Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Updates from the Pumpkin Patch

I gave the pumpkin a light folier spray and drench of Neptune's Harvest Fish & Seaweed and a touch of organic nitrogen this evening. The plat has grown 19 inches since Sunday and right now it is looking like I'm on target for a possible July 12th pollination. Depending how the plant is reacting I will probably give it one more light hit of Neptune's next week and then leave it along (except for some compost tea) in preparation for pollination. For about 7 days before pollination and about 7 days after you don't want to give your plant much in the way of Nitrogen. Nitrogen around pollination time can sometimes cause your pumpkin to abort.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Watching the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin Grow

What a difference five days makes. Finally some growth! The main grew seven inches in the last twenty-four hours and the sides are equally growing out. Gave the pumpkin some fertilizer on Wednesday and put some compost tea on it this evening. Maybe we still have a shot at pollinating by July 4th (although it is a slim chance)! The ideal time to pollinate is around July the 4th. In Colorado's environment that isn't always possible. To get the vine out 12-14 feet by those dates can be a challenge. This year we have seen our fair share of challenges. The good news is that the average temperature is looking to be around 84 degrees over the next 10 days in Denver. That is a pretty decent growing temperature and we want to Grow'em BIG!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pictures from the Pumpkin Patch

Not to much growth on the plant this last week. The new main maybe grew an inch. The sides have started to grow some. Talking to other growers in Denver they have had problems with getting the main to run this year too. Hopefully with a little more heat in the forecast this week we can get some action. At this point I don't think I will be able to pollinate until July 14th.

A little damage on the main this last week from some heavy winds. Nothing too serious. I re-buried the main and found a small split but it looks like it will be okay. This poor plant sure has taken a beating from the weather this year.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Pumpkin Father's Day

My good wife and kids got me a trip for Father's Day! At the end of a scavengar hunt that included pumpkin clues along the way (the pumpkin muffins were really good) it ended with a trip in the end. Right now I am deciding between the Topsfield Fair and the Half Moon Bay event. I've been to Half Moon Bay (it's a beautiful area) and they have a bunch of top growers there. The Topsfield event has three of the biggest hitters in the pumpkin growing community along with Salem and Boston close by. Any recommendations?

Friday, June 13, 2008

What to do When your Main Vine is Damaged

Pumpkin plants are very resilient. Your plant can lose 90% of it's leaves early season and a month later you will have your pumpkin patch completely filled with new vines and leaves. When your main vine gets damaged by hail, kids, animals, carelessness when moving the vine (always move them in the heat of the day), wind, etc. it can be very heartbreaking. Each situation is different, but remember that pumpkin plants are very resilient. I've already spoke about the damage that my plant received last week. Although the tip of the vine was still attached about half of the vine was cut through. I decided to terminate the vine back to where a secondary came off and I believe it was the right move. Within two days the secondary took off like it was the main. You never would have known the difference. I spoke to one pumpkin grower who had this happen to him a couple of years ago and he still managed to get a 1100 pound pumpkin.

If your main is damaged terminating it isn't always the best option. If your vine has a split that runs the length of the vine simply clean up and dry off the split area, take some twist ties and close up the split.  Don't put the ties very tight.  Just enough to close the split.  After 3-5 days remove the ties and your plant should be healed.  

Sometimes just burying the vine will work fine for a horizontal cracks. This is especially true if you already have your pumpkin growing and there isn't any other options. Along with burying the vine put some compost tea on the damaged area to help to protect it.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

DillBoy a Couple of Days After the Hail Storm

The following is the latest pictures from the pumpkin patch. The plant is looking a little more like swiss cheese this week after the hail storm. Kind of sad. The main vine got damaged about three inches from the end of the vine and the plant hasn't grown at all in the last two days. I may rename this plant the phoneix because it will rise from the ashes!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Soil Experiment Part 1: The Conclusion

In an earlier post I mentioned that I was doing an experiment with different store bought potting mediums to find which one was the best based on plant growth. The findings weren't suprising to me. Seeds from the same pumpkin were used for the experiement and each plant received the same amount of water and light. Each soil medium was planted in twice and the plants were allowed to grow for 4 weeks.

Here are the results shown in the same order as the plants pictured above:

Manure #1 - did not grow
Manure #2 - did not grow
Miracle Gro Organic Garden Soil #1 - did not grow
Miracle Gro Organic Garden Soil #2 - 4"
Miracle Gro Seed Starting #1 - 3 1/8"
Miracle Gro Seed Starting #2 - 6 1/8"
Hyponex Top Soil #1 - 2 1/2"
Hyponex Top Soil #2 - 3"

Because of the somewhat wide range of results I can't say any big conclusion can be drawn. The Miracle Gro Seed Starting soil on average performed the best. The Miracle Gro Organic Garden Soil seemed to perform fairly well too. What I found with the Hyponex soil is the same that was mentioned on the Colorado Extension service's website. The soil uses a heavy peatmoss that doesn't allow water to penatrate very well. The end results speaks for itsself. I'm going to continue this experiment with one other soil. Happy frog Soil Conditioner mixed with clay soil from my yard. From everything I have read this soil conditioner has everything that a person would want (forest humus, earthworm castings, bat guano, humic acid, and mycorrhizal fungi), but we will test that out. Results will be posted in four weeks.

Do you have a favorite seed starting medium? Share it with me by posting a comment below...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ouch! Hail is the Colorado Gardner's Worst Enemy

My pumpkin plant got pummeled yesterday. One inch sized hail really tore the leaves up and it might have gotten the end of the vine which would be a little devastating. It is important that you grow the pumpkin on the main vine and if the end of the vine is cut then that means the vine won't grow anymore. 800 pound pumpkins have been grown on secondary lines but that is the exception.

I'm holding onto a thread of hope however. The hail might have been a blessing in disguise. According to the following study, pumpkin plants that received early season hail before fruit set actually yielded higher average weight than plants that had no hail damage. Anyone else want to rip 75% of their leaves off their plant?  ;-)

I'm guessing that one of two things happened with this study. Either the early season hail damage caused more energy to be put into root growth which yielded bigger weight gains in the end or there were some other outside factors that came into play.

Haddie's plant is doing fine. Our plants are at two different sites and her plant didn't see any hail.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

This Week's Pumpkin Pics

The following are the latest pics from the pumpkin patch. The plant grew 3-4 inches in the last 24 hours and seems pretty happy these days. The bricks that you see in the background are a new pest control system I have developed and it has worked perfectly so far. You may ask how bricks would help control bugs? It doesn't do anything for bugs but it does help keep my almost two-year-old son and his cars away from the pumpkin plant when he plays in the dirt. In pic #2 you will see the first two male flowers of the season.