Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pumpkin Plants are Getting Back on Track

Today the pumpkin plants color was a nice dark green again and the growth was good. the vines are finally on the ground and running. It felt good to start burying vines again (although it is my least favorite thing to do). I feel like I'm about 5-6 days behind where I would like to be right now but the weather is looking okay (maybe a touch warm) over the next few days so hopefully we can makeup some ground. I would like the main vine to be at 13 feet by the 28th of next month which is a long ways but it is doable.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Some Additional Biology While in the Hoop House

About half the time when I water the pumpkin plants while they are still in the hoop house I only use compost tea. I figure if I can give the plants some additional beneficial bacteria and fungi while the roots are still small then why not give them something more than just water. Compost tea gives very little NPK but should be giving the soil the biology that helps break down the nutrients in the soil to a form that the pumpkin plants can more readily use which should help the growth of the plant and overwhelm the soil with good bacteria that will keep the bad biology in check.

If you haven't started already, it isn't to late to get some giant pumpkin seeds for this season. Competition quality seeds started at this point could get you a pumpkin over 300 pounds by the end of the season and it is a lot of fun to do as a family (or to just show up the neighbors come Halloween time).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lithovit and Calcium Nitrate Today

I gave the pumpkin plants some Lithovit (AKA CO2) this afternoon and then some calcium nitrate this evening. Lithovit is the product name for a calcium product that helps the plant deal with heat stress and photosynthesis. Sprayed finely onto the leaf surface, the nano sized particles are taken up directly through the stomata and converted into carbon dioxide. By doing so Lithovit can considerably increase the photosynthesis rate, since the essential factor limiting photosynthesis outdoors is the natural CO2 content of the air. This leads to yield increases, accompanied by a reduced water requirement, with Lithovit the plants are able to keep the stomata closed longer in case of water stress. In addition, the micronutrients also contained in the product and the trace elements that influence plant physiology, such as manganese, copper, zinc etc. increase the resistance, growth of the pumpkin plant and hopefully the pumpkin. Lithovit is 100% organic calcite carbonate from natural limestone deposits.

I would prefer not to use calcium nitrate on my pumpkin plants because it is a chemical fertilizer but because of high potassium levels in my soil I am concerned about calcium uptake so I will probably do 2-3 foliar applications on calcium nitrate this season.

I've read a lot about the importance of calcium uptake and movement through the vascular system of the pumpkin plant this off season and I'm convinced that calcium being transported to the pumpkin is critical in fruit set and the pumpkin going heavy so I'm doing what I can to make sure that the plant is getting the calcium that it needs. Hopefully by doing and additional watering I can solve or reduce the issues I had last year with the pumpkins going very light.

If you would like to try the products mentioned try my Giant Pumpkin Growing Kit.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Some Azos for Growth

The pumpkin plants keep growing however slowly. A little more sun the last couple of days have helped but I'm hoping for more. Today I gave the pumpkin plants some azos. Azos is a nitrogen fixing bacteria that was originally found in the jungles of Brazil. It can take nitrogen from the air and give it to the plants. I know it works because I've put in on seeds before planting and the germination rate is screaming fast when you put it on. However it can be a little to fast where the cot leaves can be ripped right off the plant because it grows to fast. Azos must be applied when the soil is at least 60 degrees. Right now the soils in the hoop houses are above that but the "outdoor" soil is only close to that right now.

I figure a little extra nitrogen can't hurt the plants night now to get thems moving along. It is four weeks from germination time and I need to get the vine out to 11' and I'm at about 2' right now so we have a ways to go.

If you would like to try Azos try my Giant Pumpkin Growing Kit.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kind of Slow Growth; Pray for Sun

Growth is a bit slow right now for all of my plants. My good wife took care of the plants while I was out of town and did a very good job, but my 868 plant was looking a little yellow when I got back. I gave all of the plants a pinch of blood meal and magnesium this morning along with some water and this evening the plants were looking a bit better. A few hours of sun this morning didn't hurt either today. I don't thing these plants have seen a full day of sun since they went in the ground however. Right now I think I'm about 6 days behind where I was last year. I planted earlier last year but the spring was warm and sunny so the plants got a great start last year.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Big Thanks to CBS Trucking & Excavating!

I grow my pumpkins on my neighbor Chris' land. Not only is he good enough to let me take 1,000 square feet to grow on but he also let's me use his well water to water the pumpkins. I am very appreciative for his kindness and generosity. If you ever need land excavating work done give Chris's company a call, CBS Trucking, and tell them The Pumpkin Man sent you.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Actinovate, Compost Tea and a Touch of Fish & Seaweed for the Pumpkin Plants

Today I gave the plants a little Actinovate, liquid fish and liquid seaweed mixed into a compost tea. They are going to like all of that. Actinovate is a bacteria that has anti-fungal properties and helps a little with root growth. It is an interesting bacteria because it can help reduce foliar issues as well as soil borne diseases. I haven't used it yet but have spoke to growers that have used it successfully on lawns, trees and tomatoes. I put some on my own lawn today in the hopes that I can have a healthy lawn by the end of the summer but that is another story.

