Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Foliar Feeding Pumpkin Leaves with Seaweed & Humic Acid

I can't think of anything that could be better to foliar feed a pumpkin plant with than seaweed/kelp and humic acid.  The two work synergisticly together to provide a lot of benefits to the plant.  Improved laterally branching, cell elongation, leaves that stay healthier longer and improve fruit set are just some of the value that comes from seaweed.   Those values are improved further when humic acid is applied with the seaweed/kelp.

This evening I did a foliar application of RAW Kelp along with RAW Humic Acid.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Some Fertilizer for the Pumpkin Plants

Because of that yellowing on the leaf edges, I decided to to a light foliar application of NPK Grow (7-3-4), multi-mineral, humic acid and fish.   That is pretty broad spectrum in terms of nutrients so most everything should be covered.

Also, did a light application of TKO on the soil because there was a little left in the sprayer from the last application.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Need Some Help Diagnosing Yellow On Leaves

Any suggestions as to what might be causing this yellowing on the edges of newer leaves?  Is it a deficiency or a toxicity?  Click the image to see a larger view.

Confessions of a Competition Giant Pumpkin Grower

Okay, I have to admit it.  I'm naturally a very competitive person.  I love competition.  Prettty much enjoy it when someone challenges me and I know I'm ready to meet the challenge or know I can step up to it.   In high school I played tennis and at the beginning my senior year for a stretch I was playing poorly prior to the season.  The assistant coach asked me what was going on and I told him I was playing great two weeks before, but lately I was struggling.  The coach said, "Jamie, your just not that good."  I didn't say anything, but I was mad.  It was just what I needed.  I hadn't been playing with confidence, but I threw that out the window because in my mind, nobody was going to say that to me because I KNEW that was wrong.  That season in matches I didn't lose a single set until the state championship.

I use my competitive nature to help my pumpkin growing.  On days like today I create little competitions in my mind go make sure I bury vines during hot days like today.  I must have buried vines for three hours today.  At points I wanted to stop or do a half way job.  But then I would think of my competition and it helps me push through it.

I remember my first season I didn't really know what to expect.  I set a goal of 500 pounds, but wasn't sure if that was possible.   Early in the season there was a small hail storm and I lost the tip of the main vine.  I posted some questions on the RMGVG discussion board and got some good advice back, but one grower who had grown for a few years, made some comments that were kind of insensitive.  He became my motivation.  Losing a vine tip sets you back about two weeks.  I didn't know how my season would end pumpkin wise, I just knew I was going to beat that "jerk."  I ended up beating him and having a pumpkin that was about 100 pounds bigger than any pumpkin he ever grew.  I remember him making a comment about that at the weigh-off.  It was sweet to me.

That same year, I got beat by a second year grower, by just two pounds, that is a really nice guy.  I unconsciously decided I was going to beat him that next year.  I worked hard in the patch until a massive hail storm COMPLETELY took out my plants.  I got him the next year however.  Lol

Is it childish?  Maybe, but it works for me.

I've seen growers set state records because of another grower that they were openingly having arguments with and they were going to do everything in their power to beat that other guy.

If you are a grower that gives it everything you got simply because you love watching the plant grow to its potential then go with that.  I don't really care where you find your motivation, but be motivated.  If it is worth doing it, then do it well and grow them big!

Where do you find your motivation?

Friday, July 14, 2017

TKO the Pumpkin

This evening I did a soil application of TKO Phosphite 0-29-26 with a little nitrate nitrogen.   Betsy of the RMGVG gave me the TKO a few years ago, but I've not had much of a chance to use it  because of the move and problems in the patch the years previous.  TKO is high phosphite and potassium.  It is easily absorb-able into the plants, strengthens cell walls, increases systemic response and has anti-fungal properties.

I can't figure out if TKO is a good source of phosphorous however.   I read different opinions on that.  From what I can figure out, phosphites are somewhat different than phosphorous so that is why it has some of its unique attributes, but it doesn't completely replace phosphorous.   It sounds like phosphites might be a great way to help a plant that is phosphorous deficient however because it can be absorbed quickly because it doesn't get bound up in the soil like phosphorous does.

I purposefully made sure the TKO was only put on the soil, because I did a foliar application of multi-mineral earlier in the week and the copper in multi-mineral and TKO don't mix nicely.

