Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Prep in August

No pumpkins means there is more time to get ready for next year. Yesterday I took patch prep to a new level. Thanks to Chris, owner of CBS Trucking & Excavating and the property that I grow pumpkins on behind my house, we brought out the big guns for the patch prep. Using a backhoe Bob dug down 3 feet deep in the entire patch so we could loosen up the soil deep. There were lots of big rocks that we tossed out of the patch in the process as well. My roto tiller only goes about 8 inches deep and the soil was pretty compacted so the roots were somewhat limited in how deep they could go so loosening up this soil should make a difference.

At about two feet deep we put in a two inch layer of squeegee to help with drainage and to create a hydroponic area for the roots. As I understand it Quinn Werner has something like this and he doesn't grow small pumpkins. Helpfully it will help add an extra 100 pounds on my pumpkins next year. After putting the dug out soil on top of the squeegee and leveling it out I put down 6 pounds of soil sulfur, 2 pounds of humic acid, 1 pounds of 7-5-5 organic fertilizer and 5 pounds of 12-0-0 blood meal that Ross at Soil Menders gave to the growers at the patch tour (thanks Ross!). That was then roto tilled in lightly accross the entire patch. I was also going to put in some compost that CBS trucking had but it had disappeared so I'll get some compost and add it in November. In all I think the hard work will pay off. The soil had fluffed up enough to be 6-8 inches higher than it origionally was before the dig.

After roto tilling I put down some sudan grass seed and then racked the whole area patch area. Sundan grass is a fast growing grass that is a great green manure. I first heard about it from Joe Jutras and Ron Wallace on the SNGPG video. The grass will grow to 4 feet of more and has roots that will go down as far as 3 feet. They roots help with myco innoculations and will add good organic matter to the patch. I am a little late in the season for this grass but I should be able to get it growing for 6 weeks which will be enough time to get it at least a couple of feet high before the frost hits.

Soil test was sent in last week so that will help me determine what else I need to add to the patch in November. What I have added so far was just spoon feeding and mostly consisted with what I had leftover from this season.

I Started a new compost pile this week as well. The horse manure came from the great grandson of Man of War so hopefully there will be some good growth hormones in it to grow big next year (Lol). I also added a bunch of leaves that were leftover from the big storm as well as some grass clippings. It is already heating up nicely and should be ready for final patch prep in April.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fertilizing the Pumpkin Plant

A local grower asked me today about the fertilizer program that I use to grow giant pumpkins. It is a good question that is frequently asked by growers of pumpkins and any other garden vegetable. The following is my standard response to that question:

The right amount of fertilizer greatly depends on what your soil and pumpkin plant needs. I know it sounds like a cop out answer but that is the facts. Putting on fertilizer without knowing what is in your soil is like randomly taking penicillin. It might just be what you need and it might just cause you problems. My soil last year was low on everything but phosphorus so I gave it a little more fertilizer at some points in the season. The last two weeks of the season I was concerned that my 755 pound baby might split so I gave it almost no fertilizers prior to the weigh-off.

Ideally what you want to do in the spring is have a soil test done and then amend appropriately based on the results and recommendations from that test. Joe Jutras, the world record holder, last year grew a 1507 pound pumpkin and he didn't fertilize at all after early spring because his soil test showed he was a little high in everything. Personally I like to give the plant a little foliar feeding every week, even if it is just compost tea, because the leaves can absorb a little nutrients and sometime the roots for various reasons can't pull and distribute everything the plant needs very well.

If you aren't planning a soil test (and even if you are) then watch closely what the plant is telling you. If the leaves are yellowing, if the pumpkin isn't growing very well, if the leaves are dull looking, in the early season if the vines aren't growing very fast then the plant is telling you it might need something (or possibly it has to much of something). A good general rule for plant maintenance is about 1/8 cup of fish & seaweed (2-3-1) fertilizer or just seaweed (0-0-5) fertilizer per week or about the same amount of a good organic granular fertilizer (3-3-3). These doses are assuming that you plant's main vine is at least 7 feet long. If your plant is smaller than adjust accordingly. If you just planted your pumpkin plant give it almost no fertilizer for at least the first 10 days after it is planted outdoors. The numbers on the bag or bottle don't have to exactly match the numbers I have listed but should be close. Early season you want a little more nitrogen (first number). Late season you possibly want more potash (last number). These lower numbers will help maintain the nutrients needed to keep the pumpkin growing at a good steady pace.

Grow em big!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

2009 RMGVG Patch Tour

The Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers had their annual patch tour yesterday. It is always a lot of fun. Thanks Wiz for taking the time to put it all together. The following are some of the pictures from the tour.
Jim Grande's 1019 Grande (this is a seed to watch)

Joe Scherber's 1343 Lyons (The leaves must be 3-4' tall)

Greg Hopson's 985 Werner (great to see Greg's hard work paying off for him this year)