there won't be much of a difference.  If you are pollinated by June 24-28th you'll be in great shape and more than likely both plants would have females pollinated by then.  The key is to have a plant big enough by the 24th and it sounds like that will be the case.  Where the rubber hits the road is around day 24 after pollination. That is when that plant needs to be fully primed and as big as possible so it can throw all of its energy into that pumpkin from days 24 to day 40.

The reason that 8 days different doesn't mean much in terms of the pumpkin is that the 8 extra days only really count at the end of the season when the pumpkin is only putting on 4-5 pounds a day.  That basically means 8 days now means 32-40 pounds later.  In that day 24 to day 40 you want that pumpkin doing close to 40 pounds a day so that is the make or break part of the season in most cases.

For the two plants from the same seed, if all things are equal, find out if it is the 1530 Gehweiler or the 1067 Kent that has the thicker vines and go with the one that has the traits you like the most.  It looks like both of those plants have grown similar progeny so this one is a push.

Last thing to look at (and it is the least obvious) is the root system on the plants.  If you are running into roots when burying vines father out on one plant than the other, go with that plant. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Proof is in the (Fertilizer) Pudding

Early this spring I gave my Jupiter Beard plant some RAW brand fertilizers and then again just before flowering.  In years past this plant would be about 3 feet tall.  Look at it now!  The weather has been relatively good this year, but not ideal, but the plant has just exploded.  Nearly as tall as my 10-year-old son.  I have to attribute at least some of it to these fertilizers.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Greenhouse for the Pumpkin Patch

Today's weather makes it feel more like pumpkin season.  Flowers are just about to go into full bloom and the weather has finally been nice on the weekend for once in Colorado.  Been busy with selling the house, but on occasion I look around for greenhouses for the new place.  I'm looking at this model:

I'll get the roll-up sides and a fan to help cool it down in the heat.  If anyone has any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them.