Sunday, August 31, 2008

486 Pounds Put on the Pumpkin in August

486 pounds of new growth during the month of August. Not a bad month. That is almost as many pounds in one month as I was conservatively hoping for all season. Of course you always wish for more, but I can't complain. Right now I am 16 inches away from reaching my late season goal with 26 days remaining.

The seed that I am growing this pumpkin on came from the famous Howard Dill. No genetic information was given other than the parent pumpkin was 300-500 pounds. Right now the pumpkin is somewhere between 550-600 pounds, so I feel like I did something right this year. I wish I had grown on a higher genetic seed for all of the work I have done this year, but come the weigh-off I feel like I will be in a pretty good place all considering.

My good neighbor behind me Chris let me know a couple of weeks ago that he is going to allow me to grow pumpkins on his big property. I'm really grateful to him for it. I've been growing this year's pumpkin on my dad's old garden spot which has laid fallow for the last two years. They are going to be landscaping the garden area so the spot wasn't going to be available for me next year. My parents have been a fantastic help all throughout this growing season. I'm sure I have stressed them out more than once through it all.

In the next month I am planning on starting the soil prep for my new patch. If anyone has any hot tips on where to get manure, maple leaves or compost near Arvada please let me know. The spot I will be growing on will need a lot of help to get it to world class levels. I am very determined to get to 1,000 pounds next year.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pumpkin Seed Genetics

Many pumpkin growers will cross pollinate their pumpkins with another pumpkin plant at pollination time to develop their own genetic crosses rather than letting the bees do the pollination. Good growers will pollinate two differnent pumpkins together because they have certain traits that are desirable plus they have the potential to grow really big pumpkins. Those crosses do not effect the pumpkin on the plant but are passed on to the seeds that grow in the pumpkin.

The record for the world’s largest pumpkin was 460 pounds until 1981, when Howard Dill, a grower in Nova Scotia, came up with one that was close to 500 pounds. He patented the seed, and growers around the world jumped to buy Dill’s Atlantic Giant. As they crossed and re-crossed varieties, the pumpkins grew ever larger; by 1994, the symbol of Halloween had passed the 1,000-pound mark. The world record pumpkin was grown last year by Joe Jutras of Rhode Island and weighed an amazing 1,689 pounds.

To get great genetic seeds please contact the Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers at or feel free to contact myself. I have a number of great seeds from local and national growers that I would be willing to share.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I Think It's a Pretty Pumpkin

But what do I know? I'm the proud father so my opinion doesn't count. Give me a shout out Steve if you think this pumpkin is better looking than most of the flat bottomed, caved-in giant pumpkins.

After a big jump in growth a few days ago the pumpkin has slowed down the last couple of days. I am now down to 18 inches remaining to reach my goal. I will need about 1/4 inch more growth per day and consistent good weather if I am going to achieve it. Right now it looks like the weather will be working in my favor over the next 10 days. I'm one of the few people in Colorado who likes an 89 degree day in September. The pumpkin sure likes the warmth.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Iceman vs. The Biz

There is a great competition between our own Colorado grower Jim "The Biz" Grande and Eddy "The Iceman" of Canada that many growers have been following this year. The discussion boards on have been full of jabs by each party throughout the season and it has been a lot of fun to follow. The Iceman pulled out a whopper today with the first public photo of his pumpkin. My trained eye tells me that this is a Photoshoped photo however. Look at the consistent black fuzz that continues around the edges. Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2nd Biggest Growth Day this Year

The pumpkin surprised me today. Nearly 30 pounds of growth in the last 24 hours. Today's temperatures were nice but there wasn't any particular reason I would have expect exceptional growth today. This new growth has created a new concern: main vine stress. The pumpkin has grown vertically so much lately that the main on the stump side seems to be getting pulled a fair amount. On the other side the shoulder is pressed up against the main vine of the pumpkin fairly tightly. I'm going to have to figure the best way to alleviate these pressures or risk something getting broken off. I am now down to 19 inches remaining to reach my goal. The weigh-off is exactly one month from today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Pumpkin Growth

The pumpkin has been doing something strange over the last 4 days. For the longest time the pumpkin was more long than tall, then this last week it started growing more vertically than horizontally. Typically I just measure the circumference of the pumpkin so from that single measurement the new growth pattern hasn't been obvious. Yesterday and today I started to notice some new things however. For example the long twin sheet that I used to cover the pumpkin for the first time yesterday fit better going across the pumpkin rather than along it. Then today I noticed that the pumpkin was lifting 3 side vines off the ground when the day before there was just one side vine off the ground. The pumpkin only increased 1/2 inch in circumference in the last 24 hours but it grew at least one inch vertically if not more. I'm going to need to start doing regular OTT measurements to see if I can capture this new growth pattern.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wanted: Pallet to Transport My Pumpkin

I noticed this week that the pallet I was going to use to transport my pumpkin to the weigh-off next month at Jared's Nursery has a crack in it. If you are in the Arvada, Wheat Ridge or Englewood areas and have a pallet you would be willing to donate I would be very grateful. Just leave a comment below and I'll get in contact with you. Thanks!

