Saturday, March 6, 2021

What I'm Going to Do Different in the Pumpkin Patch in 2021 to Grow Bigger

We'll it has been too long since my last post.  Some health problems that cause me pain and fatigue have been a bit of problem, but I won't let that become an excuse.  Right now I'm a bit behind in the patch, but will get everything cleaned up and tilled by the last week of March I'm hoping.  I'm only going to grow one pumpkin this year and that will be in the greenhouse, so I can focus all of my energy on it.  I haven't got the seeds I want to grow yet, so I'll announce those once I have them in hand.

So how do I grow bigger in 2021?  I've got some plans.  The first will be to fertilize more.  Particularly nitrogen in the earlier parts of the season and potassium in the later parts of the season.  I don't think I've been getting my foot to the floor.  The year I grew my biggest pumpkin was the same year I fertilized the most?  A coincidence?  Maybe not. 

I'm also going to start giving the plant extra potassium earlier.  Typically I ramped it up about 20 days after pollination.  This year I'm going to start ramping it up about 7 days before pollination.  I want the plant to feel it has everything it needs to be put energy towards the pumpkin, so an appropriate earlier ramp up I think can help with that.

 I'm going to motorize the greenhouse side wall roll ups and put them on smart plugs.   That will save me some time each day that I can put into growing the plant because I'll be able to roll things up and down from my phone anywhere in the world.

I've been talking with a grower this afternoon about water pH and going to try something that Mehdi (who has grown a number of 1 ton pumpkins) has been doing.  That is adding citric acid to the water to help lower pH in the soil.  pH above 7.0 can cause some issues with nutrient uptake.  Elemental sulfur and compost can help lower soil pH, but when you water every day with water that is 7.4+ it makes it hard to do much of anything to get the pH down to 7.  So we'll see if this strategy can help.

this year I'm going to close off by back roll-up door to see if I can run CO2 longer by having the top foot of the roll up door so I can vent heat but keep the CO2 trapped inside.

I'm replacing all of the fogger nozzles this year.  I had a lot of trouble with clogs this last year, which I didn't have the year before, so we'll see if that helps.

I'm also replacing the hot water heater.  Last year's literally blew up mid-season so I didn't get much value out of it. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Late Fall Pumpkin Patch Prep

 This is the latest I believe I've ever prepped the pumpkin patch soil.   Actually I'm still not fully done.  Usually in mid-October I'll amend and till the soil.  Between work, health, precipitation, wind and frozen ground I haven't had a chance to work the ground.  I was actually getting worried, because this time of year the soil can be covered by snow or frozen where nothing could be done till spring.  I got lucky however and got a warm enough streak for a few days that ground dried out just enough I was able to put in some mulched leaves, nitrogen, potassium and sulfur into the soil.  Those leaves should be fully broken down by spring, at which time I'll send in a soil sample into the lab and then do my final amendments and tilling at that time.

You have to be a little careful when adding leaves as well as any other amendment.  With leaves it is easy to add too much and get your potassium to high in the soil.  It can sometimes take a few growing seasons to get the level back down to normal, if you aren't careful.

I still need to till the greenhouse.  Hope to get that done this weekend.

Monday, November 2, 2020

The How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin Video that Works

 Got this nice note from a grower over the weekend.  Really glad to see that a video that touts how to grow over 1,000 pounds and you see some tremendous results from it.  The video is over an hour long and basically pulls from my last 10 years of growing experience.

From a happy grower:

"My second year personal best came in at ten place with a weight of 1204.5 lbs thanks for your videos on YouTube how to grow giant pumpkin 101 over 1000. Lbs thx again"


Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Pumpkin is Coming Down the Stretch!

Pumpkin Gordo Gato
Five weeks from today will be the first giant pumpkin weigh-off of the year.  My pumpkin is currently 77 days old.  So I've probably got 14 to 20 days of growing left in her.  Weather has been hot lately, but that isn't bad for me.  The cold of night from this point on is my greatest potential issue.  Nighttime lows have stuck around the low 50s and high 40s, which is not close to ideal, but not bad this time of year for me.  If we can keep it from getting into the low 40s over the next 20 days, we may be able to get to get 20 days of growth or more.  She is slowing down however right now.

Anything less than 1,000 pounds is unacceptable to me.  That should be the minimum.  This pumpkin still has a descent shot at 1,000, but it will be close.  Low 900's is what I would estimate if she slows down quickly and only goes the 14 days.  Over 1,000 would be the estimate if it grows the full 34 remaining days, but I don't see that happening.  This pumpkin looks meaty like last year's so the hope is still that it can go heavy to the charts.

