Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Fun Few Days & The End of Growing, But Not the Season

On Friday we had our 10th Annual Giant Pumpkin party at the house.  The first pumpkin party was started out of necessity.  My first season I had a 755 pound pumpkin and I needed muscle power to lift the pumpkin.  I invited friends and family to a "party" so I could get the pumpkin on a trailer to take to the weigh-off and it became an annual event.

This years pumpkin party I would guess we had 75 people or more in attendance.   It is always hard to tell as people come and god.  I'm a terrible host because I'm focused on taking care of the pumpkin and there is always a lot to do so I feel guilty that I don't get to spend more time with everyone.  This year it was particularly fun because almost nobody had seen a giant pumpkin before and there is a certain wonder when you see a 900+ pound pumpkin for the first time.

The next day I drove the pumpkin to the weigh-off. Also something that is a lot of fun as people see the pumpkin and either their jaw drops or they smile, wave and take pictures.

A number of great pumpkins at the weigh-off at Thanksgiving Point.  But one stole the show.  Matt McConkie's behemoth estimated at over 2,000 pounds, but looked particularly large because it was somewhat of a wheel and was extremely tall (look at the fire hose vines on that thing!). Pumpkins always look bigger when they are tall.

As I sized up the pumpkins at the event, an eyeball estimate had me in 5th or 6th place.  The truth only happens when the pumpkins are on the scale and I kind of hoped my pumpkin would go heavy because the pumpkin my seed came from was 19% heavy, so I was hoping I had some of mama in my pumpkin.

I had been asked to be a judge for the weigh-off.  So we measure and judged all of the pumpkins to make sure there were no pumpkins with defects that would eliminate them from competition.  Fortunately only one pumpkin had to be disqualified and the grower knew about it beforehand and expected it.

The Utah Giant Pumpkin Grower club puts on a first class weigh-off.  Major flag ceremony at the beginning and the like are just part of the show.  I've been to big weigh-offs from coast to coast and it this one is a very good one here

Had some interesting conversations with different growers about growing techniques during the weigh-off.  In particular had an interesting conversation with Ralph.  I think he is a grower that is under the radar.  Has a big pumpkin on the vine right now that is going to another state's weigh-off, but he has interesting ideas around the environmental issues we both face.  Our challenges are somewhat different than growers in the Salt Lake valley, so I think we can help each other grow bigger.  I suspect that Ralph is going to have some very big pumpkins in about two years.

After three hours and a lot of pumpkins, my pumpkin finally hit the scale near the end of the event.  I had my pumpkin estimated at 947.  The official measurement, which I wasn't part of, had it at something like 939.  I hoped it could go 6% heave to get it to 1,000 pounds, but no luck.  It ended up at 943 pounds.  I wasn't disappointed however.  Earlier in the season I wasn't sure it would go much more than 700 pounds.   The 747 Johnson pumpkin named Jumbo, was the little engine that could.  It never grew fast.  Only hit 25 pounds per day at its peak, but it grew long.   Much longer than any pumpkin I've had in the past.  Was still growing at 109 days old when I cut it from the vine.  My plan right is to grow that seed again next year.  I think it has more to give and there is only one other seed I like better right now and crossing the 747 into it would be very interesting.  This is the 2nd biggest pumpkin I've ever grown.  Far behind my best at 1,220 pounds, but in some ways this one is special because between heavy winds, cold nights, bad powdery mildew, poor watering system and deer, this pumpkin did better than it should have.

The cap stone of the day was Matt's pumpkin going to the scale.  After a moving speech by Matt, they revealed the weight.  A somewhat disappointing 1,974 pounds.   I'm sure Matt wanted a one-ton pumpkin, but I'm also sure a new Utah state record and personal best wasn't disappointing.

In the end, I ended up in 4th place and was only 49 pounds from second place.  Most of the pumpkins went light and since mine went to the chart I leaped over some larger pumpkins.  On the way home, with the pumpkin in tow, I had a humbling experience however.   I stopped at a light and the guy in the cart next to me asked if I got first place?  I said 4th.  He then asked how far from first my pumpkin was.  It hit me when I said, "One THOUSAND pounds" that I have a long way to go next year.  The good news is that I have stuff in the works for next year that I think can help close that gap.  More on that to come in posts over the winter.

Today I was exhausted.  After getting a nice ovation in church when they announced my pumpkins weight (a bit of a surprise and  appreciated), I went home and took a nap.