Estimating Your Pumpkin's Weight

There is a way to estimate your pumpkin's weight using a cloth tape measure or a piece of string. Some good pumpkin growers took years of pumpkin data and came up with some estimated weight charts based on your pumpkins measurements. There are two ways to take the measurements, over-the-top (OTT) and circumference. Circumference is the easier method and is a good way to take regular measurements to track the pumpkins progress but it is less accurate. OTT is actually three measurements put into a formula that gives you a little bit better estimated weight. You can download the charts here. Measuring instructions can be found here but the charts on this page are out of date. These charts are based on Dill's Atlantic Giant variety of pumpkins and I'm not sure how well the chart works for other varieties. My pumpkin currently is 126.5 inches in circumference. That means it's estimated weight is about 500 pounds. This last week the pumpkin put on a total of 108 pounds.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Notes From the Pumpkin Patch

Some decent growth the last two days has left me with 25 inches remaining to reach my goal. I gave the pumpkin some compost tea tonight. For those of you who aren't familiar with compost tea it is simply a cloth type bag full of compost material (I use compost with earthworm castings and a little cow manure) put into a container with a few gallons of de-cholorinated water that is aerated (I use a good aquarium pump) for 24 hours. I also add a couple of teaspoons of de sulphured molasses to the water. The purpose of compost tea is to build friendly bacteria that will protect the pumpkin plant and help break down organic materials and fertilizer in the soil. The tea is sprayed or poured over the leaves and on the ground. The end result is a healthier plant and hopefully bigger pumpkins.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

20 Pound Pumpkin Growth Today

Another two inches on the pumpkin today so we are down to 28 inches to reach my goal. This warmer weather is pushing it along nicely. I'm still keeping the blanket on the pumpkin at night. The nights are cooler now in Denver even though the days are still in the low 90s. I gave the pumpkin 1/8 cup of Happy Frog 4-4-5 tonight. Jared's Nursery, where the weigh-off will be next month, had it on sale for 20% off so I picked up a bag. The slightly lower nitrogen and phosphurs, along with slightly higher potash is what I want right now to push the pumpkin through to the end of the season. The forecast to the end of the month is for temperatures above 80 degrees every day and cool but not cold nights. Looks like we should be able to put on at least another 64 pounds before September.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Slower Growth But It is Still on Track

We are down to 30 inches remaining to reach my goal. Some inconsistent but good growth over the last couple of days. I figure I have about 18 good growing days left and then I predict I'll see little to no growth, so getting those inches right now is going to be really important.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wow! 30 Pound Gain Today

For the first time the pumpkin put on 30 pounds in one day. I would be even more thrilled if the gains hadn't been so small the last few days. The warm temperatures and wet ground really pushed the the pumpkin. It will be even warmer tomorrow so hopefully the gains will continue for a few more days without any spilts. The pumpkin put on 3 1/2 inches today so now we have 32 1/2 inches to go over the next 39 days to reach my goal.

It looks like I have the powdery mildew under control for now. Milk, earth worm casting compost tea, fungicide and removal of the worst leaves will hopefully keep it in check.

My Little Girl's Pumpkin is Getting Big

My daughter has been doing a great job of growing her pumpkin. She planted the seed, helped prepare the soil, and has been watering it. In the earlier days she didn't always want to go out and water it but since the pumpkin started growing she now, on a daily basis, says to me, "we need to go out and check my pumpkin." I think it is ahead of where my pumpkin was at this time last year. The leaves are even more healthy then my pumpkin this year and it has been doing consistent daily gains. I love the red orange color of this Prize Winner. Great job Haddie!

36 inches in 40 Days or Bust!

