Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Final Push; Getting Every Bit of Weight That You Can Out of Your Pumpkin

One month from tomorrow many growers in Colorado will be cutting their pumpkin off the vine.  My family throws our biggest party of the year on that day.  I do it to celebrate the growing season and my wife I believe does it to celebrate the end of the growing season.  For these next 30 days however I'm going to try to put on as much weight as I can on the pumpkin.  As I've mentioned before I haven't had good luck in September for putting on the pounds.  My 1161 Rodonis, which tends to have longer growing genetics, did fairly well two years ago but I've never had great weight gains in September.  In this post I'm going to tell you what I know from my own experience and from other people's experiences what to do and what not to do.

First off, don't give up. Jim "The Biz" Grande learned that his rookie season and he shared that with me.  He was ready to pull his plant out of the ground but decided to keep at it and late in the season his pumpkin took off and he ended up taking 3rd place.  You never know what these pumpkins will do.

Second, keep your watering program going.  As the weather gets cooler you may need to cut the watering back some, but don't let the soil dry out.  Your tape measure may not say that pumpkin is growing much but when the pumpkin is this big even an inch of growth is a lot of pounds so you need to keep the water available to keep the pumpkin growing.  You also don't want to let the pumpkin dehydrate.  A pumpkin is 80% water so keeping the pumpkin hydrated means a lot of weight on the scale.

Maybe a little extra potassium late in the season, but don't over do it.  A number of growers have tried to dump a bunch of fertilizer on a plant to get extra pounds and what some growers will tell you is that the pumpkin stopped growing after they did that or it slowed down.  I usually use some liquid seaweed (0-0-1) with some humic acid once a week for the last four weeks.

Check the stump and stem of the pumpkins along with the main vine to make sure there isn't any rot.  If you can catch that kind of stuff early and treat it you'll be fine but if it is left alone you'll lose weight or the entire pumpkin in no time.

Enjoy it!  September is the best time of the whole year.  I see growers bring a pumpkin to a weigh-off and say "it isn't very big," but big is relative.  I showed a visitor my kids' pumpkin the other day and it was the biggest fruit they had ever seen.  Everyone loves a big pumpkin and to most people 100 pounds is a very big pumpkin.  Enjoy what you've got and start planning and prepping now for next year!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some CalCarb & Calcium for the Pumpkin Plant

Growth of the pumpkin has been consistent for the last week.  I'm hoping to see about 180 pounds added to the pumpkin before the weigh-off in September which isn't great but it is what I think I can still get out of this plant.   This evening I gave the plant some CalCarb and some calcium metasolate as a foliar application.  I don't expect a personal best pumpkin this year but if this pumpkin can go heavy on the scale I have a descent shot at a respectable pumpkin.  The pumpkin thumps really hard so it could be thick, but you never really know until you weigh it.  Although 85% the progeny of the 1161 Rodonis that was the pollinator of the 1451 Scherber seed that I grew have gone heavy and some have gone big heavy.  False hope is better than no hope at all.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Powdery Mildew and A Nice Pumpkin Plant

My kids pumpkin is growing very nice for them.  At the current rate of growth I think they will have equaled their personal best in the next two weeks.  They might even have a shot at 300 pounds by weigh-off time.  One issue that they are dealing with with powdery mildew on their leaves.  I wrote about recently what to do for powdery mildew in an organic way.  One other thing you can do is if it is starting to become a problem is to use Eagle on the leaves.  Eagle is an expensive fungicide that will work better than most.  It won't get rid of the powdery mildew but it will slow it down a lot. 

For my kids plant I sprayed some Actinovate on the leaves this morning.  My plant is showing much of any powdery mildew but I sprayed it as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

At Day 50 Start Watching Out for Pumpkin Problems

At around 50 days of growth problems with your pumpkin can start showing up.  I don't know what makes 50 days magical, but dill rings, rot, splits and other related issues tend to start showing up at this time.  I lost both of my pumpkins last year right around 50 days of growth.  Dill rings are something that when they happen you can't do a whole lot about other than maybe slowing down the growth of your pumpkin but who wants to do that?  Rot is something that you can stop if you catch it early.  Today I wiped my pumpkin down with a solution of 10% bleach.  That way if any soft spots are forming on the skin we can maybe stop them before they start.  I also have my pumpkin covered with a tarp to help keep the pumpkin dry to reduce the risk of rot.

Keep those pumpkins together and good luck on your final push to the scale!

