Sunday, April 23, 2017

Heating Cables for The Pumpkin Patch

Yesterday I nearly killed myself off doing the final preparations in the pumpkin patches.   It took 7 hours to get everything done.  If I had taken 1 hour to take a math class or asked my 10 year old son to do some basic calculations (the kid is a math wiz) I could have probably cut that time in half.  lol

The weather yesterday had been the best it has been all year.  I noticed the forecast was for rain/snow from Sunday to Friday so I knew I wouldn't be able to get everything done in the patch before May 1st (my target date to get the plants in the soil) later in the week, so I had to get everything done yesterday. 

First order of business was to put in the soil heating cables.  Everyone I've ever known to have used soil heating cables told me the same thing.  The plants that had them were always bigger than the plants that did not. Because my nighttime summer temperatures are going to be pretty cool at night, I thought the soil heating cables would be a great idea to help the plants overcome their environment.  These cables have a thermostat and will warm the soil to about 75 degrees.

My cables are 48 feet long and the packaging says they cover 12 square feet.   So I of course dug out a 12x12 foot area about 5-8 inches deep.  Now simple math would tell you that 12x12 is 144 square feet, not 12 square feet, so I pretty much overdid it on the digging (and it was a lot of work).  The good news is that the soil is loose deep in a nice, big area now.

soil heating cables
After digging the area out I decided to amend the soil with a little nitrogen, alfalfa, kelp, humic acid and sulfur and tilled that into the soil.   My tiller goes 8 inches deep so this loosened up the soil an additional 8 inches.  I then put down the heating cables and filled in the hole.

After doing that I tilled the patch again (previously I did it quickly, so I wanted to hit some areas again that the winter rye didn't get fully tilled in) and then I put down some new rye grass seed in all parts of the patch, except for a 10x10 area were I'll be planting the plants.  The grass seed will be tilled in June and will help keep the soil from getting compacted, suppress weeds, help get the myco going in the soil and add organic matter to the soil.

After that I raked the rye seed into the soil and then watered the entire patch.   I'm putting clear plastic over the planting areas today to help warm the soil and keep it dry from the rain that will be falling this next week.   You don't want to put your plants into wet, cold soil and that clear plastic can help warm it up 5-10 degrees.   When I finish the hoop houses I'll put them over the planting area this week as well.

After that I started the whole process on patch 1.  This time, being wiser, I dug the area 4x4. Just as it was getting dark I had everything completed.

I'm happy now, for the most part, with where things are at with the patch.  Soil tilth in patch 2 is great right now.   Patch 1 is coming along, but there are a few compacted areas that I still need to get loosened up.  The soil is in good shape in the planting area however, so when I till in the rye grass in June, I'll work those hard spots out and we should be in good shape.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Pumpkin Plants

I'm happy with the growth on my plants but not the color.   I think they aren't getting enough sun and since I'm keeping these plants in their pots longer than I have ever before, I'm concerned they may start getting low on nutrients.   Weather her has been windy and cool, so I haven't been able to get the plants outside for more than 20 minutes and they have only been outside twice.  The color is greenish-yellow so I'm not sure if that a light issue or a nutrient issue. 

Today I did something I've never done before while the plants are in the pots.  I gave them a very small amount of fertilizer and seaweed.   Today it is cool, but sunny and little wind so far so I have the plants outside.  Hopefully that will make they a little happier.
774 Johnson

1685 Sherber

Friday, April 21, 2017

Grow Closet is Getting Full

I run into this problem every year, but this year it is worse than in the past because I started my pumpkin seeds earlier than most years.   Things in the grow closet are starting to get a little tight with leaves starting to touch together and I still have another 10 days until I want to plant outdoors.

Weather here in Midway, UT hasn't been very warm.  Night time low temperatures are still hovering close to freezing.  I can keep the plants from freezing, but it wouldn't be ideal.

The other problem that I have is that I don't have my irrigation system in place and I won't be doing that until April 29th.   I can work around the hoop houses, but it would be better to have all the water lines in before I put the plants outside.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Getting Techy in the Pumpkin Patch

We've got an app for that!  Actually we've got a couple of them. 

In the new pumpkin patch I'm putting in a little technology to make things easier and better.   When we moved to the new house the outdoor temperature gauge was broken so I hoped on eBay and found a new one (open boxed special).  This one has three wireless sensors and has an app that allows me to check the temperatures from anywhere in the world.  I'll use these in my hoop houses to make sure it isn't getting too hot or too cold.  It will even send me alerts if it goes below a certain temperature or above a certain temperature.  Right now I have one in my grow closet, so I can monitor the temperature for my plants.  It is a very nice 84.2 degrees currently.

