Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Charting at 1000 Pounds?

Tomorrow is day 20 after pollination and if the pumpkin can put on 8 inches by the evening than we will be exactly on target to get to 1000 pounds. There is a lot of growing season still to come however so we aren't going to get our hopes too high yet. The men and boys typically get separated at day 40 so three weeks from today is when we will really know where we are at. I'm still seeing consistent gains every day right now so if the heat of the next 4 days doesn't beat us up to much we should be okay. I gave the pumpkin 1/2 cup of Neptune's Fish & Seaweed tonight as part of my regular feeding schedule. Hopefully that will push it along a little more.

Just a slight hint of orange starting to appear on the pumpkin so it looks like we have one with some color. I'm not a big fan of the whiteish giant pumpkins.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Updates from the Pumpkin Patch

Dillboy the pumpkin put on 6 inches yesterday and today and seems to be doing pretty well. Measured at 47 inches this evening. Had some stem stress earlier in the week but I think I have that resolved now. Gave him a little less than a half of a cup of Neptune's Fish & Seaweed yesterday. All of the secondaries are now pruned except for a couple after the pumpkin. The main will be terminated in the next few days. It is amazing to think that this pumpkin was just a flower 16 days ago. I predict a new Colorado record this year for some grower if this weather keeps up. Warm nights seem to be really adding pounds to the pumpkins this year.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pumpkin Plant Size

From time to time I get asked if that is just one plant. The answer is yes. And you can't see all of the plant in this picture. The plant right now is about 26 feet wide and 24 feet long. Some of the secondary vines are about two inches thick right now and the largest leaves are about 26 inches wide. I accidentally ran into some of the roots while digging some dirt to cover the vines around the first of July. I was digging about 12 feet from the stump when I saw the white roots of the pumpkin plant. I would guess that the root system of this plant is about 35 feet wide from one end to the other by now. That is how big these atlantic giant plants can get and we still have over two months of the growing season left to go.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 14 Pumpkin Growth

Day fourteen and we are at 35 inches. That means we are close to pace for a 1000 pound pumpkin but a bit behind. We have a lot of growing season yet to go however and these next 30 days will be very important. Six inches of growth yesterday. If we can keep pace with the current growth trends we should be okay.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top 10 Things to Do to Grow a Giant Pumpkin

  1. Good Soil Preparation. You need soil rich in orgainc matter (compost, humus, cow manure, earthworm castings). The soil should have a ph of around 6.8 and shouldn't be compacted.
  2. Mycorizal Fungi. This unique fungus when it touches the roots will double the nutrients the the pumpkin can uptake and is friendly to the plant. The fungi needs to touch the roots so it should be added to your soil preparation and around the root ball or seed when planting. Applying compost tea is also a good way to build other friendly bacteria and fungi into your soil to build a proper food web.
  3. Water. Depending on where you live in Colorado, soil type, and temperatures you should be adding about 1 3/4 inches of water per week to the plant. The rule of thumb is that the soil should always be at least lightly moist between waterings just under the soil surface.
  4. Good Genetics. This one can't be emphasized enough. Dill's Atlantic Giant pumpkins is the only variety that will consistently get you a pumpkin over 300 pounds. But even then it won't necessarily get you a giant pumpkin. Good seeds can be found through coloradopumpkins.com or howarddill.com.
  5. Vine Maintainance. Your secondary vines need to be maintained in a christmas tree pattern so the leaves can receive maxium sunlight. You should also prune the vines so they get no longer than about 15 feet on each side. Don't let side vines grow off your secondary vines unless you have a hole that you would like to fill.
  6. Pumpkin Placement. You should grow only one pumpkin once you have your fruit set and it should be at least 10 feet out on your main vine.
  7. Fertilization. Give small and regular feedings to your pumpkin plant. I prefer two to three feedings a week after the pumpkin plant is a few weeks old. Calcium, iron, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are all needed to grow a big pumpkin and they should be applied in the correct amounts at the correct times. Humic acid, earthworm castings, minerals, seaweed and fish fertilizers are also great plant boosters. Try to avoid high salt fertilizers. High quality organic fertilizers in my opinion are the best long term choice.
  8. Vine burying. You should bury you main and side vines so that they can grow secondary roots to feed the plant.
  9. Stem Placement. The stem of your pumpkin should be at a 90 degree angle to the main vine. This will help reduce stem stress as the pumpkin grows bigger. If the stem is at to much of an angle then there is a chance it will break and your season will be over.
  10. Patients. Don't rush things. The growing season is a long one so don't over do it and have fun while you are doing it. You may have some small setbacks as the season goes on but pumpkin plants are very resilient so just let it grow.

