Saturday, September 28, 2013

1,220 Pounds!

The pumpkin went very light on me (meaning the pumpkin's weight didn't match its size, but I'm still very pleased with the final outcome.  It is always kind of hard when you expect more but 1,200+ pounds was one of the goals I had at the beginning of the season so I am proud of what I got.  This pumpkin is officially now the 1220 Johnson (1421 Stelts x 220 Debacco).
My son's pumpkin was a superstar today taking 1st place in the Junior division.  His pumpkin went 11% heavy (I'm going to have to ask him how he did that) and ended up an amazing 429 pounds!  Congrats to Bode.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pumpkin Party Time

Tomorrow evening at this time the pumpkin should be all loaded up on the trailer and ready for the weigh-off at Jared's.  Information about the weigh-off can be found on their website.  Thanks to so many people for their help this growing season.  Without your help Stanley wouldn't have happened.  I appreciate everyone's comments and questions on this pumpkin blog.  It has been a fun year.  If you get the chance stop by the house for the annual pumpkin party.  It is open to all pumpkin friends.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Is Your Pumpkin Big Enough for a Pumpkin Weigh-off?

I'm often asked at this time of year if a pumpkin is big enough to take to a weigh-off.  The answer is always YES.  You may not win but any pumpkin is worthy of being entered into a weigh-off.  

I remember Pap telling the story of his first weigh-off.  He proudly brought his pumpkin to the weigh-off and saw a group of pumpkins that were smaller than his when he arrived and he thought "maybe I have a chance at winning."  As he sat his pumpkin down next to the others someone asked what he was doing.  It was then explained to him that those pumpkins were the pumpkins that were set out for the kids to play on and then he was pointed to where the competition pumpkins were being unloaded.  The big ones.  Pap wanted to hide his pumpkin.  I think he said he left his pumpkin at the weigh-off rather than to be seen carrying it.  Last year pap grew a 1,623 pound pumpkin and his son grew the world-record 2,009 pounder in the same pumpkin patch.

The reason you want to take your pumpkin to the weigh-off is because you will get the chance to talk with some of the best growers in your community.  Most all of them don't mind you asking them questions about how they grow as long as your are considerate of their time and half of them will talk your ear off about pumpkins if you give them half a chance.  If you see a pumpkin that you would like a seed from to grow next year ask the grower if you can get their address and send them a self-addressed bubble envelope in November requesting that seed.  That is typically how it is done and most growers will fulfill that request if they have seeds available.  There are no real secrets in pumpkin growing.  Just lots to learn.

My first year was kind of like Pap's but I got lucky.  My first season kind of happened by accident and I didn't have any intent of going to a competition pumpkin.  At the end of summer I thought my prize winner pumpkin was pretty big so I entered it in a community weigh-off.  I entered it in the competition and won with a 141 pound pumpkin.  I thought that was kind of fun but I wondered how those growers grew the 1,000 pound pumpkins.  That winter I researched a ton only, joined the RMGVG and got myself some Atlantic Giant seeds.  The next year I grew a 755 pounder and I've been hooked ever since.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Some Last Fertilizer for the 1421 Pumpkin Plant

This evening I gave the plants some liquid seaweed and 0-1-1 fertilizer as a foliar application.  I'll probably give this plant some more fertilizer after I take the big pumpkin off to help along the two side pollinations that I have on that plant but this is about it for Stanley.  4 days from now we will be loading her up.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pumpkin Haulin Gear

One of the regular questions that I am asked is how do I get my pumpkins to the weigh-off.  My good neighbor, whose land I grow on is a Denver excavation contractor who has heavy equipment.  I've been fortunate enough to be able to use that equipment to lift the pumpkins using a pumpkin lifting ring (big metal bar with seat belt type straps that come off of it). In the early days I used a pumpkin lifting tarp and a lot of man-power but the pumpkins have gotten too big for that now.

Recently I measured my pumpkin and found that it was a foot wider and longer than the pallet that I put the pumpkin on so that they can unload the pumpkin at the weigh-off.  So today I built a new pallet.
A carpenter I am not, but this pallet should work just fine.  The pumpkin will just fit the pallet at 5 feet wide and 4 feet long.