I'm also using the PlantLink soil monitoring devices this year.  I actually got them for Christmas over a year ago, but since I didn't grow last year I didn't use them.   These wireless devices monitor soil moisture and give specific recommendations based on weather and type of plant.   From what I can gather I'll want to be on the high side of their recommendations.   It also has a phone app that will allow me to watch the watering while I'm away.  At one time they were going to come out with some valves that you can remotely turn the water on with, but I've never seen them for sale.

I got the PlantLink after in two different seasons I had watering problems.  One year the pump on the well stopped working and the plants got dry and my big pumpkin got a dill ring three days later and split shortly after that.   Last year my timer wasn't working right and I didn't know it.  The result was the plants were getting watered for a week about 1/10th of what they should have and the plants got damaged.  

PlantLink seemed like a really promising company a couple of years ago.  They were bought out by Scotts and seem to have gone kind of dormant since.  As long as I can get some kind of indication for where the soil moisture is at I'll be happy to use it to help perfect my watering.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Seed Starting Mix with Coco Coir Giving Horrible Results

I had mentioned before that I didn't have enough ProMix BX to start all of the plants in so I tried a coco coir seed starting mix for a few of the plants.  At first I thought 3 plants were just a little slow getting going, but now it is obvious that the plants started in the coco coir are the ones that are stunted.   Wish I could remember what brand I used, because I know some people start seeds in coco coir without problems, but these plants have obvious problems.   I gave them a mild fertilizer today, because I have to believe the issue is nutrient based.  Most seed starting mixes have very little in them, so I don't know what the issue would be with this coco coir, but I won't use it ever again.

If any Utah grower knows of a place to buy ProMix please let me know.   

Friday, April 14, 2017

Amending the Pumpkin Patch

Using the soil test report that I got a couple of weeks ago I amended and tilled my soil.   Getting the soil balanced with all of the nutrients the plant will need is very important.  The most important things you do in your pumpkin patch to grow a giant are done before you even put your plant in the ground.   If the soil has poor tilth, compacted or missing nutrients then there is little to no chance of getting a pumpkin over 1,000 lbs at the end of the season.

One thing you don't want to do is over do it for the amendments.  You have to consider all sources when amending.  For example, maple leaves can have a lot of calcium in them.   If you till in a bunch of leaves in the fall, but your soil already had adequate calcium, you could end up with too much calcium in the soil.   Calcium can be antagonistic to the uptake of potassium and typically there is a lot of potassium in a pumpkin so the end result is a smaller pumpkin.  Know what is in everything you amend with and you should be in good shape.

The following are what I amended my soil with yesterday.  For some amendments, I put down about 70% of what the soil needs, because things like nitrogen can leach out of the soil over time, so I'll add the last 30% in smaller divided doses starting in two months or so.  Other amendments like manganese and phosphorous aren't mobile in the soil, so I needed them fully added now, because if you put them on the top of the soil they won't move down through the soil to get to the roots very well.

The following is the full list of what I amended my soil with:

compost (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, organic matter)

mono ammonium phosphate (nitrogen / phosphorous)
alfalfa (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, organic matter)
ammonium sulfate (nitrogen)
elemental sulfur (to lower pH of soil)
expanded shale
humid acid
peat moss
kelp meal (potassium and growth hormones)

When I tilled in the soil it also tilled in the cover crop of winter rye that I had planted in the fall.  That will help add organic matter to the soil (a green manure).

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Best Seed Starting Mix for Giant Pumpkin Seeds

Sometimes I get asked what I use for my seed starting mixture.  If you dig deep enough into this blog you'll see that I've done testing with different seed start mixtures.   I prefer a soil less mixture.  Some of the best genetic pumpkin seeds can be hard to come by so I prefer a medium other than soil so I can be sure that no pathogens are in the mixture.  Pro Mix BX is my favorite seed starting mixture, but so far it has been hard to find in Utah.  I had one bag, but that wasn't enough for my two pots, so I'm trying coco hair this time in a couple of pots, which I've read good thing about.  

In my pots I'll add some humic acid, NPK Industries Microbes Grow formula and this year I also added some Lebanon Turf Roots (I bought it for the landscaping plants I've started indoors).   In those two substances there is a good mixture of myco and beneficial bacteria along with micro amounts of different nutrients.   I don't put any fertilizer in the pots.   Everything the plant will need for three weeks are in the seed starting mixture and fertilizer is not necessary.  I won't give the pumpkin plants any fertilizer until they are planted outdoors in the soil.  Actually I do give the plants some diluted kelp in the pots, but that is about it.