Today we got snow, so the hope of any more weight on the 2nd pumpkin (Cujoe) went away, so growing pumpkins is done for the year.  I've got it under a tarp and blankets so the goal now will be to keep it cool and dry until the weigh-off in two weeks at Hee Haw Farms.  I haven't measure Cujoe in about two weeks I think.  It was only 20 or so pounds behind Jumbo at the time, was growing slow but gaining a little on Jumbo.  I expect this pumpkin to go light, so I would be a little surprised if it got to 900lbs, but anything is possible. Pictures of the "satellite dish" pumpkin to come.








Thursday, September 21, 2017

She is Still Growing

Shocked!  Two weeks ago I wouldn't have believed if you told me that Jumbo would still be growing at this point.  I did a final measurement today, because tomorrow is going to be busy and rain is in the forecast.   Measuring tapes don't matter and the scale will tell the truth on Saturday, but I wouldn't have thought I could get much growth with the cold weather we've had for most of this week and the pumpkin being 108 days old.  16 pounds in four days.  Not bad!

A Pumpkin Season in Review

More of a learning curve than I anticipated this season, growing in a new pumpkin patch.  The season isn't quite done because tomorrow we will be cutting the pumpkin from the vine and loading it onto a trailer to take to the Thanksgiving Point weigh-off on Saturday, but the growing is done now.

My takeaways from the 2017 season:
  • The wind in Midway are a bit too much and I need a greenhouse to grow a truely big pumpkin.  As you can see in the photo, all the leaves from the stump to the pumpkin are gone and have been gone for two months.  I let every sucker vine vine grow and haven't terminated anything for almost two months because I knew late in the season I would almost have no leaves if I didn't.  That is why it is green all around the edges and brown in the middle of the patch
  • Extra fertilizing I did this year I think had an effect on growth.
  • Need to get my sprinkler system installed next year.  Watering was uneven with the single sprinkler head watering the patch.  Time was an issue this year and we'll get that corrected next year.
  • About 5 degrees of extra warmth would make a big difference in growth.  Using data from my temperature sensor I looked at how often the plant was under 54 degrees or above 91 degrees in August.  A little more than 1/4 of the time the plant was outside those growing range temperatures.  So pretty much 1/4 of the time the pumpkin wasn't growing at all.
  • The 747 Johnson seed is a good seed.  I loved the pumpkin's long shape (reduces the potential for splits) and smooth skin.  Vine growth was fairly aggressive.  Hopefully it carries the heavy gene.  This plant went through a lot this year and things turned out okay regardless.
  • Earyly season growing is a challenge.  I got lucky this year.  Started my seeds early and pollinated early, but 6 degrees cooler one day and I would have lost the 747 plant.  Last frost was earlier than average, so I need to figure out a way to work with environment and mitigate risk with the plants a little better.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Frost on the Pumpkin? Not Quite

One temperature gauge said it hit 32.3 degrees last night and the other says 33 degrees.  Either way, it stayed above freezing, just barely.  I ran the sprinklers three times this morning.  The water from the irrigation is going to easily be 10-20 degrees warmer than the air, so it will actually warm the plants.  I'm sure there was a little damage to the plants last night, but it should be pretty minimal.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Genetic Traits of Different Giant Pumpkin Seeds

The two plants I'm growing this year have fairly different pedigrees.   Because of that, it has been interesting to see the differences in the plants.  The 747 plant seems to be more susceptible to powdery mildew.  The 1685 plant was very resistant.   The 1685 plant is more susceptible to frost damage.   The 747 has very little.   Shape of the pumpkins for the two plants couldn't be more more different.  747 plant was a much more aggressive vine grower.   It is still throwing secondaries right out to the vine tip which has continued to grow fairly quickly.  The 1685 never was very aggressive growing on the main vine, but loved to fill in before the pumpkin.   There are a thousand pieces to growing a giant pumpkin and all of them making this sport interesting.

This evening I did a last foliar spray of kelp on the 747 plant. Won't fertilize it again.   The foliar spray of kelp is being done in the hopes of keeping the leaves from frosting tonight.  We are going to be near freezing according to some websites.  Tomorrows weather looks to be nice, so I'd love to get one more day of those leaves feeding the pumpkin.

The 1685 pumpkin has two more weeks of growing, but either Friday, Saturday or Sunday we'll probably got frosted, so that pumpkin won't have much more growing to do.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Soil Application of Nutrients

Did a light application of TKO and nitrogen on the soil today.  The forecast keeps changing and getting a little better but it seems like it changes twice a day.   Lows are forecasted for near, but above freezing on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  I hope the weather man knows that there is a big difference between 32 degrees and 33 degrees for giant pumpkin growers.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Longest Growing Pumpkin

The 747 pumpkin is 103 days old today.   I put a tape on it this morning and it is still growing.  This is the longest I've ever had a pumpkin growing.  I'll have to thank Matt McConkie for a good tip at the beginning of the season.  He did a Facebook web cast encouraging growers to get started.   I'll have to admit, I didn't go into the season as prepared as I usually do, because things were very busy.   Initially I had planned on starting my seeds on April 15th, but he mentioned the weigh-off date and I realized it was earlier than I thought.  That next day I started my seeds.