This evening I did a foliar application of seaweed and 0-0-1 on all of the plants.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Leaves are Looking Old Now; Pumpkin Still Growing

I noticed today how much the leaves on the plants have aged since the big storm.  Prior to the storms the leaves on my 1421 plant had never looked better.  Cooler nights and a lot of rain has taken its toll. 

The pumpkin however is still growing.  One week from tomorrow we will be cutting her from the vine which is kind of exciting.  We just need for her to stay together solid for one more week.

This evening I gave both plants some fish & seaweed.  Saturday will probably be the first time in what will have been almost two weeks since I've watered the plants.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guess the Pumpkins Weight and Win Tickets to Elitch Fright Fest!

The Denver Post is giving away tickets to Elitch Gardens' Fright Fest to those individuals that can guess my big pumpkin's weight.  Enter the contest by clicking the button below.  Good luck (I'll give you a hint, it is estimating over the current state record of 1,308 pounds)!

Click to Win:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fish & Seaweed for the Pumpkins

This morning I sprayed 2 1/2 ounces of fish & seaweed on the 1421 pumpkin plant.  Normally you wouldn't do that after getting all of the rain that we did and with warmer temperatures forecast for today but since the big one is already split I have nothing to lose.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Dirty Little Secret About the Measuring Tape; Only the Scale Tells the Truth

On a pretty regular basis this season (and all seasons) I take measurements of my pumpkins and then use growing charts to get an estimate of how much my pumpkins weigh.  These charts are typically fairly accurate but sometimes pumpkins will go as much as 30% over the charts and sometimes as much as 20% under the charts.  For the most part, most pumpkins will be within 3% of the estimated weights on the charts. 

Measuring the pumpkins regularly helps me know what environmental factors are affecting the pumpkins growth and sometimes helps me identify problems early, but mostly I just want to know how big my pumpkins have grown (it is a bit of an obsession).  With all of that however you have to keep in mind, come weigh-off day, that the pumpkin's weight on the scale could be much different than what you had anticipated.

I remember looking at the faces of the top three pumpkins at Topsfield in 2008.  Would you have guessed that the pumpkin on the left took 3rd place?  It ended up 150lbs less than the pumpkin on the right.  If the picture was larger you would see that the growers on the right were smiling and the grower on the left wasn't.  His pumpkin went 10% lighter than what the charts said it would.  I've been there.  A few years ago I had a pumpkin go 15% light and I didn't see it coming.  It can leave a bad taste in your mouth for months so be prepared for the scale says, because it doesn't lie.

 This entire season I've tried to be conservative in my measurements to not get my hopes too high.  Because of this, when I take a circumference measurement, I've gone around the pumpkin where you see the blue line leaving out what one grower aptly referred to as the thrown below it in my measurement.  With the circumference measurement technically I should be measuring around the pumpkin at the red line because it is the "fattest part of the pumpkin parallel to the ground."  I couldn't do that however because, as you can see, that measurement would suggest that there was a lot more pumpkin above the thrown then there actually was because there already is a void above the thrown in my over the top measurement.  I'm hoping that this turns out in my (mental) favor come weigh-off time. 

The piece that you can never tell until the pumpkin hits the scale is the thickness of the pumpkin.  Other than one pumpkin I've never known for sure if a pumpkin was going light or heavy.  One thing I've noticed is that pumpkins that tend to be very wide and not very tall tend to go lighter on the scale.  I think this is because the weight of the wider pumpkins tends to smoosh out the pumpkin under its own weight which kind of gives a false circumference measurement.  On my pumpkin you can see that with the thrown. 

Initially my pumpkin was normally shaped but fairly early on the thrown formed because the pumpkin squished out that piece of it.  It was suggested to me that either that means the pumpkin is very thick and that it smooshed it out because of all of the weight above it or the pumpkin is very thin walled and as a result it couldn't support its own weight and the thrown formed.  Who knows.  I like to think it was the former example however.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

How Much Area to Grow a Giant Pumpkin?

Growers have debated for years how many square feet they should let their pumpkin plants grow in order to obtain the biggest pumpkin.  I believe the answer to that depends on the weather, seed genetics and your growing area.  World record holder Ron Wallace reported that he increased the size of his plants some last year because of foaming stump problems in the past and when he did so he saw less foaming stumps.  We don't have enough humidity in Colorado to have foaming stump issues so our pumpkin plant sizes are more environmentally dictated.