Lighting Up the "Grow Closet" & the Pumpkin Season has Begun!

We are off and running! Seeds are soaking as we speak and the new "grow closet" is fired up.   In the new house I put two closets in my office.  The one closet is a typical office closet and the other closet is dedicated to pumpkins.   I turned on all the lights for the first time today.   The temperature is thermostatically controlled in the closet for the perfect environment.  We should have enough lumens here to get some good pumpkin plants started.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

This Just In; Starting Seeds Early This Year

After watching the UGPG webinar last night, I realized I'm not on my game this year.  Being in a new home there is a lot of things going on in getting not only the pumpkin patch setup but all of the landscaping.   Its a lot of work just to plan, more or less actually do.  Matt McConkie shared a lot of good ideas and one of the things he talked about was the number of days the plant will grow.   The weigh-off is September 23rd this year which is pretty early.   That means we season is a week shorter.  Normally I'll get my seeds started around the 15th, but that would leave me with a pretty short growing season.   Instead I'm going to start my seeds on the 6th, which should be enough time to get close to full growth on the pumpkin. 

The problem that creates is planting the pumpkin outdoors.  Last frost in Midway, Utah isn't until the first week of June.  That means a number of cold nights and slow growth.   What I think I'm going to do is try to keep the plants indoors as long as I can.   I'll need bigger pots to make that work, but if I'm going to get the number of growing days that I need it is the only way I can maximize the early season growth.   Hopefully that will work out and it will be a warm spring.

From past experience, I've found that early season growth isn't completely important.   I've seen in my own experience cold, wet springs with almost no sun (in May two years ago I think the sun came out three times the entire month) and even though growth is stunted early, when it finally warms up the plants can catch up fairly quickly and you can still have giant pumpkins as long as the summer weather is good.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

2017 Pumpkin Fertilizer Program

The following is a modification of my "secret" giant pumpkin fertilizing program.  The soil requirements for this new pumpkin patch is much different than my old patch, so I've made some changes.  In addition to what is listed below, I'll also be putting down a little Azos, myko, kelp and Humic acid to each leaf node.  What is listed below doesn't include what I amended the soil with in the Fall and Spring.  Most of the fertilizers and nutrients products are NPK Industries' RAW fertilizers.

May planting outdoors in hoop houses:
Week 1B-vitamin, liquid seaweed/kelp, compost tea. With RAW Microbes and Azos in the planting hole.
Week 2RAW phosphorous, compost tea, fulvic acid, yucca, silica, Biotamax
Week 3compost tea, foliar seaweed, foliar humic acid
Week 4compost tea, fish & seaweed, Azos, Actinovate with iron, omina, silica

June vine running:
Week 5blood meal (for nitrate nitrogen), compost tea, yucca, TKO
Week 6foliar multi-mineral, yucca, foliar seaweed, fulvic acid, RAW Flower, Omina
Week 7foliar humic acid, compost tea (pollination)
Week 8foliar multi-mineral, foliar seaweed, foliar humic acid, yucca, potassium 

July fruit (assumed that pumpkin pollination will be around the last week of June):
Week 9foliar potassium, omina, seaweed
Week 10foliar fish & seaweed, foliar multimineral, B-vitamins, RAW Flower
Week 11TKO, foliar fish & seaweed, biotamax, actinovate
Week 12cane molasses, foliar multi-mineral, RAW Grow, foliar humic acid/seaweed

Week 13Omina, Raw Flower, foliar multi-mineral, compost tea, silica, foliar actinovate, B-vitamins, RAW Microbes
Week 14potassium, Actinovate, azos, yucca, foliar fish & seaweed, foliar humic acid
Week 15foliar multi-mineral, foliar fish & seaweed, foliar humic acid, silica, RAW Grow
Week 16TKO, cane molasses, fish & seaweed on the soil, foliar seaweed, fulvic acid

Week 17foliar multi-mineral, foliar fish seaweed, foliar humic acid, B-vitamins, RAW Flower
Week 18TKO, foliar seaweed, foliar humic acid, cane molasses, silica, mono ammonium phosphate
Week 19potassium, foliar seaweed, foliar humic acid
Week 20foliar potassium, foliar seaweed, foliar humic acid

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Little Known Secret of Mycorrhizae

If you haven't heard of mycorrhizae (myco), beneficial fungi, microbes or beneficial bacteria then you might be missing out.  In a teaspoon of soil there are more bacteria and fungi than all of the people on earth.  Most plants couldn't live without them.   By building biology in your soil with a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria and fungi you can grow bigger pumpkins, healthier lawns and have a better garden.