Wouldn't the Biz Be So Proud of Me: Richlawn

Former Colorado state giant pumpkin record holder Jim "The Biz" Grande is famous for his use of Richlawn fertilizer on his pumpkin patch.  It is kind of a standing Joke.  I decided I might need some additional nitrogen in the patch and I have a bag or 8-2-1 Organic Richlawn fertilizer so I put down about 1/3 of a cup with a little humic acid this morning on the ground.  Maybe I can get a little of the Biz magic going with it.  This organic Richlawn is mostly blood meal and dried poultry waste which is exactly what I wanted.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Pumpkin Plant is Maturing Way too Fast

I saw a report on 9News from yesterday that said the pumpkin farmers pumpkins were turning orange two weeks ahead of schedule.  The heat of the summer has taken it's toll.  I'm seeing that on my own pumpkin plant.  90% of the oldest leaves have died off this last week.  Around the stump there is basically no leaves at all now.  I haven't done a lot of measurements lately but the last measurement showed the pumpkin slowing way down.  The cool nights are now slowing the pumpkin down.  Officially we hit 90 degrees in Denver today but I don't thing it was above 80 degrees for more than 4 hours today and it didn't hold above 90 very long at all.  I've noticed that some trees are starting to show the very beginning signs of turning colors.  I don't see this pumpkin putting on the pounds I was hoping for in September.

This evening I sprayed some foliar magnesium on the plant.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vines Almost Terminated & To The Halfway Mark

1451 with Sudan Grass in the Foreground
Jared's weigh-off is 42 days from today and Nick's weigh-off is in 49 days.  That puts me about at the halfway mark with this pumpkin being 43 days old.

I've terminated all of the vines on this plant except for three side vines and the main.  In a week I'll terminate one more vine and at the end of the month I'll have everything terminated except for the main vine.  That will force the plant to put all of its energy to the pumpkin.  I'll keep the main vine growing in the theory that will add more pounds to the pumpkin.  Some studies on other plants show that this strategy works because there is a feedback mechanism in the plants and a hormone change when the vines are all terminated that can reduce yield.

Traditionally September is a bad month for me putting on the pounds.  Most all pumpkins slow down considerably in growth the last 30 days, putting on 3 to 5 pounds a day the week before the pumpkin is picked.  In previous years I was limited by space with two plants and only about 450 square feet per plant.  This meant that most all of my vines were terminated by the first week of August and my leaves were old come September and my plant relatively small so there wasn't a lot of plant to power the pumpkin.  This year, with the 1789 Wallace plant gone, I've got lots of space to grow on.   Right now the plant at its widest point is 43 feet wide.  It won't be getting any wider than that because those vines are terminated, but there is a lot of plant with brand new leaves to keep this pumpkin going to the end of the season.

Right now growth is at 17 pounds a day.  That has held steady for weeks now.  I've been doing over the top measurements for 22 days now and the pumpkin never has put on anything close to big growth but also has never slowed down much either, putting on 16 to 20 pounds a day consistently.  I'm about 70 pounds behind where my pumpkin was at on the same number of growing days last year.  This year's pumpkin should get about 7 more growing days than last year and I'll be disappointed if I don't put on considerably more pounds than last year over the last 30 days because when last year's pumpkin split the growth slowed down considerably.

I've still got some hope this season, but the weather is going to have to be kind in September for it to happen.

I gave the plant some foliar Metasolate calcium with humic acid this evening.

Friday, August 17, 2012

924 Johnson Giant Pumpkin Seed

My 8 and 6 year old daughter and son are growing a seed from my 924 Johnson from last year.  Despite the fact that the plant had some early problems they are doing very well this year.  Their pumpkin is estimating at 143 pounds which is only 3 pounds less than their final weight last year and they still have 5 weeks of growing left to go.  Their plant is probably only 120 square feet.  They've been doing a better job of watering it this year and that is paying off for them.  Their personal best was two years ago at 208 pounds.  I think this year they could break that.  I think this 924 seed could be a better than average seed.  This pumpkin looks a lot like last years.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hoping It Goes Heavy

Today I did an annual event.  My buddy Jeff, who is a power lifter, came by and moved the pumpkin for me so it would be better positioned on the vine.  At this point of the season the pumpkin is too big for me to move.  Jeff can do it with one arm.  Although my pumpkin's size is small it may go heavy to the charts.  Wasn't easy to move at all and it thumps good.  I know from experience that unless it thumps like concrete you can never tell how heavy it is until it gets on the scale, but you would rather it thump heavy than light.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Some Fish & Seaweed Sprayed on the Soil

I gave the plant a healthy dose of fish & seaweed this evening that I sprayed between the vines.  Temperatures in Denver have been relatively mild the last two days.  Tomorrow and the next day will be in the low 90s and then we will be in the 70s on Thursday. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

RMGVG Summer Meeting

Today was the annual Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers meeting.  Normally it is a patch tour but this time we just did a gathering.  Not a lot of known big pumpkins in Colorado this year.  Disease and heat has taken a lot out of the plants. Thanks to the Wiz for the time and effort he puts in every years for the club.