With the cool to cold morning temperatures I've had this year, I would have thought I would be way behind in the early season, but both plants grew fairly well.  For the first time I used heating cables in the soil and I know they really helped.  That 747 seed, also is a pretty aggressive grower and I had the earliest pollination I've ever had, with an June 6th pollination.  That has given that pumpkin time to grow and it has needed it.   This pumpkin peaked at around 25 pounds per day.  That is pretty bad.  The most I've ever had is 43 per day.  But since this pumpkin has been a long grower it has put on the pounds.

It got down to 34 degrees last night.  Wasn't forecasted that low, but this morning I could see a little  frost damage on the leaves and when I checked my app, it showed how cold it got.  Some cold nights forecasted the latter part of this week, so there is probably a 90% chance the leaves will get fully frosted this week.  That is good for the 1685 plant because it still has another two weeks to grow.

Gave the plants some TKO with a touch of nitrogen on the leaves.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cover those Pumpkins

Lots of rain in the forecast today and then cold tomorrow morning.  Forecast low is now for 33 degrees tomorrow at 6:00am.  A little too close for comfort to freezing.  Yesterday I put a heavy blanket, and tarp over each pumpkin to help protect them from the wet and cold.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Watching the Weather Coming into the Finish Line

Weather has been particularly good so far this month, but that is about to change starting tomorrow.   Temps have been above average, but when I look at the forecast I see trouble.   Big drop in temps over the next week and more typical fall like weather.  Pumpkin growth will be slow in the best case scenario and in the worst case scenario we will have frost.  

One forecast shows five days at 32 degrees or a couple of degrees below in the next week.  The other forecast shows three days in the 33-35 degree range, but nothing at 32 degrees or below.  For the plants, there is a big difference between 34 degrees and 32 degrees because frost comes into play.   Pumpkin leaves don't like even a little bit of frost.  They are pretty sensitive.

My temperature sensor says between 6:50 and 7:05 is the lowest temperature of the day on average.  So I'll be watering both patches just before that time because the water is warmer than the air.   A fair amount of rain in the forecast, but I'm not too worried about splitting the pumpkins from too much water because growth is very slow and would rather keep the leaves from freezing since the 1685 Scherber plant still has another 3 weeks until the weigh-off.  Even if we do get frost, the pumpkin will probably continue to grow, because the roots and vines will be fine, but the leaves will be dead.

Today I sprayed kelp, B-vitamins, humic acid and silica on the leaves to help protect the plants from frost.  

Big Thanks to Lee Perry! Hauling Pumpkins Just Got a Little Easier

Met a true gentleman yesterday.   Lee Perry popped by my house with a couple of nice surprise gifts.  I had posted that I was looking for a lifting chain on Facebook and Lee came to the rescue.   The lifting strap, called a Dori sling, is the blue one pictured to the right.  He does fantastic workmanship.   That strap you put on the forks of a fork lift with a pumpkin lifting ring in between to lift the pumpkin.  In the past I used a neighbors chain, but since I moved I didn't have access to that anymore.   This Dori sling will work much better than a chain and there is a much smaller risk of it breaking than a chain.

He also gave me the yellow strap to use when hauling the pumpkin.   This is a fantastic invention.   Sounded like he wasn't going to sell these, but another famous (or is that infamous-lol) grower from up north is going to sell them, but Lee is going to make them.   What you do is put those yellow straps over the top of the pumpkin when you have it on a trailer, when hauling the pumpkin to the weigh-off (or back).  If you have ever seen a picture of a truck bed after the driver had to slam on the breaks with a pumpkin in tow you'll know why one of these can come in handy.  I've ALWAYS worried about that.   With these straps, that should no longer be a problem.  A BIG thanks to Lee!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Come to the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Weigh-off Sept. 23rd

Next Saturday, September 23rd is the annual Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers weigh-off at Thanksgiving Point starting at 11:00am.   Come see the biggest giant pumpkins grown in Utah.  Possibly see a new state record pumpkin.  Lots of fun for the whole family.  Come by and say hi to me if you stop by the event.

Learn more at utahgiantpumpkingrowers.com.