One of the better known beneficial fungi is called mycorrhizal fungi.  These microscopic guys can produce a symbiotic relationship with the roots of your plant and as a result bring extra water and phosphorous to your plant.   You could literally double what the roots alone could do with myco.

What many growers don't know is that it can take a month or so for your myco to mature to the point that they are providing much benefit to the plant.  One prominent myco producer somewhat quietly once told me that there may be some benefit in starting myco in pots three to four weeks prior to your planting of your actual plants.  Because of this, each year I start a test planting with a couple of seeds in a pot that I have pre-added myco and other beneficial bacteria to.  In two more weeks, when I start my pumpkin seeds, I'll pull these plants out of their pots and mix the soil from this pots in my pumpkin pots.

This year I used NPK Industries' RAW Microbes Grow Stage.  It has four different types of myco along with five different types of beneficial bacteria.  One of the reasons I'm using RAW Microbes is because if you were to test some of the different popular products on the market you would find that in some cases the spores aren't viable or you aren't buying what is on the label.  NPK Industries double tests their product.  Let me know if you are interested in this product.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Updated Seed Lineup

I saw a post yesterday about a seed that I had forgotten about that I wanted to grow.  The 819 Radach (1655 Ford x 2009 Wallace).   Joe Scherber grew this seed two years ago.   When he said he was growing it, I have to admit that I said, "huh?"  Obviously not a big pumpkin at 819 pounds and it wasn't listed as a damaged pumpkin, so it had grown to full-size, so I couldn't figure out why Joe was giving it dirt.   Then I got the back story.

Matt grew three pumpkins in 2014.  One was a 1655 Ford and another was a 2009 Wallace.   The 1655 Ford seed was one that probably should have seen more dirt.  Joe grew that seed previously and set a new Colorado state record from it.   An aggressive plant.  I think he and Matt were the only two to grow it. 

The 2009 Wallace is probably the greatest seed of all time and has grown multiple world records.   What makes Matt's pumpkins very interesting is the fact that he grow both pumpkins on only 290 square feet! Less than half of what most growers plant sizes would be.  He has limited space and literally had vines wrapped around bushes.   The 2009 Wallace grow a 1,223 pound pumpkin.   That is 51% bigger than any pumpkin he had grown previously (which is a number that I think is worthwhile looking at when considering which seeds to grow).   Makes you wonder how big that pumpkin could have gotten if it had more space.

Joe grew that 819 seed to 1404 pounds.   An aggressive plant.  Andy Corbin grow the seed from the 2009 Wallace pumpkin and grew a personal best from it.   The genetics are in there.

I'll have my son or daughter grow the 819 seed.   I really like those Barron seeds, but they haven't produced anything as big as the mother and progeny from the progeny haven't produced anything as big as the mother either, so the genetics are good, but nothing that seems to want to grow a world-record sized pumpkin.   I think the 819 has shown a little more oomph and have shown to be a able to grow at altitude.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

2017 Giant Pumpkin Seed Lineup

This year I've got three/four different seeds in the lineup.   I'm going to grow a 1685 Scherber and my own 747 Johnson Atlantic Giant pumpkin seed.  Last year a new world record was grown off of the 2145 McMullen seed that was a whopping 2,624 pounds.   The was a significant increase over the previous world record and I wouldn't be surprised if the world record wasn't broken this year because of it.  

The 1685 seed is a cross of the 800 McMullen with the 2145 McMullen.  The 800 McMullen is a seed that is lower on the radar, but it is the reverse cross of the 2145 (same mama and papa).   So basically the cross of the 1685 is all the same genetic lines of the 2145.   The 1685 set a new Colorado state record by a fair amount and since it was grown at altitude and it nearly went to chart (Joe's big pumpkins almost never go near the chart) it is a pretty intriguing seed.  I and one of my kids are both going to grow this seed.

My 747 seed is a cross of the 1985 Miller with the 282 Scherber.   That 1985 plant was the best looking plant I had ever had early in the season.  For the first three weeks the pumpkin was just verily off the pace of my 1421 pumpkin that was a super fast grower and it ended up 15% heavy, so weight wise it was probably heavier than the 1421 at the first part of the season.  The problem was that I didn't realize that the plant for two weeks was only getting about 25% of the water that it should have due to an irrigation timer problem and as a result the plant nearly shut down.   For a day or two the pumpkin didn't show any signs of growth and once I discovered the problem it was almost too late.   