Latest Pics from the Pumpkin Patch

The following are pictures from this morning from the pumpkin patch.  I've always considered, what I call the Wallace hump an interesting genetic phenomenon.  If you look at pictures of Ron Wallace's record breaking 2009 pumpkin from the front, you'll notice that the pumpkin isn't symmetrical.  There is one side that has more mass.

My 747 plant has the same trait and I've seen this in many of the pumpkins that came out of the 2009 seed.  At first I wouldn't have called a genetic trait, but probably an environmental factor, but since it seems to show up again and again it must be genetic.   The 747 seed has probably more of the 1725 genetics that grew the 2009 than any other seed out there, so you would expect this trait to show up.   The 747 seed is a selfed clone of the 1725 that grew the 2009 wallace crossed with the 1985 Miller (2009 x 1725).  At least 62% of the genetics are from that 1725 world record plant.

 I'm a bit worried about the kids plants.  Growth seems slow and the vine tips are looking funny these days.  I'm hoping they don't have yellow vine disease.  Will continue to watch that.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Looking Back in Time

Lamenting the growth rate of the pumpkins this year, I went back to my growth chart in 2013 to the year I had my biggest pumpkin ever for comparison.  It made me a bit depressed.   That 1421 pumpkin named Stanley was 400lbs already when it was only 30 days old.   Those were good times. 

I've been reading some on what I can do to help the night time temperatures in a high tunnel when I add it.  The high tunnel should take care of the wind problems, but the overnight lows are still an issue.  Obviously a big propane heater would help, but would be costly.   I already have 55 gallon barrels to put in the hoop house.  I also have the geothermal setup, but I would guess that those will only raise the temperature 5-7 degrees at the most, and I really need something more like 15 degrees to really make a noticable difference and 20 degrees to grow a world class pumpkin.  That is a lot. If anyone has any good ideas, please let me know.

This evening I did a foliar application of NPK Grow (7-3-4) on all of the plants.

Choosing Which Pumpkin to be the Chosen One

Typically I've usually gone with my earliest pollination on the main vine, but the 1685 plant's first female showed up at 8 feet, which is earlier than I would prefer to grow a pumpkin (10+ feet is ideal with the sweet spot between 12-14 feet).  The next female on the main vine didn't show up for another 2 1/2 weeks, but since the first pollination was very early and the plant was relatively small, I had some decisions to make.

Intuition would tell you that pollinating early is your best bet to growing the biggest pumpkin.   There is truth to that, but it isn't fully true.   The first 2 1/2 weeks of pumpkin growth and the last 2 1/2 weeks count very little because you are talking 1-7 pounds a day typically at those times of the year.   Maybe 7-9% of the pumpkin's overall weight at the end of the season.  Every pound counts, but overall it doesn't a make or break the overall weight.   Because a pumpkin typically doesn't grow more than 100 days, if you can pollinate a couple of pumpkins early enough and you are still under or close to 100 days from the weight-off then you can make some decisions on which pumpkin to grow.

Positioning on the vine and growth rates are the two main things I look at when deciding which pumpkin to grow.  When it comes to growth rate, the later pollination will always be a little slower because the first pumpkin will be taking a bigger portion of the plant energy, so you have to put that into your calculations.  If you choose to take off the first pollination I'd suggest cutting the stem half way the first day and then the rest of the way the next day so a serge of energy doesn't hit the 2nd pumpkin.  Told that can cause problems, but I've never seen it.

Pictured here is the pumpkin on the 1685 Scherber that I cut off this morning.  It was a slow grower from the start.   After cutting it off and weighing it I found that it also went 12% light (a double whammy).   I figured I don't have much to lose by taking this pumpkin off and seeing how the other pumpkin performs.  Kind of a risk, but there is no risk of this pumpkin becoming a giant, so I'll do comparison measurements between the two pumpkins on the same number of days and see how this decision turns out.  The later pollination will be 97 days old by the time I pick it so, it should have a full grow as long as we don't get an early frost (which is a real possibility in Midway).

The 747 pumpkin (AKA Jumbo), is growing about 30% faster than the 1685 pumpkin was growing, but still well under what I would like it to be.  Nighttime lows right now are very acceptable for growing, but the day time highs have been in the 95-100 degree range, so I just cant win.  I mist the plants regularly during the day, but you can only do so much to beat the heat.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hot in the Pumpkin Patch Today

Hit 101 degrees today and it has stayed warmer longer than it normally does in Midway, UT.  By this time it typically starts cooling off, but not much cooling so far this evening.