Looking to learn how to grow your own giant pumpkin? Read this blog.  It will tell you everything I do during the season to grow a giant pumpkin.  Need world-class, competition giant pumpkin seeds or fertilizers.  Click on the tabs at the top of this page.  Or join the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers club and learn from a community of the best growers in the nation.

RAW Amino Acids & Enzymes for Healthier Plants

I noticed that NPK Industries had come out with two newer products that I had not heard about before and was interested because recently I was reading up on enzymes that help with chlorophyll production in plants so it intrigued me.   I found on there website it didn't have much information about what you specifically use these products for, so I contacted them, asked for some samples and applied both to the pumpkin patch this morning.

This is what I was able to find out:

"Enzymes are specialized catalysts that are responsible for numerous chemical reactions happening in and around a plant at all times. Catalysts are substances that accelerate the rate at which a chemical reaction occurs.

Enzymes, like other catalysts, are able to increase the rate of chemical reactions by lowering the energy required for the reaction. What makes enzymes different from other catalysts is their selective nature – enzymes only react with one particular substrate.

Some of the specialized reactions created by enzymes are of great interest to the indoor horticulturist. Root stimulation and breaking down organic matter (dead root matter) are probably the two most common reasons indoor horticulturists use enzymes in a hydroponic system."

Information about Amino Acids for growing:

Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of plant life. They are required for virtually every plant function to occur and are directly linked to a plant’s metabolism. Many amino acids are produced by the plants themselves and contribute to the synthesis of cellular molecules, including chlorophyll.

Plants grown in less than desirable conditions experience stresses that cause amino acid production to be hindered, which, in turn, causes stunted growth or reduced yields. By supplementing amino acids, a grower can help to negate the effects of many of the everyday stresses that may occur in an indoor garden, before they affect the plant."

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pumpkin Party Time Next Week

Ten seasons ago I grew my first giant pumpkin.   At the end of the season I needed helping getting the pumpkin loaded onto the trailer for the weigh-off, so I invited a bunch of friends (aka lifters) and called it a party.   Probably had 30 people that first year.  Since then most of the pumpkins have been to large to lift with a pumpkin lifting tarp so I didn't need lifters, but everyone asked every year to come to the pumpkin party, so it has become an annual event.   One year I'm sure we had over 100 people.   Everyone brings their favorite pumpkin treat and we make an event of it.  If you are local and would like to come to annual event, drop me a note.  All are welcome.

This evening I gave the soil some TKO and then watered it all in.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Pumpkin Cujoe is Catching Up to Jumbo

Haven't put a tape measure on the 1685 pumpkin "Cujoe" in two weeks.  Wanted to see if it is still growing.  It does appear to be growing.  An average of 6 pounds per day.   Which is relatively slow at this point, so it may not grow much longer, but the weigh-off I'm taking it to isn't for another month, so hopefully it will continue to chug along for another couple of weeks.  Right now it is only 23lbs (estimated weight) behind Jumbo.

Jumbo is still growing according the last measurement, but just verily.  I'm guessing it will stop growing this next week if it hasn't already.

This morning I did a small foliar application of potassium and humic acid on the leaves.   I then did a soil application of humic acid, zinc and boron.  This application was micro and probably a month late.   Because of my sandy soil things like zinc are naturally deficient because it leaches out easily.  Should have put this application down the beginning of August, but probably better late than never.

At this point the goal will be to shade the pumpkins and keep them dry and relatively cool once they stop growing so we can maintain the weight and keep them from rotting.  I'll keep them on the vine right up until the weigh-offs.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hopefully I Wasn't a More On

I looked at the calendar and we are basically two weeks from picking Jumbo from off the vine.  Maybe it was a moment of panic or brilliance, but I was either a "more on" or a "moron."  Went relatively heavy with the supplementation today.  The 747 pumpkin in yesterday's measurements is showing signs that it could stop growing soon.  Would really love to see it grow right up to picking day.  After looking at the forecast and the calendar, I decided to nearly double watering today.  I figure, while it is still growing, why not get everything into it that you can.  

After watering I sprayed Omina, yucca, and B-vitamins on the soil.  After that I sprayed Roots soluble powder, cane molasses, fulvic acid and RAW Microbes on the soil.  I figured the microbes weren't going to do me any good sitting in the bag so best to get it down, so if nothing else, we might get some additional spores into the patch for next season.  

I decided to give the plant the extra water to help spur some extra growth on what looks to be the last hot day in the long term forecast.  We haven't seen any descent rain here this summer, but usually after a good deal of solid rain you can see a spike in growth the next day if the weather is warm.   So I'm hoping for a mini spike from the extra water.