The 282 Scherber pollinator is a selfed clone of the plant that grew the world-record 2009 pumpkin.   The first pollination on that plant was a barn burner for the first week, but a hernia in one of the lobes badly mis-shapened the pumpkin so I had to take it off.  The second pollination aborted due to the watering problems and a late season third pollination split on me.  The plant was badly damaged due to the lack of water.  

Kind of a risk growing a seed from plants that really produced nothing, but I like the genetics and a saw glimpses of what the plants could have produced so I kind of feel it is worth the try.  I also like the 1725 genetics in this seed because they are coming from the very best of the 1725 lines.   

My son or daughter will grow one of the Barron seeds.  We'll start the 1916 and the 1738 seed.  Both seeds progeny to this point have been a little disappointing considering the cross, but I kind of believe there has to be one super star, magic seed out of that cross still.   Mom and pop did too well not for a big one to come out of them.  Also wouldn't mind seeing a nice orange pumpkin in the patch.

Had a Good Time at the UGPG Meeting

Andrew Pilger, a grower from Colorado pinged me this last week and came over on Friday.   It was good to talk pumpkins and get caught up on the latest happenings from the RMGVG with him.   That was followed on Saturday at the UGPG annual spring meeting.  I would guess there was nearly 65 in attendance and a number of Facebook live for the beginner and advanced Seminars. 

The advanced seminar with done with two time world-record holder Ron Wallace, which was great.   Ron is a wealth of knowledge, because he is into the science of growing.  I've found that there are two groups of top growers.  The scientist types and the feelers.  The feelers tend to be growers that just know plants.  Their experience allows them to just look at a plant and know what is going on with it and how to make it happy. The scientist types tend to be the types that can get into the smallest details of growing.  The best growers are the types who can do both and Ron is one of those types of growers.  25 years of growing and researching makes him one of the best in the world.

Sometimes you see world-record growers that got a good seed and knew enough to stay out of its way.  But they are one hit wonders and you never see a giant pumpkin from them again.  Other growers are consistently in the top 20 and those are the hardest working growers in the business.  Again, Ron is one of those.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What is the Perfect Soil for Giant Pumkins?

The short answer is a balanced soil that has all of the nutrients in the soil that the pumpkin plant would need throughout the season.  The reality is that it is much more complicated than that.   I got my soil test results back.  Since this is a new patch and the soil is a bit different than what I had at the old home, I have more work cut out for me.   The soil here isn't bad.  It just needs to be properly built up and balanced.

I did a conversation with the head scientist who is a soil genius.  I've talked with him more than once over the years and with as much as I know, I don't know a thimble compared to what he knows.   Good soil is all about chemistry and soil chemistry is pretty much like a jigsaw puzzle where some of the pieces don't always fit well.

For example, my soil naturally has too much calcium in it.  At 5,600 feet in altitude you would be surprised to learn that there are sea shells in my yard.  The soil is an old ocean bed and the limestone has lots of calcium.   Too much calcium puts the soil out of balance and as a result it can cause problems with other nutrients.  The only good way to make the soil "perfect" so all of the pieces fit together would be to replace the majority of the soil. To some degree, over time, that is what I'll do, but no plans to haul soil Ohio to do a quick fix.

Some growers think that if a soil isn't "perfect" you can't grow a big pumpkin.  I can show you soil reports from growers who have grown world records that don't have balanced soils and did very well.   I believe the key is to not be too out of balance and make sure you do the right things (i.e. foliar feeding) to adjust appropriately.

One interesting conversation I had with the soil scientist was in regards to the rhizosphere around the roots.  The roots can get to nutrients about 1/4 inch from them, so although your soil may have a lot of nutrients in it, you can have the plant "bonk" because it can only access so much so it gets depleted.

I asked about feeding during the season and also about nutrients being locked up and he suggested an additional test to include on the soil.  This test (75S) would show what is soluble and available to the plants which is a better indication of what a plant can use from the soil.  I'm going to have another conversation with him after that test is done and I'll let you know what I learn here in the blog.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tips for Giant Pumpkin Seed Starting

Soak the seed(s) in mildly warm water with a drop of seaweed (optional) and a little humic acid (optional) to help them germinate. After 3-4 hours of soaking transfer the seeds to lightly moistened paper towels that will be folded around the seeds and put into Ziploc bags. The Ziploc bags will then be placed at the back part of my computer where it is usually about 85 degrees. An ideal temperature for pumpkin seed starting is between 85 to 90 degrees. In 24 to 48 hours a little root will come out of the bottom of the seed and at that time I will transfer the seeds to my seed starting mixture in peat pots.