I was pulling weeds in the patch today and was impressed by the number of worms that were coming up with the weed roots as I pulled them. 90% of the time I saw worms come up with the roots. Lots of worms is a good sign. Worms live in healthy soils and they contribute to it's health. When I start this patch there was literally not a single worm in it. Now there must be tens of thousands and they will help contribute to the growth of the pumpkin in another month.

The pumpkin plants were looking a little pale today. All of the plants have been in the ground for about 10 days now and I think about 7 of the days they have been in the ground there has been minimal sun. I'm a touch behind where I would like to be right now in growth but cool days and not much sun have contributed to that. I suspect the plants will take off these next three days. I'm hoping to see the main vines touching the ground by Thursday. They are up in the air like a lightning poles right now.

The 868 has shown the most growth lately and the 1204 Scherber has been coming on very strong these last few days and it is making a strong case to be grown. I'll probably decide next Friday which plants live and which plants get moved out of the patch.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Unsatisfied Pumpkin Grower

Three weeks ago I was complaining because the patch was too dry. Two weeks ago I was complaining because it was too cold. One week ago I was complaining because it was too wet. Today I’m complaining because of too much hail.

Some growers just can’t be happy.

Wishing for some warmer days so I can get the main going a little more. Hard to get the hoop house to 80 degrees for more than a couple of hours these last two weeks. The rain is good for the patch but this much is overkill. Some low 80s so I can get the hoop houses to about 90 degrees would get those mains growing a little faster so I can get them on the ground and get them running.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some Pics from the Pumpkin Patch

866 Johnson (1161 Rodonis x 1544 Revier)

1306 Mohr (1161 Rodonis x 1288 Wallace)

1204 Scherber (1421 Stelts x 1725 Harp)

1308 Todd (50 Todd x 901 Hunt)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

5 Most Common Questions About Growing Giant Pumpkins

The following are the 5 most common questions to me about growing giant pumpkings:

1. do you use special seeds?

Yes! Atlantic Giant seeds are the only variety of pumpkin seed that will get over 500 pounds and the Atlantic Giant seeds you get in the hardware store probably aren't going to do it for you. You need seeds that have had controlled crosses of the best seed stock to get the real giants. With them to grow a pumpkin over 100 pounds is not very difficult. If you haven't already started some seeds now is a perfect time! Get seeds from the Pumpkin Man at http://seeds.denverpumpkins.com.

2. What do you feed a giant pumpkin?

A well composted soil that is balanced is key to growing a giant pumpkin. Most of what will determine if you are going to grow a giant pumpkin happens before you even put the plant in the ground. A great soil comes through some hard work and soil tests to make sure the levels of nitrogen, potassium, potash and calcium are in the right ratios.

3. What do you do with the pumpkin at the end of the season?

I'll usually put it on display in the driveway until Halloween. It is real hoot to see people's reactions when they drive by.

4. How much time does it take to grow a giant pumpkin?

Most competitive giant pumpkin growers will spend about an hour a day on a plant. Wives/husbands of pumpkin growers are referred to as pumpkin widows during the growing season.

5. What is the secret to growing a giant pumpkin?

The real secret is that there are about 1,000 little secrets. Giant pumpkin growing is wonderfully complicated. Soil sciences, genetics, plant biology, chemistry and more go into growing a state or world record. Rarely does a giant happen by accident. The good news is that most growers will tell you anything that you want to know about growing a big pumpkin if you ask. As a matter-o-fact you probably won't be able to get them to shut up once you get them started. Lol

Got a question for The Pumpkin Man? Leave a comment by clicking the Comment link below.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Little Test with Biotamax

Last year I tried a new product called Biotamax. Yesterday I decided to do a little test with it on the lawn. Biotamax comes in a tablet form that is full of benefical fungi and bacteria know as soil probiotics. The trichoderma in biotamax can help control plant pathogens in the soil. Esentially they eat the bad stuff and help the plant grow.

My lawn has suffered from a fungus the last two years. Late last summer it appeared that I got it under control but the lawn has never looked very good. I've had soil tests done on the soil so I know the problem isn't nutrient related and there has been a number of mushrooms in the lawn so I believe a fungus is the culprit. After a good 24 hour rain I sprayed Biotamax on the grass to the left of the red pole. to the right I sprayed Spectracide Immunox Desease Control. In two weeks I'll be checking back in to see which part of the lawn is doing better.

Not a very scientific study but it will be interesting to see how a non-chemical fungus control might work.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pumpkin Plants in the Ground and Snow on the Hoop Houses

Yesterday evening I put my new pumpkin plants in the ground to replace the ones that were damaged/dead. In the first hoop house I put my 868 Johnson (1161 Rodonis x 1544 Revier) plant (kids were going to grow this one but they liked the look of the 1084 Grande (1385 Jutras x 901 Hunt) better because it was bigger). The 868 plant has a great dark green color and looks just like my 1161 plant from last year but thicker. The second plant in the hoop house is the 1306 Mohr (1161 Rodonis x 1288 Wallace). This poor plant hasn't grown much at all since the hoop house got blown to Kansas. It must have been damaged some because it just has not seemed happy since then. I still have hopes for it.