Next week I'll do a foliar application of TKO.   That should help push the pumpkin and since it is a foliar application it should get into the plant quickly and maybe get a little extra growth.  I'll be surprised however if the pumpkin is still growing by the end of next week.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Pumpkin Dreams

I think it may happen more often than some growers would like to admit, but it probably isn't uncommon to have pumpkin dreams this time of year.  I can only remember having them a couple of times, but last night I had a pumpkin dream.  I dreamed that it was going to frost and so I was scrambling to get some stuff sprayed on the leaves to try to protect the plant. Don't remember all of the details, but it was somewhat stressful.

I remember I had a pumpkin dream when on a business trip shortly before my first giant pumpkin weigh-off.  I dreamed the pumpkin had gone to mush.  I'm wondering if anyone ever has a nice pumpkin dream?

This morning gave both plants some compost tea that was brewed for 24 hours.  Put in a little extra seaweed in the brew this time along with Actinovate.   I remember seeing a little experiment once where they cut a leaf off the vine and put some seaweed on one part of the leaf and didn't do anything with the rest of the leaf.   Even though the leaf was cut off the plant the leaf with seaweed stayed green longer.   My leaves on the 747 plant have looked tired for a long time so I'm hoping the seaweed will help keep them going a bit little longer.   The vines on that plant continue to grew fairly quickly so it has a number of newer leaves.  The 1685 plant has started to look tired these last few days, but overall is in much better shape.   Vine growth is slow however.  It has another month until its pumpkin will be cut from the vine, but it is in good enough shape it should be okay. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Last of the Nitrogen for This Season

I gave the plants some 8-2-1 organic grandular fertilizer this morning.  I was fertilizing the lawn so decided to throw a little into the patch.  This will probably be the 2nd to last time I'll give the plants nitrogen this season.  I'll do one more foliar nitrogen application in 1 1/2 weeks and then I'll only do potassium and phosphorous from that point on.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pumpkin is Still Growing

This morning I put a tape measure around Jumbo.  It is still growing.  Putting on about 8 pounds a day right now with less than 3 weeks left to grow.  The pumpkin is 89 days old right now, so that kind of growth is pretty good this late in the game.  A typical pumpkin will grow 90-100 days.  I'm hoping for 108 days of growth but it may be a bit much to ask. 

Jumbo has surpassed the mark of the biggest pumpkin I've ever taken to the scale that wasn't damaged.   It should surpass the 2nd biggest pumpkin I've ever taken to the scale that was damaged by the end of this week.   If this pumpkin would stay on its current growing curve, continuing to grow right up to the weigh-off and go as heavy as mama did (which was really heavy), it would still come up short of the biggest damaged pumpkin that I got to the scale.

The last four days I pretty much ignored the pumpkin patches.  Here in Midway I was asked to help manage the largest booth at Swiss Days and that has consumed all my time.    Did a drench of fish and potassium with a touch of humic acid around the stumps this morning.  I need to get into the patch and do some weeding on Labor Day.

At Swiss Days I was asked by a lot of people how the pumpkin is doing and if they could come see them.   We'll have our annual pumpkin party on September 22nd.  That evening we'll pick the pumpkin off the vine.   If you would like to attend, please let me know.  The only requirement is that you have to bring your favorite pumpkin dish.  We'll cut the pumpkin off the vine that evening and get it loaded up on a trailer for the weigh-off at Thanksgiving Point the next day.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Adjusting for Late Summer Growing Weather

Much cooler and overcast weather today in Utah.   Feels a little more like fall.  With that it is time to start adjusting the amount of water being put down in the pumpkin patch.  Two days ago I decreased the watering by about 3 minutes per zone (about 10% less water).   Will move that up and down according to the temperatures, but the pattern lately has been warm days (low 90s), but it has taken much longer for it to get up to 90 degrees lately because the nights have been cooler.   That means the plants need less water.

The overcast, higher humidity weather also means more problems with powdery mildew.  I sprayed the leaves with Rose Defense II which is a fungicide/insecticide.  I also did a foliar application of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, kelp and yucca.   Tomorrow it will be three weeks from when I cut the 747 pumpkin from off the vine.   Want to get everything out of that plant that I can. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Benefical Bacteria and Fungi for the Pumpkin Plants

Today I put down some RAW Microbes (mycorrhizae + baciillus), Actinovate, azos, cane molasses and a touch of liquid seaweed on the pumpkin plants.  Those little guys will help to protect and feed the plants.

Did a measurement on the 747 pumpkin this morning.  Average weight gains were up a little from from the last measurement.  That either means one of the two measurements weren't very good or the hot weather we had over the weekend affected growth, but things are doing a little better now.