Monday, August 3, 2020

1325 Johnson (aka Gordo Gato) Pumpkin Pic

About two weeks ago I came to the conclusion that if this pumpkin was going to get into the acceptable range it would have to meet a certain level of growth over the next two weeks.  In two days we will hit that 14 day mark.  The target was an average growth of 18 pounds a day.  As of Saturday it was at 17.6 pounds per day, so close.  This pumpkin is going to need to grow for 99 days in order to meet that final goal and there is a lot of time left, so we will just have to see what happens.

This pumpkin is looking just about as meaty as the 2005 Haist from last year (pictured below).  The 1325 is a seed from the 2005.  Some notes.  2005 Haist had much taller leaves and was pollinated two weeks later, so the pics are a little deceptive in terms of the size of the pumpkin.  The 2005 had beautiful leaves at the end of July.  This plant's leaves are looking pretty old already on the first half of the plant. The 2005 stopped growing mid-September because of cold.  If this 1325 can be a long grower and the weather is a little kind in September it has a chance to get to descent size, but I would be really surprised if it could match last years.  Maybe if it goes 30% heavy.  I don't plan on that, but I would give it a descent chance of going heavy.

1325 Johnson on 8/3/20

2005 Haist 2019 on 8/26/19

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Keeping in Cool When Things are Hot in the Pumpkin Patch

Forecast here is for 5 days of 100 degrees.  That is very hot for Midway.  We usually don't see those temps at all in a year.  I often hear from growers, especially new growers that they are seeing issues with their leaves flagging.  That is a clear sign that either you are under watering or the leaves could use some misting during the heat of the day.  When I was in Denver, I had a hose end timer that was attached to a sprayer that went out about 25 feet and it was set to go off about every 20 minutes.  That worked nicely.

In the greenhouses I have some foggers set to go off about every 15 minutes during the heat of the day.  I like these foggers because the mist is very fine.  You could walk through it, feel cool, but not wet.  To much moisture could increase disease pressure so with the foggers running every 15 minutes the leaves have enough time to dry off between mistings but at the same time not enough to heat up.  I see almost no leaf burn with this setup.

Yesterday I added shade cloth to the greenhouse.  22% shade cloth will add additional shade to help keep the greenhouse a little cooler.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Gordo Gato Pumpkin Report

The pumpkin keeps growing, but not at any incredible rate.  Still signs that this one could flatten out the growth curve and if it does that we will be okay, but if it takes a regular growth curve and isn't a long grower, the pumpkin will be small this year.  Not overly optimistic.

The leaves right now look like my leaves did in mid-August of last year.  Not happy.  I did some checking today and there are early signs of spider mites.  I found an aphid on the pumpkin but didn't see any others, so I sprayed everything.  Added a fungicide into the mix.  I'll need to be diligent on the fungicides this year, because with the leaves in a weaken state they will be more susceptible.  Daconil and a TKO will be my go to powdery mildew killers along with some silica to help prevent spread.

Not thinking this will be my year.  It is taboo to say this, but it is the one hope that I've got.  The seed this pumpkin came from was a pumpkin that went 8% heavy.  This pumpkin has the same shape.  The pollinator I lost the pumpkin on early, but the 2255 progeny all went heavy except for one and many went big heavy.  The 2005 progeny that the seed came from all went heavy and some of those went big heavy.  This pumpkin thumps nicely.

Friday, July 3, 2020

This is the Pumpkin Named Gordo Gato

I've named the 1325 pumpkin Gordo Gato, in honor of our cat named Fat Kitty who passed away earlier this year.  Gordo Gato is slugging along right now.  I'm hoping the issue is like last year and that the cold weather has hampered growth and it will decide to kick in late.  Last year's pumpkin at 30 days old was only about 220 pounds.  Which is terrible.  But then it made up ground late.  I'm hoping this one is the same (it is a seed from that same pumpkin).  The issue I have is that last year the pollination was 2 weeks later, so when the pumpkin was ready to start growing it was getting into better weather.  I fear I've burned two weeks of growth in bad weather that I might not be able to make up.  Hopefully this pumpkin decides to be a long grower.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

1325 Pumpkin first Measurements

Today I put a tape on the 1325 pumpkin for the first time this year.  This is the latest I've ever done that.  It is ahead of last years pumpkin, but that doesn't say much, because last year's pumpkin slogged along for the first half of the season.  I'd say this year's weather has been comparably as bad as last year's.  So at this point I don't know what I've got.  Really, nothing typically matters until around day 28 after pollination and then you typically see what that plant is made of.  My pumpkin last year didn't really start doing okay until about day 36 last year.  I think the cold delayed everything and getting my potassium a little low delayed growth by a week or more last season.