I believe to grow a big pumpkin you need a minimum of 400 square feet.  However if you are going to grow on a plant that small you have to keep it meticulously maintained to grow a big pumpkin.  LongmontPete is a good example of that growing a 1,306 pound pumpkin two years ago on maybe 350 sq feet.  The ideal size in Colorado I think is around 600-650 square feet.  Some of the ideal size will depend on the genetics of a plant (some plants just want to grow) and the weather that season however.

Last year my plant didn't want to grow. After the fruit the vine hardly grew at all and I never was able to fill in my total growing area.  Some of that I believe was genetics and a lot of it was due to a super hot summer.  I saw some of the same growth pattern this year with the 1421 plant but it grew more vigorously after the fruit once the vines rooted and everything is filled in now.

For the first time I measured my growing area today and come up with 640 square feet for the 1421 plant.  That is more growing area than I guessed I had.  The main vine is approximately 46-49 feet long right now and is still growing.

The Rain Guage

I usually put some sort of container out when it is going to rain so I know exactly how much rain fell on the pumpkin patch so I then know how much I need to water.  This sand pail was put out just prior to when the storm came in.  The tape measure reads almost 7 1/2 inches.

Today is going to be relatively dry.  The forecast is for no rain over the next 7 hours so I sprayed some foliar multimineral on the plants.  Two years ago when we were having some pretty big rains the leaves showed that the roots were having trouble soaking up nutrients because they were drowning.   When the leaves get this way they kind of turn a sickly color of greenish/yellow.  What I did that year is spray some foliar epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and the color came right back after I did so.  This morning what I did is spray multimineral with a little epsom salt and calcium in it in the hopes it would be absorbed before the next round of rain comes through.  The storm is supposed to clear out on Monday.

Friday, September 13, 2013

1,400lbs or Bust!

That is my new battle cry.  Now that Stanley has surpassed the 400 inches mark (I've always wanted to grow a pumpkin over 400 inches) I'm now eyeing the 1,400 pound mark.  That should happen next week.  The 1,500 pound mark for the estimated weight isn't going to happen.  But I could get within striking distance.  I would need to go something like 3-7% heavy in order to break that mark.  I've always felt like this pumpkin would go heavy but I've seen pumpkins that I would have bet was going to go heavy go light so who knows.

Rain in Arvada & Patch Drainage

At my pumpkin patch we will get an average of 18 inches of precipitation a year.  In the last three days we have received 7 inches of rain.  Fortunately the pumpkin patch drains pretty well.  Four years ago a backhoe was taken to it and it was dug down 3-4 feet.  At the bottom I put down some gravel to help with the drainage.  Because of that the patch has faired pretty well in this 100 year storm.

Giant Pumpkin Time Lapse

I thought this was pretty cool...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More Rain in Colorado Today

I saw a family of squash bugs and voles get into an ark in my pumpkin patch today.  Things are looking bad.  Lol

6 inches of precipitation so far and it is still coming down.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much rain in Colorado before.  At least not in September.  I had to bail out the birdbath on the 1421 again this morning. There was an inch of water in it.  Even with the entire pumpkin covered it is still getting water down into it and I’m not sure how.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away

I have to admit I enjoy this rainy, cool weather this time of year but I fear for those growers who have big pumpkins growing.  We've had 3 inches of rain in the last 24 hours and a day or two after this kind of rain you can find a lot of splits.  Good luck to everyone whose pumpkins haven't split.

I went out and covered all of the pumpkins with tarps, dried them as well as I could and emptied the bird bath on the 1421 pumpkin.  I've added an extra cover for the 1421 to help keep that from happening. Even with a tarp that pumpkin had a half inch of water sitting in it.  We had an inch of rain with high winds yesterday for about 20 minutes that had some hail in it. 

 I also sprayed a 10% solution of bleach on the pumpkins.  I was seeing a lot of oozing on the 1775 pumpkins in the rib cracks so I cleaned that out as good as I could and bleached them a little extra.  I'll have to watch that pumpkin carefully but I think the standing water in the ribs is what was causing the oozing.