Gave the plants a lot of extra water today and ran the sprinklers once every hour to help keep the plants cool.  Leaves after the pumpkins were folded like flags, as the pumpkins have started to kick into gear and are starting to pull most of the plants energy.

Put down some granular, organic 8-2-1 around the outer edges of the pumpkin plant this evening.  After talking with Joe Scherber last week when I visited his patch, I decided I've been under fertilizing the pumpkin plants in the past, so the frequency that I fertilize will probably double.  Since I put down a fair amount of fertilizer on the 4th, I just put this fertilizer mostly at the edges of the vines.  Those areas haven't been fertilized much, so I want to make sure the nutrients are there once the roots get out to those outer areas.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fertilizing the Pumpkin Plants

After being gone for 10 days, yesterday I gave the pumpkin plants a relatively heavy dose of potassium, fulvic acid, B Vitamins, Omina (a nitrogen source) and seaweed along with some beneficial microbes (NPK Bloom).   I usually don't prefer to give a larger amount of fertilizers at once, but since I wasn't around to give smaller doses, I wanted to play a little catch up.  The two early pollinations are at their rapid growth stage, so I want to make sure the nutrients they need are in place.

Today I did a foliar application of Metosolate Multi-mineral.   It has all of the basic minerals in a chelated form, which allows it to be more easily absorbed into the leaf.   I put in a little Cal Carb with it.   The forecast is for 97 degrees over the next few days.  It was supposed to get that warm today and it did, but it clouded up right after that and dropped down to about 90 degrees.

The Pumpkins

The following are pictures of the pumpkins.   I've been out of town for the last 10 days so I've got a lot of vine burying to do.  The whiter pumpkin is the pumpkin on the 747 Johnson plant.  It is by far the faster growing pumpkin in the patch, but well behind the biggest pumpkin's of the past, growth curve wise.  Damage from winds and cold nights have been a big challenge.

I like the smooth skin on this pumpkin.  Shape and color are all from the 282 Scherber side.  Almost everything about this plant has looked like the 1725 clone that is the grandparent.   It makes me wonder what this plant could have done in better circumstances.  Lot of growing left to go however.  We are just getting into the fast growing phase, so it will be interesting to see if this plant can make up some for lost time with the warmer nights we are having right now.   I'm going to call this pumpkin "Jumbo" since it is from the 747 seed.

The yellow/orange pumpkin is the one on the 1685 Scherber plant.  It is growing slow, but picking up some speed.   I have another pollination that is 10 days old that I'll probably go with and will take this pumpkin off because the plant was small when it was pollinated and the position on the vine isn't great.  10 day measurements were considerably bigger on the 2nd pumpkin, so we will see what growth looks like over the next few days and then make a decision.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Last of the Pumpkin Pollinations

Today I did my last pollination of the year.   This one was on the 1685 Scherber plant.  I hope this one takes, because the other pumpkin on the plant is growing really slow, so I'm hoping this one takes off a little better.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Latest Pics from the Pumpkin Patch

Here are pics from the patch.   The 1685 plant is in much, much better shape than the 747 plant, but it doesn't want to seem to grow pumpkins very fast right now.  On Saturday a female will be opening on that plant and I hope to find better growth with that pumpkin.  The 747 looks like a bomb went off in the center of it.  Growth rate on its pumpkin isn't great either, but it seems to be ramping up much better. Night time lows have finally gotten into the 50s this week so I hope in 10 days or so to see some good growth going on.

1685 Scherber

1685 Scherber

747 Johnson

747 Johnson

Potassium for the Pumpkins

This evening I did a foliar and ground application of NPK Bloom (3-12-12), yucca, humic acid and seaweed.  The pumpkins won't ramp up in growth for another week, but I want to make sure the plant has what it needs to keep them growing.  Also did some organic insecticide on the plants this evening as well.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pumpkin Growth

Day 10 for both pumpkins and growth has been very slow on both pumpkins.   Day 10 measurements don't really mean anything, but of course you would rather see bigger rather than smaller.  The 747 is champ of the patch right now, but I've had measurements that were 10 inches bigger in the past on the same number of growing days.  With the wind damage sustained and cold nights, I guess it isn't a surprise.   This next week will be the first night where the lows will be in the 50s.  That is a good thing.  Below 54 degrees and the plants don't grow so there have been hours each night that nothing is going on in my patch since they have been planted outdoors.  