That is my new goal. If I can add on 36 inches in circumference in the next 40 days I will hit my new goal. Check back each day for new updates or come to Jared's Nursery in Littleton, CO for the weigh-off on September 27th to see the final result. 115 inch circumference as of today on the pumpkin.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Big Rain Means No Fertilizers for Pumpkins

We got 2.25 inches of rain here in Denver over the last few days. If your pumpkin didn't split it could be good news for growth over the next few days. When the sun hits the plant today the plant will turn all of that water into growth. You will want to give your pumpkin no fertilizers over the next few days (a great tip from The Wiz, the local president of the RMGVG pumpkin growing association). Sun + tons of water + fertilizer can create an ideal situation for pumpkins popping. Dill's Atlantic Giant variety of pumpkins grow so fast that they can actually explode under the right conditions. The inside of the pumpkin can actually out grow the skin of the pumpkin and the result is an explosion at times that can send seeds 5 feet away (or at the very least a season ending split). We shade the pumpkin skin with a sheet so it doesn't get hard from the sun and give it calcium to help prevent splits. I would wait until about Wednesday or until your ground is dried out until you give your pumpkin fertilizers again.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Organic Verses Chemical Fertilizers for Pumpkins

You can find a lot of great websites with long debates about organic verses chemical fertilizers. When it comes to pumpkin growing I only use organic fertilizers because of the value to the soil food web they provide. You can grow a very big pumpkin using Miracle Gro or any of the other chemical fertilizers. Some people knock the chemical fertilizers because the pollution they can cause. I do believe there is a problem in that regard but it isn't as big as one might think. Organic fertilizers can cause many of the same problems. The real advantage, in my mind, in regards to organic fertilizers and pumpkin growing is three fold:
  1. The soil food web. Organic fertilizers feed what is called the soil food web. Chemical fertilizers can diminish the soil food web. The soil food web is the community of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, dirt, plants, and organic material in the soil working together synergistically to feed and help each other. You see the best of this in jungles and forests where the plants thrive without much outside intervention. Organic fertilizers typically build this community and add to it. Chemical fertilizers can diminish some communities in the food web and this breaks the natural cycles. So what you end up doing is feeding the plant rather than the soil.
  2. Salts. Most chemical fertilizers when they break down leave salts behind. These salts will build up over years of fertilization and could hurt your pumpkin plant some.
  3. Micro nutrients and hormones. Some organic fertilizers contain micro nutrients and plant hormones that most chemical fertilizers do not have. A good seaweed fertilizer contains growth promoting substances like auxims, cytokinins and gibberellins that can increase the size of your plant and in turn your pumpkin.

Some people go a little psycho in regards to the whole organic verses chemical fertilizer debate. The reasons above is why I only use organic fertilizers. They can be a slightly more expensive, but I think they are worth it to add a few more pounds to the pumpkin.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Dream of the 1000 Pound Pumpkin has Faded

It was going to be a long shot to get to 1000 pounds after the last week and it definitely isn't going to happen now after this cool weather. 50 degree temperatures today and tomorrow are taking any hope away. The pumpkin slowed down to two inches of growth yesterday and I'm sure it will probably be less than that over the next two or three days. Warmer temperatures are in the forecast after Monday so maybe we can get the thing growing again at that time. Everything would have had to been perfect in August and September for me to get to 1000 pounds. Reality has set in for me.

I think a real possibility for me now is 700+ pounds, but I'll need consistent weather in the 80s for the next three weeks if that is going to happen and we will need a late frost this year. I will also have to get rid of the powdery mildew that started on the older leaves the beginning of this week. I tried compost tea with earthworm castings and then later milk in a 9:1 ratio on the leaves but it hasn't taken care of it yet. Once this rain stops I will be using a Chlorothalonil fungicide on the leaves to hopefully knock it out. I'll probably also remove some of the worst leaves in the hopes of keeping it from spreading.

This week I have changed the feeding program for the pumpkin to push it through to the end of September. Right now I give it 1/4 cup of Neptune's Fish & Seaweed 2-3-1 as a foliar on Sunday, a little less than 1/8 cup of Bio-Genesis High Tide 0-0-4.5 seaweed as a foliar on Tuesday and 1/8 cup of Happy Frog 4-4-5 on Thursday. These are all good quality organic fertilizers with a nice micronutrient profile.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Pumpkin is Back in Business

I decided I couldn't wait until this evening to see if the pumpkin had stopped growing so I went over to the patch early this morning to take another measurement.  I did three measurements yesterday evening and none of them were exactly the same but they were all pretty close.  Its hard to get an accurate measurement, especially by yourself, because this pumpkin has pretty good ribbing and it is nine feet around at this point.  The measurement this morning gave me some relief.  110 inches.  That means it is still growing at a consistent 2.9-3.1 inches per day.  That is about 1/2 inch per day more than the average pumpkin that is 30-40 days old and ends up at 1000 pounds at the end of the season.  A half inch is a lot at this growing stage.  1/2 inch represents about 5 pounds a day at this stage and those 5 pounds add up to a lot over two weeks.  I'm still off pace to get to 1000 pounds, but if we can stay on track and above the average I still have a small chance of getting that 1000 pounder.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Highs and Lows of Pumpkin Growing