If you prefer, after soaking the seeds you can transfer the seed to a pot with a seed starting mixture rather than using the paper towel method.  The soil should be lightly moist and the pot should be in a warm place (80 degrees) to help germinate the seed.  the pointy part of the seed should be facing down as that is where the tap root will come out.

For my seed starting mixture I use 80% ProMix BX with some earth worm castings (optional) and some mycorrhizae (optional beneficial fungi) and Azos (optional beneficial bacteria). About 2-5 days  after putting the seeds in the pots they will start popping through the soil (can take up to 10 days if conditional aren't ideal). I put my pots in a closet with grow lights and a space heater in them so I can keep the plants at about 85 degrees. About two weeks later I'll plant them in the pumpkin patch inside hoop houses.  Anytime the weather is nice and not windy I'll put the plants outdoors so they can get sun.  No grow lights will do as well as the sun.

Growing Giant Pumpkins at Altitude

This will be my first season growing in Midway, Utah.  But having growing in Denver for years at an altitude that is only about 200 feet lower than most of the Heber Valley, it won't be much different as far as technique goes, although the average temperatures are about 5 degrees cooler on average.  The following are some tips for growing giant pumpkins above 4,000 feet in altitude.

Seed Starting
Start your seeds indoors in a warm area that gets lots of light.  Supplemental light and heat would be a good thing.   Start the plant in a pot that will give the roots room to grow.  Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds roots grow really fast.   A one gallon pot will have roots top to bottom in two weeks.  Usually I start my seeds around April 15th.  For competition pumpkins that is required to give the plant enough time to grow.  For the more casual grower, maybe start your seeds around May 1st.

Planting in the Pumpkin Patch
I'll put out hoop houses (little green houses) a week or more before I plant outdoors to help warm the soil.   Plants don't like cold soil.  The first week of May, depending on the weather, I'll plant my pumpkin plants in the patch inside the hoop houses.  At night I'll add a 100 watt incandescent bulb, space heater or heat lamp in the hoop house to give a heat source for the plant and put a tarp or blanket over the hoop house.  The hoop house warms up very quickly in the sun (like a car with the windows rolled up in summer) during the day, but inside the hoop house by midnight it will be nearly the same temperature indoors as outdoors, so some sort of heat needs to be added or else the plants could freeze or not grow as quickly as they should.

I keep a little wireless thermometer in the hoop house and as soon as I see it hit around 85-88 degrees I open the flaps up.  I try to maintain a temperature between 85-90 degrees as much as I can.  I don't like to let it get over about 91 degrees.

Pumpkin Plant Vining
If you start your seeds on April 15th and the plant is happy, the vines will start to grow around the middle of May.   By the first week of June the vines are growing fast and typically my plants are out of the hoop house.  By this time of year there shouldn't be much risk for frost so the plant should be okay until September.

Grow em big!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Better Weather, Cover Crops & I'll Starting to Get that Pumpkin Growing Itch

Here in Midway, UT we've had a fairly tough winter.  I'm told by the "old-timers" that this is the most snow we've seen in the last 10 years.  Seems like it just kept coming.   I've seen the soil twice in the pumpkin patch twice this year and most of the time it has been under more than a foot of snow and at one time almost 3 feet.   Snowpack in the Wasatch range is at about 160% right now.

The snow finally melted out of the patch today and from a distance I could see something that kind of surprised me. About 3 weeks before the ground froze I put in a cover crop in patch #1 and it got nicely established, but patch #2 didn't get a cover crop until about 5 days before it froze.   Today I noticed this nice green grass popping up all over the patch.   Germination rate looks to be adequate enough to cover the patch nicely by the time I till the soil in April.  I would of thought that since that seed had been buried under snow for the last three months it wouldn't had started to grow until we got at least a week of consistently warm weather, but this winter rye doesn't seem to care much about temperatures and snow.

I really like winter rye for this reason.  It is super hardy and it is easy to incorporate.  You can pull it out by your hand if you wanted to so it is easy to control.  It doesn't have the bio mass of some cover crops, but it works very nicely when you can't get a cover crop in early in the fall or when you want to get a cover crop going in the spring. Also a good way to get the myco going in the soil early in the season.

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.