I remember the Wyoming growers were always way behind in the early season, but seemed to catch up some until September.  I'm hoping that is the case for me here.  When it starts getting over 92 degrees the plants also tend to shut down, so my cooler daytime temperatures will help me some during the heat of the summer.  Temps in Salt Lake are supposed to be over 100 this week, but I probably won't get over 95, so that is maybe where I can make up some ground.  Simple fact is, however, that growing in Midway is not ideal and with the damage to the plants I have I'll be lucky if I get anything close to 1,000 pounds this year.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beneficial Bacteria & Fungi for Greater Pumpkin Growth

Last night I put down a healthy dose of Biotamax and NPK's Grow to apply beneficial bacteria and fungi for the pumpkin plant roots.   These were sprayed across the pumpkin patch and under the leaf canopy.   As I mentioned previously, I've also been putting down NPK Grow at each leaf node as I'm burying the vines.   This beneficial bateria and fungi will help to feed and protect the plants from pathogens in the soil.  Not only that, but some will give growth promoting hormones to the plants for healthier and larger root systems.

In one teaspoon of soil there is more microbes than all of the people on the earth.  Most plants couldn't live with them.  By giving more of the "good guys" to the soil it can help block out the bad guys and make the pumpkin plants thrive.  Happy plants often means bigger pumpkins, so these applications will help the plant as the season goes on.

Later in the season, I'll apply cane molasses to the soil to continue help build the beneficial bacteria in the soil.  Plants tend to get stingy later in the season giving back to the bacteria and fungi nutrients that they need.  By adding the can molasses in August it will give a food source to build the microbes in the soil and keep them feeding the plant.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Spoon Feeding Giant Pumpkin Plants for Maximum Growth

A reader sent in this good question:

"What is meant by spoon feeding? Love your blog."

Thanks for the question.  Basically it mean giving small quantities of nutrients more frequently, rather than a big dose of fertilizer at once.   In the pre-season I'll till into the soil the amount of recommended nutrients that the soil test shows.  That may be pounds of fertilizer across the entire patch.  During the season, when the plants are in the ground, I'll give much smaller quantities so as the plant is using up the nutrients, I'm replacing them so the plant never has to go without.  That way you aren't dumping a bunch of fertilizer on the plant which can cause spikes and problems.

With my sandy loam soil I have to fertilize a little more frequently because nutrients like nitrogen can leach from the soil.   Nutrients like potassium, particularly when the pumpkin is growing quickly, can also get used up pretty quickly, so a constant, but small applications can maximize growth.

Yesterday evening I did a foliar and soil application of NPK Bloom (3-12-12) at 1.5 tsp mixed with Omina (11-0-0) at 1 tsp in 1 gallon of water).   I sprayed that on the leaves, under the leaves and a few feet beyond the side vines.   The pumpkin plants should be growing relatively quickly right now, so they are using up a descent amount of nitrogen.  They will continue to grow quickly for about another 3 weeks.   But with pumpkins on the vine I'm giving them a fairly balanced formula so that as we start to transition to fruit growth from vine growth it has what it needs to grow the pumpkin.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Getting the Plants Ready for Temperature Drop

After 4 days of heavy winds we now have a temperature drop to look forward to.  Tomorrows low is forecasted for only 36 degrees.  A little too close for comfort to freezing.  The plants are too big to cover and with the heavy winds that would be difficult.  So I sprayed the plants with seaweed, humic acid, yucca, silica and a little NPK Blossom and will pray for the best. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Wind & Pollinating 1685 Pumpkin

This time of year typically is a happy time of the year.  Pollination time.  It means that all of the hard work can start paying off and you can literally see the fruits of your labors.  I have to admit, I'm pretty discouraged however.   Heavy winds have really been beating up my plants and it wasn't something I anticipated.  I knew I'd be dealing with temperature issues and I expected winds in the earlier part of the year when the plants where in their hoop houses, but not now and not this strong.