I haven't named this pumpkin yet.  Wasn't sure if it was going to be my keeper, but I won't have the 2nd female on the main vine ready for another 4-6 days and this one seems to be doing okay.  I'll pollinate the 2nd one and keep my eye on both however.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Tent City in the Pumpkin Patch: Brrrrr

For the 2nd year in a row I'm dealing with freezing temperatures in June.  The 2051 plant, which my son is now going to take over, is about 4-5 days past due from being removed from the hoop house, but with three days of freezing temperatures we couldn't remove it, so the side vines are smashed against the sides and a hole for the main fine was cut and it is about 3-4 feet outside of the hoop house.  Self pollinated a female on it yesterday.

Created a tent city to keep the plants in the outdoors from freezing.  The greenhouse got two propane  heaters.  Also, foliar seaweeded the plant because I read once that seaweed can help reduce frosting a little.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Yea! I'm a Pumpkin Grower Again

Did the first pollination of the season at about 11 feet today on the 1325 Johnson plant.  I'm going to see if another female will come along in the next week and then decide which one to go with.  This one is a little early for the weigh-off date and I'd like to let the plant get a little bigger before going with my keeper, but we will see what happens.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Vine Growth, Pollination & Pumpkin Growing

Today I gave the plants some blood meal.   Part of the regular nitrogen fertilization I've been doing. The difference is that blood meal is a nitrate form of nitrogen which the plant reacts to a little differently.  When there is a lot of vine growth the nitrate demands are a little higher in the plant.  Blood meal, which is a good source of iron, is also an excellent organic source of nitrate nitrogen. 

In about a week, I'll be pollinating the first pumpkin of the season on the 1325 Johnson plant.  It is about at 11 feet.  I'd like to let this plant get a little bigger so I'm hoping for another female at about the 13-14 foot range, so I can get the vines filled out a little more prior to the pumpkin taking off.  Eddy Z talked about how he thought that to be important, because it gives enough plant to really drive nutrients to the pumpkin.  That is a theory I've also had for a number of years, but it is sometimes easier said then done.  You don't always get to choose when the females show up on the main vine, so pollinate them all.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Which is the Best Fertilizer for a Pumpkin?

Which fertilizer is best to grow a giant pumpkin?  I hear that question a lot.  The answer that any good grower will tell you is that it is the one that the plant needs.  You'll only know that through a soil test, tissue test or an experienced eye.  

About every four days or so lately I've been giving the plants a little RAW Grow 7-4-5 fertilizer.  That isn't as aggressive as I know some growers will do, but I think it is sufficient at this stage.  The Grow fertilizers I like because they are water soluble and have a little more than just NPK in them.  The main nitrogen source in it is plant protein hydrolysate, which I've read good things about.  It also has humic acid, cane molasses, boron, copper, seaweed, iron DTPA, magnesium, manganese, silica, zinc and azomite.  And the qualities of each are sufficient to see results from them.

The little extra nitrogen will help support the rapid growth of the plants at this stage.  Ideally I would like something like a 7-2-5 at this stage, but a 7-4-5 is close enough. 

Soon, I'll be adding a little blood meal to that fertilizer mix to add more nitrate nitrogen.  The studies I've read suggest that during rapid growth nitrate demands of the plant go up, so this will help support that.  I've also read that too much nitrate nitrogen can help vine growth, but diminish root growth, so to me, it makes sense that June is the time of the season for nitrate nitrogen (like blood meal and calcium nitrate) and then stop that once you start getting into the fruit growing stage.

So, which fertilizer is best to grow a giant pumpkin?  It is a balance of what your soil has and what the plant is asking for at that time of the season.  But at this time of the year, something with some nitrogen should be given regularly in spoon feeding quantities.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

How to Use Plants in Your Yard to Help Your Pumpkins Grow

From time to time I find issues in the yard that can be canaries in the coal mine for the pumpkin plants.  For example, my lawn over the last two weeks went from beautiful green and growing nicely to an off color.  At first I thought it might be a nitrogen deficiency so I gave it some more nitrogen with little change in results.  Watching it closer, I've decided it is an iron deficiency, so I gave it some iron today.  At the same time I gave the pumpkin patch some iron. 

