Saturday, March 22, 2014

Soil Test is Back, Time for Final Prep

Sometime in the next three weeks I'll be putting in my final amendments and tilling the soil.  I got my soil test back and things are looking better.  Four years ago my soil was pretty jacked up and out of balance.  Each year that has improved but I still have a little ways to go.  My potassium has been very high for quite some time.  Potassium when to high can make it difficult for the plant to absorb calcium and other nutrients so I've been very careful to keep to a limit the amount of potassium that I add to the soil.  My potassium is still high but almost half of what it was 3 years ago.  That should make a bit of a difference.

Atlantic Giant pumpkin plants are very adaptive to soil types.  They seem to have the ability to get at the nutrients they need so if your soil is like mine and not in perfect balance don't sweat it too much.

I've sent off some questions to the soil testing lab but it looks like my final amendments to the soil will be 7 lbs Azomite, 40 lbs gypsum, 10lbs humic acid and 4 lbs evaporated cane sugar.

The following is a link to a simple but excellent website that lists the NPK for most of the most commonly used amendments:

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Little Secret About Myco and Pumpkin Growing

I think most growers wouldn't know this, but the myco that we put into our pumpkin patch takes months to mature to a state that it is providing full benefits to the pumpkin plant.  There are three stages in mycorrhizal growth to maturity:  spore germination, hyphal growth, host recognition and appressorium formation.  There are studies that show that it can take 6 weeks to 2 months for myco to mature enough that the benefits of infection can be measurable on a plant. 

Neil Anderson, President of RTI, stated this fact at the Niagara growers convention some years ago and he suggested that starting your myco in a pot weeks prior to starting your pumpkin seeds could prove beneficial.  If you start a pot with a pumpkin seed in it a month before you start your seeds you want to grow and then break up the seed starting mixture and roots from that pot you can capture the mature myco in that pot.  You then just mix the pots seed starting medium with the seed starting mixture that you want to grow you actual plants in.   The myco in that pot can survive for up to two weeks without being attached to roots and will actually "call" to the roots of your plant.  You can then get inoculations to form with the roots of your plants much earlier and start getting benefits much faster using this technique.

In the pumpkin patch I'll be using just one variety of myco, but in this pot I'm using eleven endo varieties of myco.  Make sure you use endomycorrhizal for pumpkins, grasses and vegetables because the ecto variety will not work on anything but trees and bushes.   

If you are not familiar with mycorrhize fungi there are some very extensive studies the have found the following benefits from using myco:

• Increases nitrogen, water and phosphorus uptake
• Increases crop yields
• Protects plant roots from pathogens
• Improves plant resistance to a wide array of soil toxicities
• Salt tolerance

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Pumpkin Growing Checklist

One month until seed starting time. Seems like a lot of time but it always flys by and there is a lot to do.  Seems like if you get behind early in the season there is never a way to make it up later.
  • Clean our "grow closest" to make room for plants
  • Test grow lights and seed starting heat mat
  • Warm ProMix growing medium
  • Get castings from worm bins
  • Get soil test back and ask the smartest guys in Colorado and the world what I should be amending my soil with
  • Amend soil and till the ground.
  • Get hoop houses into shape and put on new plastic
  • Sow some winter rye into the patch
  • Soak and sand seeds on April 15th.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Coloradoans Are Obsessed with Weather

Two weeks ago I had lunch with the Direct of Marketing at the Fairmont Resort in Mani.  She was origionally from Boulder, Colorado and made the comment that people form Colorado are obsessed with the weather.  I had never thought of that before.  People in Maui can't understand it.  And if you want to meet a truly weather obsessed individual then talk to a giant pumpkin grower in Colorado.  Weather is one of the big determining factors for growing giants and we don't have great weather for it in Colorado.  On top of that add hail and strong winds and it can drive you crazy.

Two days ago in Denver the temperatures were in the low 70s.  The next day snowy and cold with about an inch of snow on the ground.  Today the snow is all melted and we are in the mid-50s.  Welcome to Colorado!

I think the easiest job in the world would might be as a TV weatherman in Hawaii.  Every day it is between 78-86 degrees, chance for rain depending on where you are located and the real news is only how much sun you will get that day.  Not a bad gig.  In Colorado I've seen the public nearly string up the weatherman because the forecast was 20 degrees off.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Soil Testing Time

With some nice low 70s weather today I went out into the patch and took some soil samples.  I dug about 10 holes that were 6-8 inches down with a spoon and put that soil in a zip lock bag.  I'll let that soil dry indoors for a few days and then send it in for testing.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Time to Start Doing Some Test Plantings

With pumpkin seed starting time next month it is a good time now to start practicing your seed starting techniques.  No reason to lose a good seed to poor techniques or a poor seed starting mix.  For the last few years I've been using ProMix BX for my seed starting mix.  I amend that with some earthworm casting from my own bins (about 1 cup) along with some myco and a little Azos at the bottom third of the pot.  For the full seed starting procedure look for my posts in April in previous years.

Late this fall I did a test planting with a soil less mixture that seemed pretty promising. I knew other growers had amended their soil with a similar product from the same company and had good results so I wanted to give it a try.  Everything come up nicely but three weeks later all three of the plants I had started quickly turned yellow.  I'm not sure what caused that but my suspicion is that the soil less mixture had a problem with it.  I won't be using it again.  You don't want the first month of the season to start with dead plants.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Four Seasons Resort in Maui Giant Pumpkin Growing - Five Star Pumpkins

This last week I had a wonderful time with my family in Maui.  While there I met one of the grounds keeps for the Four Seasons Resort.  The Four Seasons is Maui's only five star resort and a beautiful property.  We of course started talking about giant pumpkins during the conversation and he is going to try growing a giant on the property.  I'll be sending him seeds soon.  I think it will be something that guests really will enjoy.  Who knows.  Maybe the resort will get a six star rating now.

While looking at all of the lush vegetation and rich volcanic soil in Maui I couldn't help but think often how will pumpkin growing could do here.  82-86 degree days with lows around 70-72 and relatively high humidity you think would be a good climate for pumpkin growing.  The daytime highs might be a little low but the night time temps are definitely better than Denver's.  The area around the Four Seasons is relatively dry with only about 14 inches of rain per year so it will be interesting to see how this little experiment turns out.