Monday, September 9, 2013

How to Blow Up a Giant Pumpkin Part 2

Last year, at the end of the season, I gave my pumpkin an extra dose of potassium and water just before the weigh-off.  That is a risky move because it is a good way to make your pumpkin split, but it was calculated.  Today, after an inch of rain I gave Stanley 3 ounces of fish & seaweed sprayed mostly on the ground.  There is more rain in the forecast for tomorrow.  The pumpkin grew slow during the three previous hot days and and since the pumpkin is split I figured I have little to lose with a number of cool days in the forecast ahead.  I might learn a thing or two from this for future growing seasons of what to do or what not to do.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Some Compost Tea & Seaweed for the Plants

This evening I gave both plants some compost tea with seaweed and molasses in it.  I'm glad we are getting to the end of the season and I'm anxious for the next 2 1/2 weeks to go by.  Not much growth is going to happen from this point on and only bad things can happen from here on out so at this point you just hope to see the pumpkin go to the scale.  Cool weather in the forecast for this next week which isn't a great thing in some ways.  Really cool nights can almost stop the pumpkin in it's tracks and even when it warms up, at this late stage of the season they don't get started up again.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Giant Pumpkin Growing Tips & Secrets

I got a great email from a new giant pumpkin grower that I thought I would share with everyone because this grower was asking the right questions in order to grow a big pumpkin.  The pumpkin growing tips that were asked kind of get at the heart of what it takes to grow a giant.  They are:

1. When do I send a fall soil test?
2. Does foliar application have to be under the canopy or is it sprayed on top?
3. What is the best organic fertilizer? Do I broadcast on the ground our apply as a drench?

The following is my reply to her questions:
"Thanks for your questions.  At this point of the season you can get a soil test at any time.  The sooner you can start prepping for next season the better.  I know of two growers that have actually pulled their plants with pumpkin still growing because the pumpkins were small for them and they wanted to start getting ready for next year. 
 Most of what will determine how big a pumpkin grows is going to be determined by work done on the soil in the fall and early spring.  Foliar applications can be on top of the leaf or the underside of the leaf.  The underside of the leaf is better because the cuticles are larger on the bottom side of the pumpkin leaf so they have a better capacity to take in nutrients.  However, it isn't always easy to get to those undersides, especially when the plant gets large.
The "best" organic fertilizer is relative to what your plant needs.  One of the hardest thing to learn as a grower is figuring that balance out.  There a lot of growers to help you with that.  Basically with a good soil test you will be able to find out what is in that soil.  Once you know what a pumpkin plant needs then you can start choosing what to feed a pumpkin plant to get the greatest gains.  Almost everything I give my plants is organic.  I use Fish & Seaweed (Neptune's brand) a lot as a foliar application.  My soil is pretty rich with nutrients.  In some cases I have too much of certain types of nutrients.  For example potassium is very high in my soil.  The roots can only attach to so many nutrients at a time (cations) and potassium attaches easily.  Because of that other nutrients have a hard time getting absorbed even though they may be in abundance in the soil.  So, for example, my spring soil test said that I was high in sulfur.  However I did a leaf tissue test in June and it showed my plants were a little low in sulfur.  Why?  Because potassium was blocking the absorption of the sulfur as well as a few other nutrients. 

One of things I've been zeroing in more on the last couple of years is how to do foliar applications of certain nutrients that my plants need that the plant  may not be getting from the roots.  If you read my pumpkin blog at you'll see me mention foliar applications of different things 5-6 times a week.  That is very small quantities of those nutrients to get the plant exactly what it needs.

I hope I haven't made this sound overly complicated.  In some ways it is and in some ways it is not.  If your goal is to grow a 600+ pound pumpkin next year than doing soil prep now, getting 400+ square feet of soil balanced, getting some quality Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds from a competitive grower, reading up on how to grow giant pumpkins, burying the vines as they grow so that they can root then giving the plant some granular fertilizer and some foliar applications during the season and you should easily do just that. 

If your goal is to grow a 1,000+ pound pumpkin then it takes a good seed to do that sometimes.  Every seed in a pumpkin has different genetics.  My plants this year is a good example of how genetics determines growth.  Both of my plants are about the same size at about 500 sq feet each.  I try hard to make sure that the entire growing area (all 500 square feet) is great soil and evenly built up.  This year I got a little too much nitrogen on the 1775 plant side and that cost me but otherwise everything is exactly the same for both plants.  However, my 1421 pumpkin is going to end up around 1,400+ pounds and the other pumpkin is going to end up around 700+ pounds.  The difference: genetics!  Some plants just want to grow pumpkins and some plants do not.