Monday, July 21, 2008

High Tech Pumpkin Growing

This may be the first pic of a pumpkin patch ever taken with an iPhone 3G. We are taking growing to new high tech levels from this point forward!

The pumpkin continues to grow well. 4 inches since yesterday. I would like to see 5 per day but we will take it. Lots of new growth on the plant today. It was hot but a couple of degrees cooler than it has been with a little extra water so we saw lots of new vine growth. This part of the season gets kind of hard. The plant is so massive it can take a lot of time just doing basic vine maintenance every day. I'm beginning to see how Jutras could spend 20-30 hours per week in the patch maintaining 4 plants.

And then there Was One - DillBoy the Pumpkin

Since it has been over a week since my last post (very busy week) the following are the latest updates from the pumpkin patch.  DillBoy the pumpkin is now all by himself.  All of the other  pumpkins have been culled and we are hoping to create a massive sink for him (a "sink" is the draw of the plants energy to a certain location).  I took off the 2nd to last pumpkin yesterday after slowly cutting through the stem over 3 days so the transfer of energy to DillBoy would be gradual.  It was sad to see this last one go.  It was 32 lbs and putting on great gains each day.  DillBoy is a little small at 21 inches at day 10 (ideally it should have been at 27 inches), but since the other pumpkin was 6 days older, also on the main and only 3 feet away it was drawing a lot of the energy away from DillBoy.  

On Friday I gave the plant 1/2 cup of Happy Frog 5-8-4.  This is the first descent dose of fertilizer it has had in about two weeks while I have been waiting for the fruit to set. 

The sides and main continue to grow although a little bit more slowly now.  Two days of 95+ degree temperatures and growing pumpkins have taken some of the energy away.  The temps will cool off only slightly this week so we will keep misting as much as we can and adding a little extra water when necessary.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Pumpkin Named DillBoy

This one is hopefully Colorado's next state champion (pollinated July 10th)...

This one is not...

I culled one of the four pumpkins that were growing on the plant today. This one was the slowest growing and on a side vine so it was easy to remove. I'll leave the other two on the vine until I know the one pictured above is doing okay. It is best to remove all of the pumpkins from your plant except for the chosen pumpkin at 10-15 days after pollination. That way all of the energy is put into that one pumpkin. This is one of the many "secrets" to getting a 1000 pound pumpkin.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pics from the Pumpkin Patch

What a difference two weeks will make. Compare this picture with the one from two weeks ago and you can see how much the plant has grown. Right now the plant is about 24 feet across and 13-14 feet long. Look at the size of those leaves in the foreground!

It looks like I'll be pollinating the female that is at 11 feet tomorrow morning. It has a small scratch on it so hopefully that won't cause me problems down the road. Heavy winds yesterday pushed the vine on it's side and I think it got scratched then. Gave the plant some compost tea and a little phosphorus, calcium, Mycorrhizal fungi and sulfur yesterday and a light amount of fish & seaweed today. Also terminated the first four side vines. High temperatures here in Denver yesterday and today are making the young leaves weep. Even the leaves under the canopy weren't very happy. Gave the plant a little extra water this evening. The temperatures tomorrow and Friday will be hot again so I'm going to be putting some frozen gallon jugs next to the female that will be pollinated in the hopes that it won't abort. Next week the temperatures are looking to be a little more mild.