To the right is a picture of my pumpkin.  Just over 400 pounds.  The plant is probably about 600 square feet right now.    All of the vines are terminated except for the main vine and six side vines.  I'll probably let it grow another 150 square feet and then I'll terminate all of the vines except for the main.The pumpkin is starting to show more orange lately so it might be a light orange by the time I take it off the vine. 

48 days until the Jared's Nursery weigh-off and 55 days until the weigh-off at Nick's Nursery.  That means the pumpkin is 40-45% through its growing.  You never know what a pumpkin will do but if the pumpkin's growing rate doesn't drop I would estimate that it will end up just under what it weighed last year.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Still a Bit Slow So Some Big Bloom

Growth on the pumpkin still isn't where I think it should be, so I gave the plant some BiG Bloom which is a very mild fertilizer to see if that would help at all.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ants, Calcium & Lithovit

I went to spray some Lithovit (similar to CalCarb) that I had left over from last season on my plant this evening and decided to spray some on my kids' 924 Johnson plant this evening.  I went around to the stump area on the plant and saw that it was COMPLETELY covered with ants.  That was strange because the plant was watered this morning and there were no ants at that time and I couldn't figure out why ants would be attacking the stump of a pumpkin plant.  I went in to the house and got some bug spray and started spraying the ants and noticed the line of ants went up higher following the main vine.  As I followed the line, spraying as I went, I discovered the source of the ants interest.  One of the kids had left a bag of trail mix under the leaf canopy and I'm sure the ants were loving that.

Sprayed my plant with some Lithovit and calcium after the trail mix was removed.

A Late Bloomer?

Morning sun makes the pumpkin look more orange
As I mentioned in the last post, Christine the pumpkin was growing very nicely over the first 10 days and was on target to break my personal best by almost 300 pounds according to the charts.  On day 21 the circumference gains trend started to drop off.  For some reason my pumpkin kept ramping up but it didn't follow the growth pattern I was seeing in the first 10 days and from day 21-29 I was seeing gains that were 8-10 pounds less than what I was expecting.  Over the course of a couple of weeks that adds up to hundreds of pounds in lost gains.

I started watering the plant a little more on day 30 and the ramp up in gains has gone up and I still seem to be ramping up.  Today was the first day that I saw gains in the 25 pounds per day range.  I'm not sure if the gains were from a few extra minutes of water per day or if this pumpkin is just kind of a late bloomer in it's growth pattern.  I know it's mom was a bit of a late bloomer.  If anyone knows Ken Sweet if you wouldn't mind asking him what the growth pattern was for his 1,725 pounder I'd love to know.  The pollinator for the 1451 Scherber was a clone from Ken's 1161 Rodonis plant.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Slower Growth on the Pumpkin

For the first 20 days the pumpkin was cranking along very nicely, but from day 21 to 28 things have not ramped up as fast as they should have and I'm not sure why.  The last two days the pumpkin has only been doing 16-17 pounds a day.  The plant looks perfectly healthy, the stump seems fine, but just no big growth on the pumpkin.  At this point I would expect the pumpkin to be doing around 25-30 pounds a day so something seems wrong but I'm not sure what yet.

I gave the plants some calcium this evening.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Checking the Stump on Your Pumpkin Plant

Around this point of the season you need to start checking the stump of your pumpkin for soft spots, ooze and overly wet spots.  Around this time of the year the stump can start rotting.  Usually a little sulfur powder and 10% solution of bleach can clear up any bad spots that you find.  About three weeks ago I covered my stump with a clear piece of plastic (a mini green house cover is what I use) to help keep it dry.  However, I did find a small soft spot about 8 inches from the stump last week which is cleared up now.   If you do find a bad spot on the stump getting it dry is super important but keeping the stump dry seems to go a long ways in keeping bad spots from forming.  If you do cover the stump you should hand water the stump area from time to time so the ground around the stump doesn't dry out and start to crack.