The other piece of growing a 1,000+ pound pumpkin is hard work in the patch before and during the season, good weather and experience.  With experience you can recognize problems before they happen and know what to do for them when they do happen.  A lot of giant pumpkin growing is mitigating risk and that only comes with time and advice from other growers so continue to ask lots of good questions.

I'll let you know what you have to do to grow a 1,500+ pound pumpkin when I get there.  I'm hoping my big pumpkin will get there this year.  There really aren't any secrets to growing a giant but there are about 700 different things you need to learn to do well to get there along with a little luck."

This evening I gave both pumpkin plants some foliar fish & seaweed along with a fairly heavy dose of 0-1-1 and a little multimineral.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Photosynthesis Plus & Seaweed for the Pumpkin Plants

This evening I did a application of Microbe Life's Photosynthesis Plus with two tablespoons of seaweed on all of the plants.  Photosynthesis Plus has Rhodopseudomonas palustris and Rhodospirllium rubrum in it (don't ask me to spell either of those on a spelling test) which are some pretty interesting bacteria.  I got this product for free and thought I would give it a try.  I've done two applications previously with it added to my compost tea.  I can't say if it made a big difference but it didn't kill the plants.  In addition to the previously mentioned bacteria it also has a number of other beneficial bacteria and fungi in it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Some Really Big Pumpkins in Colorado This Year

Some better than average temperatures (not as hot this year), higher humidity, a little extra rain, better growing techniques and good grower community is providing some bigger pumpkins this year in Colorado.  Never in any year that I can remember in the past has there been so many pumpkins that had the potential to set a new state record.  Some of those pumpkins have already gone by the wayside due to disease and other circumstances but there are still some pumpkins that could smash the state record this year which is great.

This evening I did a foliar application of fish & seaweed with calcium added as a foliar application tot he 1421 plant and did 0-1-1 to the 1775 plant.

1,317 Pound Pumpkin!

The estimated weight on the 1421 pumpkin this morning put me over the Colorado state record mark of 1,308 pounds set by Barry Todd two years ago.  Right now the pumpkin estimates at 1,317 pounds and it is still growing 12-14 pounds a day with 23 days still to grow.  If the pumpkin continues to grow (that is a big if because the pumpkin does have a split in it) based on the current growth rate and weather I think this pumpkin will get close to the 1,500 pound mark.  I don't mind making public guesstimates about the pumpkin right now because the pumpkin isn't going to be legal for competition because of the split. I think there might be one other pumpkin out there right now that could end up bigger as well so we are hoping that grower the best.  Right now I'm just hoping to get this pumpkin to the scale and as big as it can be.

The leaves on this plant are still in excellent shape for September.  Probably the best looking leaves I've ever had this late in the game.  This plant just wants to grow.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Multimineral & Liquid Seaweed for the Pumpkin Plants

Today I did my regular foliar application on all of the plants.  Tomorrow, with a little luck, we will have a special announcement to be made here and on Facebook (not sure anyone else will care but it is special to me).

Monday, September 2, 2013

All Pumpkins Are Still Growing

I took a measurement on the 1421 pumpkin this afternoon and it is still growing.  Unfortunately I don't know exactly where it is at.  I use an app to record my measurements but when I put my phone in my pocket it entered in a bunch of extra characters for each measurement so I didn't get a final number.  I'll take another measurement again tomorrow.  I'm just happy to see that it is still growing relatively well.  I hadn't measured it in a week.

The 1421 plant still seems pretty happy.  All but the oldest of the leaves are in pretty good shape so I'm hoping that pumpkin can keep moving along and we don't see any rot due to the split.  I pollinated two pumpkins last week on the 1421 with pollen from the clone of the world record plant that grew the 2,009 pound pumpkin in the hopes of getting seeds.  Also pollinated the 335 plant with the 2009 clone. All of the pollinations seem to have taken so far.

The 1775 and my son's 335 pumpkin are also still growing but relatively slowly.  With 3 1/2 weeks until the first weigh-off I'm hoping these two hold on.  They seem to have matured relatively quickly and both of the plants are not looking happy these days so I'm hoping they can stay together.

This evening all of the plants got some foliar fish & seaweed as well as some on the ground.