Although my lawn doesn't get an anual dose of compost and some of the other treatments, it is sometimes safe to assume if you are low in a nutrient in the yard, the pumpkin patch might be heading the same way.

I'll often use binder weed in the same way.   Binder weed seems to be very susceptible to powdery mildew.  If I see binder weed getting some powdery mildew on it, I'm start ramping up my fungicide program in the pumpkin patch to help fight it off before the plants get it.

In further updates, I've pulled the 2005 Haist that went flat vine (sad!) and will be growing the 1325 Johnson in the greenhouse.  Not overly sad however.  This 1325 is growing nicely and I like the genetics. 

In the hoop house, I'll be pulling the 1325 Johnson which has gone flat vine and growing the 2051 Marshall.  The 2051 has been a beautfiul plant so far and maybe even a better grower than the 1325 so far.

Both plants will have reached the end of their hoop houses by tomorrow.  Weather over the next three days is bad (below freezing some nights), so I'll but cutting a hole in the plastic so they have additional room to grow.  Fortunately after the next three nights it warms up considerably.  I'll try to keep the plants in the hoop houses as long as I can, so I can keep them as warm as I can at night and within 5-6 days I'll have to remove them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Vine Burying for a 1,000+ Pound Pumpkin

I talked a lot about it in the spring seminar, but I think the one thing that most growers can improve upon to get a 1000, 1500 or 2000 pound pumpkin is vine burying.  It isn't fun.  Particularly in the middle of a hot day in early July when the vines are growing like weeds, but it pays off big time.  Why?  Properly buried vines, done soon after vine growth means more roots growing at each leaf node.  In the past I know I've lost potential roots out of the top of the vine because I didn't bury soon enough or deep enough and the root start dried up.  Growing a giant pumpkin is like a death by a thousand cuts.  There is no magic fertilizer or seed.  It really is about doing about 100 things really well.

This year I'm going to vine bury earlier, a little deeper and I've added a couple of other things into the mix.  In the past I've done myco, seaweed, humic acid and Azos at each leaf node as I've been burying.  I'll continue to do that, but on the main vine I'm also putting down Wallace;s WOW Super Starter Packs.   That is the only fertilizer Eddy Z has been using (he puts one at every leaf node).  I don't want to do it at each leaf node because with my fertiligation I feel I can better apply targeted fertilizers when I need them, but I think there might some value in adding these starter packs.

I'm also adding Rootshield Plus at each leaf node.  I won that at the Spring meeting and it was something I wanted to buy anyway.  Rootshield is a natural, beneficial fungicide that can help protect the roots from pathogens.  Healthier roots should mean bigger pumpkins.

The last thing I'm doing, which I did last year, is putting a little compost down on top of the buried vines.  So I bury with soil and then put compost on top of it.  That will add some nutrients, but it also adds a ton of beneficial bacteria and fungi to the soil.  Actually much more than some of the beneficial you can buy in packets from the garden center. I personally don't prefer to put compost right on the vines.  I can see too many possibly problems that could come from that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pumpkin Flatvine (Dang!)

The 2005 Haist plant has gone flatvine (AKA flat vine).  That is really too bad.  Probably won't be able to grow this plant now, which is disappointing.  I haven't had a flatvine ever before.  The problem with a flatvine is the vine tends to go mutant and has trouble splitting.  What you can do is train a side vine to be the new main vine and that works fine, but it sets you back two weeks when you have to do that.  Since I have a very healthy 1325 Johnson plant, I'll probably go with it, but I'm going to let this 2005 plant grow out as long as I can to see what it does.  Right now the vine tip hasn't gone mutant.

Today I gave the plants some Omina, silica and yucca.  I've been watering the plants heavy.  In particular the 2005 plant, because some people have said it will grow out of it if you do that.  This video shows the flatvine.  I'm not sure anyone truly knows what causes flatvine in a pumpkin plan.  I think it is a combination of a strong plant vigor, temperature and nutrients playing together in combination.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

1325 Johnson Pumpkin Plant

Yesterday we finally got all of the plants into the ground.  I'm hoping the 1325 in the outdoor patch shapes up as nicely as the one that is in the greenhouse.  It is a beautiful looking plant.  The weather yesterday was fantastic.  Mid-70s with little to no wind.  We spent the better part of the full Saturday working in the yard and pumpkin patches.