Currently the winds are about 25 mph with guests that are much stronger than that.  This week we've seen some winds that must have been 50+ mph to cause the damage they have caused.   The two hoop houses that are on the protected side of the house had their plastic tore apart.  You can only image what that does to a pumpkin plant only protected by a silt fence.  I re-buried the same vine on the 747 plant yesterday evening and then again this morning.  That doesn't help your rooting.
On the brighter side, I pollinated the 1685 plant today.  Like I mentioned before, I don't really want this one to be my keeper, but unless another female shows up in the next 6 days it may have to be.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pumpkin Pollination Time; I'm a Pumpkin Grower Again

Since I didn't grow last year, it has been some time since I was a giant pumpkin grower.  Today I had my first pollination.  The female flower showed up at 10 feet on the 747 Johnson plant.   This plant is my "better" looking plant of my two plants and has been a descent grower, so the stars aligned for this pollination.  

The female flower didn't overly orange up yesterday so I wasn't completely sure if it would open today.   I went to check for male flowers to pollinate with and could only fine one male flower that looked like it might open today and could only fine one (fortunately it only takes one) and I wasn't 100% sure it was going to be ready to open.  The male flowers on my 1685 plants aren't overly big.   Some plants I've had in the past have had monster flowers and it was obvious when they were going to open.   So I was a little nervous if I was going to have any pollen available.  Normally I cut the male flower off the evening before and put it is some water to keep the bees from getting at it and to keep it from getting wet from the irrigation, but this time I kept it on the vine and rubber banded it closed.

For the female, I put a little mesh sack over it the evening before and I kept the irrigation off in the morning so it doesn't get wet.   The female did open this morning and the male flower was ready to open so everything worked out.  The female was a four lobe, which is what I prefer and seemed pretty symmetrical. 

After pollinating, I put the mesh bag back on the female and then put a plastic sack over the flower and watered the plant.

This is the earliest pollination I've ever had.  I'd have to check, but I don't think I've ever pollinated before June 15th before, so we are somewhat a head of schedule.   106 days until picking time!

As you can see in the picture, I've got lawn chair over the pumpkin.  That helps keep it dry and cool.  I put the chair over the pumpkin a week before and typically I don't have troubles with pollinations taking, so I think that helps some.

You'll also notice I have sand below the pumpkin. As the pumpkin grows and lays down that gives a soft spot for the pumpkin to grow on and allows the pumpkin to easily slide as it grows.  It also helps drain water away quickly so the pumpkin doesn't rot out.

The 747 Johnson is 1985 Miller x 282 Scherber.   The 1985 Miller has grown a number of giant pumpkins including some monsters over 2,000 pounds.  Unfortunately my 1985 did not, but it was my own fault.  My 1985 plant was a fantastic looking plant, but an irrigation problem that went on for more than a week and wasn't caught nearly killed the plant.  The pumpkin stopped/nearly stopped growing.  I got the problem fixed but the damage was done.   Prior to the problems the pumpkin was cranking.  It never fully recovered by kept growing to be a mis-shapened little thing.   I got it to the scale and to my surprise it went 19% heavy.  Now I wonder what could have been.  That pumpkin was only just verily behind in measurements my personal best pumpkin from two years before and that pumpkin went 18% light.   You never know, but maybe it could have ended up over 1,500 pounds, but you never know.

The 282 Shcerber plant is a selfed clone of the plant that grew the world record 2009 pumpkin.  It is probably the greatest pumpkin ever because it broke the one ton barrier and most all of the top 10 biggest pumpkins that have ever been grown have come from this plant.

The pollinator that I used on the 747 plant this morning is the 1685 Scherber (800 McMullen x 2145 McMullen).  Remember how I said that almost all of the top 10 biggest pumpkins ever grown came from that 2009 pumpkin?    The other two came from the 2145 and that includes the current world record pumpkin.   The 800 McMullen is an under planted seed that is the reverse cross of the 2145 McMullen (AKA same parents).   So genetically the 1685 is very, very similar in its genetic lines to the 2145.  What I like about this cross is that the genetic lines for the 747 and 1685 are very different, so helpfully I'm bringing two great lines together to make something even better.

Pictured here is the 747 plant.  It would be a very nice looking plant, expect for the wind we have here in Midway has been beating it up something terrible.  Silt fences help, but the leaves are getting thrashed.