Pumpkin growing can be a harsh sport. One day the vines are growing like crazy and the next day the leaves are being riped by hail. One day the pumpkin is putting on 30 pounds a day and they next day it has blown up. One day the pumpkin is pollinated and the next day it is aborted. A good grower once said that if this was easy then it wouldn't be any fun. A six month growing season creates a lot of room for errors and disasters. Another good grower once said the harder I work the luckier I get.

The pumpkin only put on one inch today. It really surprised me. Yesterday evening was a fertilization day, today was a watering day and there was a fair amount of sun today so usually that has meant good things. Thoughts like "has it stalled?", "is something wrong?", "is my season over?" run through your head when things like this happen. Yesterday I read a grower's diary from last year. Just happened to stumble on it. I noticed his pumpkin was at the exact same weight as mine on the exact same day. I zoomed forward through his diary because I wanted to see where he ended up so I could find out the potential of my pumpkin. As I went through the different days I came to find out his pumpkin stalled a week later and it was hardly any bigger 6 weeks later at the weigh-off. Wish I had never read that diary. Gives a guy nightmares.

The odds are that I either miss measured or it was a temporary one day thing. I've seen it a couple of times this growing season (although never this small). Right now the pumpkin is about 307 pounds. That means I have reached my early season goal. But like every grower I have bigger things in my sites now. Anything under 500 pounds won't feel too good this season. That is why there is always next year.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Taking Down the Canopy and Adding Blankets

As you may have noticed in earlier posts I have had a canopy over the pumpkin since the first part of July. I didn't plan on leaving it over the pumpkin for so long but with the high temperatures that we had in Denver the entire month I decided to leave it on. When I pollinated my pumpkin it was 95 degrees, which isn't ideal. To cool the newly pollinated flower I put the canopy over it to shade it and cool it down. It seemed to work quite well. I planned on taking it down after 10 days but with temperatures near 100 degrees I decided to leave it up. We have dropped down into what looks to be a long string of 80 degree days with the nights slipping into the high 50s. Now that the pendulum has swung the other way I will be putting a blanket on the pumpkin at nights to try to hold the heat in the pumpkin so it will grow better after dark.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It's Offical! An Orange Giant

I've been away for a week on a family trip and just returned to the pumpkin tonight. Many heavy hitter growers would give the evil eye to any any grower who would leave there baby for a week vacation but as I see it growing pumpkins has to be part of the family and at times family has to come first. A big thanks to Bob for taking care of the pumpkin while I was gone and he did a great job. The plant and pumpkin are healthy and in great shape. The pumpkin is now 101 inches, a nice shade of orange and about 260+ pounds. That means I have already almost doubled the weight of last years pumpkin and we still have 7 weeks left to go in the growing season. We are still just a little off pace to hit the 1000 pound mark so I'm going to start pushing it just slightly to see if the pumpkin will react with some additional potash. The potash will increase the pumpkin growth but it can be a risky supplement during this heavy growing part of the season. To much and the pumpkin will blow up so my plan is a slow and steady increase over the next couple of weeks to see how the pumpkin reacts. Right now we are getting about 20 pounds of growth per day but I would like to see something closer to 30 pounds so by pushing the potash some hopefully we will see an improvement.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pumpkin Weight

My good neighbor up the street asked me to post the weight of my pumpkin. According to the charts it is an estimated 127 pounds and growing nicely daily. It looks like I will pass up last years pumpkin in the next 2-3 days.

I went on the RMGVG patch tour today. A great bunch of people. Saw four different patches with some fantastic setups. Hail nets, high tech water collection systems with foggers and automatic timers. Pretty cool stuff. I'm pretty sure I saw a new Colorado state record pumpkin today. Taped out about 118 inches. Great looking pumpkin and a really nice grower.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Updates from the Garden

The heat of the last two days has slowed the pumpkin down slightly. My good father has been misting the plant 3-4 times a day and I'm sure it has helped but there is not much you can do when it is 99 degrees. Right now I'm about 4 inches off of pace. Not a big deal but I don't want to lose to much more ground or it will be impossible to make it up. The next three days have forecasts in the high 90s so it will be really important to get the water and the fertilization just right. Right now I'm giving the plant around 2.5 - 3 inches of water per week.