In the second hoop house I've put the 1308 Todd (50 Todd x 901 Hunt). This was a plant that I was seriously considering planting at the beginning of the season. The plant that Barry gave me is a very nice looking one with a very thick stump on it. This plant is very intriguing because Barry didn't start the seed that grew the 1308 until the end of the first week of May because he wasn't even planning on growing last year. He still had a pollination about the same time as the other main growers in Colorado and the pumpkin grew right until picking the 2nd week of May. The 901 Hunt that was crossed into that pumpkin went 26% heavy last year and thumped like cement. I'm hoping the aggressiveness of the 50 Todd with the heavy of the 901 will produce a pumpkin that will fix some of the problems I had last year.

In with the 1308 Todd is the 1204 Scherber (1421 Stelts x 1725 Harp). My good 1204 was frost bitten unfortunatley and this plant was slow from the start but it started to take off this last week so I have hopes for it. It had a very nice root system on it when I pulled it out of the pot. I love this cross and would love to put Joe's 1725 clone into it.

In about two weeks I'm going to have to decide which plants to go with. I'll look at the color, growth, and overall health of the plants when I make my decisions.

With the cold weather and snow today in Denver I've got the space heather going in one hoop house and in the other hoop house I have the heat lamp and a 75 watt bulb. All of the plants looked really happy this morning which was good.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Shout Out to the Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers

As mentioned previously, I lost 3/4 of my plants this last week. On Friday I sent out an email asking for plants and within 24 hours I had heard back from every grower I contacted offering very nice replacement.

Giant pumpkin growing is an interesting hobby because, although it is competitive, growers really help each other. You can pretty much ask any grower in Colorado how they grow and they would pretty much tell you everything that they know. Growers realized early on in this sport that you can't learn everything these is to know about pumpkin growing in three lifetimes on your own. Only by sharing and helping each other can you learn the techniques to grow a giant.

Late last fall I and my wife were invited to be on NBC's The Marriage Ref (show to air this Summer). I needed a giant pumpkin for the show and the growers really stepped it up for me, particularly Gary the club president. No questions asked, people wanted to help.

I think it has been three years in a row now that one of the Colorado giant pumpkin weigh-offs has taken 2nd place for most improve site in the world. That is a real testament to quality of the growers here.

I am grateful for the great Colorado pumpkin growers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rough Start To the Pumpkin Season

Was just looking out the window and saw one of the hoop houses suspended in the air. I knew this was a bad sign. Went out into the patch and found the hoop house dangling from one of the hail netting poles. Of course, this was the hoop house that didn't freeze the night before. There actually hasn't been that much wind today and the weather is quite nice. Guess there must have been one big gust.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Little to Cold for the Pumpkin Plants

Had something happen last night that hasn't happened before. The 1204 hoop house got a little froze. Not sure why. The hoop house has a 250 watt heat lamp bulb in it but the leaves were pretty beaten up this morning after a 29 degree night. The night before it got down to about 31 degrees but the plants came out fine.

The other hoop house has a thermostatically controlled space heater in it and those plants looked fine this morning. My guessing is that the 1204 plants will snap out of it but will be slowed up for a day or three as they get back into shape. Kind of disappointing however. In the past I've usually just had a standard 75 watt bulb in the hoop house and never had any issues like this.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hoop Houses are Built and Pumpkin Plants are in the Ground

Now the real pumpkin season begins. Germinating time is a bit tedious to me. At time it seems that it takes forever for the seedlings to start growing. This last week my plants really started to take off. Burned the edge on one of the 1204 plant's leaves because it grow into the bulb overnight. I should have had my plants in the ground four days ago but because of cold overnight temperatures and being so busy with my website design business I haven't had a chance to get my hoop houses together. Finally got that mostly done last night.

This evening I put the plants in the ground. I've had clear plastic over the planting area so to help warm up the soil and it seemed to work fairly well. The soil was relatively warm a foot down which will help the roots want to grow and help minimize shock to the newly transplanted plants.

In each planting hole I put a touch of Azos, some myco, humic acid and a touch of earthworm castings. I loved the smell of the soil. Sweet and healthy.

After planting the plants with the first true leaf in the opposite direction of where I wanted the main vine to run I gave each plant a deep drink with a small touch of liquid seaweed in the lightly warmed water.

I pot two plants in each hoop house and when the plants have grown to the point that the leaves are touching I'll take out the weaker plant and then we hope and pray that we chose the right plant.

At this time of year the plants can be deceptive. A vigorous growing plant doesn't necessarily indicate that it will grow the biggest plants. Some plants genetically just want to grow salad which doesn't do a competitive giant pumpkin grower much good.

I usually look at the leaf color, leaf health, stump area and then throw some dice to decide which plant to go with. There is some science but it is mostly just a got feeling with a touch of experience.

In one hoop house I have a heat lamp and in the other hoop house I have thermostatically controlled space heather. These will keep the plants warm on cold nights. The next few days the evening lows look pretty kind for this time of year.

Tomorrow morning we will see which plants look happy.