My 4-year-old's Pumpkin Plant

Pumpkins are a family business at our house. This picture is of my daughter's pumpkin plant. She has been doing a pretty good job of taking care of it (although sometimes she doesn't want to water it when a good TV show is on). She has her fruit set now and she is hoping to win first prize at the festival of scarecrows this October. Not the best growing location but it was good enough for me to win first prize last year.

Monday, July 7, 2008

It's Pumpkin Growing Time in Denver, Colorado

Pollinated three flowers on the 4th and all three have taken. Two are on side vines and one is on the main. The one on the main is about 8 feet out from the stump so it is my back up right now. I have another nice looking female that is at 11' 2" that I plan on pollinating the later part of this week and I hope that she is the one. She is well positioned and right where my sand is located so if she takes she will probably be the one I will go with. To grow giant pumpkins you are best off just growing one pumpkin on the plant. That way all of the energy will flow to it. Pollinate three or four pumpkins however to make sure that the one that you want takes before removing the other pumpkins from the vine. A plant can abort a pumpkin up to 10 days after it is pollinated so you need to make sure you have a backup plan. When removing or culling the pumpkins I recommend cutting the stems half way through the first day and then completely removing them the second day. Removing them all at once can then cause a rush of energy to the chosen pumpkin which will occasionally cause it to abort.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Soil Experiment Part 2: The Final Conclusion

I added one more soil to the seed starting soil test. The new soil was Happy Frog Soil Conditioner mixed with 50% clay soil from the yard. The following are the results from the previous test with the Happy Frog soil added:

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"
Happy Frog Soil - 5 1/2"

The Happy Frog Soil showed real promise in the beginning but the pumpkin plant kind of stalled the last week and didn't grow very much at all. I would say it showed potential to be the best but some additional tests would need to be conducted to be conclusive.

Pumpkin Salad Explosion

You got to love this time of year. Our street is having it's annual 4th of July celebration and the local fireworks show is just a stone throws away from our house so it is a big day. This is also the time of year for another type of fireworks in the form of pumpkin flowers, pumpkin vines and the start of big pumpkins. I wish I had a picture to post of the plant because it has just gotten massive with a nice Christmas tree shape. Unfortunately the camera got dunked when my wife and daughter overturned the canoe last weekend and apparently canons don't do well in lake water.

The pumpkin plant is about 22 feet across right now and 12 feet long with the main running longer every day. I've got a nice female flower out at 11 feet that I've got my eye on. I hope to be able to pollinate her on Friday of next week. I did a soil test yesterday and my ph is high so I added a little bit of sulphur and iron. Having your ph at around 7.0 is important. I'm not going to get my ph that low this year so I've added a little bit of iron because high ph soils have a tendency to make the iron unavailable to the plant.

It is going to be 95 degrees today and tomorrow in Denver so I put a little canopy over the end of the main to help keep it cool. I want to make sure that female flower is in great shape come the end of next week.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Colorado Weather and Pumpkin Pollination

We are again seeing nice weather in Denver, Colorado for growing pumpkins. Warm nights and not overly hot days are making the main vine run. My plant keeps growing 6-8 inches per day and we will be close for a July 14th pollination. You can pollinate your plants by hand or allow the bees and moths to do the work for you.

To pollinate by hand you take the male flower and peel back the pedals and then put the stamen around the inside of the female flower so the pollen is transferred. You can easily identify the female flower by the small bulb that looks like a mini pumpkin at the base of the flower. Many of the top growers will use the flowers from one plant to pollinate another plant so they can pick the genetic traits being passed to the next generation. If you don't plan on trying to develop genetic lines then you can just let the bees do all of the work for you.

Until about 10 days after pollination you will want to try to keep the pumpkin cool. Shade from a laundry basket over the pumpkin will help the plant from aborting the new pumpkin. Anything over 90 degrees can cause the pumpkin to abort so any kind of shade you can add can help give your pumpkin a good start.