Gave all of the plants some alfalfa pellet compost tea, with the new plants getting the same nutrients at planting as the greenhouse plants got earlier in the week.  As I mentioned previously in this blog, aerated compost tea does not seem to add biology in the soil that makes a significant difference.  Tests has shown that the increase that should happen with addition of biology from compost tea should cause an increase in respiration in the form of CO2, but that does not appear to be the case in the studies I looked at.

So why add an aerated compost tea using alfalfa pellets then?  Triacontanol!  Triacontanol has been called "the most potent growth hormone ever used on plants." I'm not sure yet it meets that high of praise, but it can't hurt and an aerated compost tea I think is one of the best ways to give it to your plant that is in the soil.  Studies have found that triacontanol can increase root mass by as much as 26%.  These studies weren't done on pumpkins, but I like those numbers.

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Little Fertilizer for the Plants & Plant Protection

I'm really pleased with the two plants in the greenhouse.  They've transitioned perfectly to the soil and haven't seemed to slow down at all.  Today I gave the plants a little Neptune's Fish & Seaweed 2-3-1 that I got at the GPC pumpkin seminar.  I've used this in the past and really like it.  No horrid smell like some and I like how they cold process it until some of the fish fetilizers.

Fish and seaweed to me is a great early season fertilizer.  I want to push the plants at this point, but not too hard.  The nice thing about this fertilizer is it is going to have a lot of micro nutrients along with growth hormones.  Enough to give the plants a nudge.  The one thing I wonder about is how soon the nutrients are available, but based on a presentation that the Neptune guys did at the convention, there is some evidence that at least some of the nutrients are readily available to the plant.

I add a new night time covering for the hoop houses this year.  The local construction has had a lot new new basements poured and the works threw into the dumpsters the tarp "blankets" that they use to help the cement cure.  They are basically two tarps with a foam insulation core and I've been able to keep the hoop house from getting much below 60 even when it is below freezing outside.  Plants are not happy below 54 degrees, so this helps keep them growing constantly.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Some Nice Plants & Growing in a COVID-19 World

2005 Haist (left) & 1325 Johnson (right)
Finally got plants into the greenhouse today.  Will probably do the other plants tomorrow.  The 2005 Haist and 1325 Johnson are pretty much twins.  Both plants have the same leaf shape, coloring and growth patterns.  If it comes down to it a tie, I'll grow the 2005 Haist, because I'll have a 1325 in the other patch.   I predict both plants will be about the same when it comes to picking the finalist.

I'm about 5-7 days past due for planting.  Between a very, very busy schedule in a
COVID-19 world and still at freezing temperatures lately (29 degrees last night) I've been holding off on planting.   Usually when I put large plants that are a little too big for their pots out on a sunny day they tend to get really droopy and sad looking.  These ones weren't that way however.  After a healthy watering they sprouted right up after a bit and seem pretty happy.  I hope that is a good sign.

I like where my soil is at.  I wish I had tilled in the cover crop a week earlier so it was broke down a little more.  It was the biggest cover crop I ever had at tilling time and as such there was more organic matter than normal.  That isn't a bad thing.  In particular with my sandy soil, but I like all that organic material to be visually fully broken down when planting.

I've got most of the setup in the greenhouse done and feel like I'm in pretty good shape.  Have been warming the soil via the geothermal system the last 4 days and it seems to have done its job.  I was planning on checking the misting system prior to tilling the soil, but I forgot, so I have to hope now there is no troubles with it.

The good news is we are back in the patch and growing again.  Five more months of labor in the patch and we will yield the fruits of our labors.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Sunbathing the Seedlings

Usually I try to get the plants some late morning sun as often as I can to help them adjust to the outdoors.  Even good indoor lights and a lights can't quite get you what the sun can do.  In my area it gets windy by noon typically, so usually half an hour to two hours is about as much sun time as I can get.  If you don't get the plants in the sun, usually I find that the plants struggle and look horrible during the brightest parts of the day for 3-7 days after planting.  So this sun time is important.

The plant at the bottom of the picture is the 2005 Haist. The one at the top is my 1325.  Both seem to be doing well.

In an ideal world, I would plant these right now.  When that 2nd true leaf shows up, it is about the right time.  I'm still 10 days out probably.  Will be watching the weather closely.