Monday, September 27, 2021

It's in the Books; The Pumpkins have Hit the Scales

This year was kind of a challenging year for pumpkin growing.  The pumpkin was doing okay until smoke, cold nights and aphid problems just wouldn't let the pumpkin grow the last third of the season.  The pumpkin only put on 40lbs over the last 30 days, which is horrible.  In the end the pumpkin ended up at 902 pounds.

My son on the other hand had a pumpkin that was pretty much the little engine that could.  He got yellow vine disease a little over a month ago and usually the pumpkin stops growing when it takes hold, but that pumpkin kept pushing along.  In the end he ended up with a personal best 674 pound pumpkin that was a very nice orange color.

The big winner on the day was Ross, who set a new Utah State record with two pumpkins over one ton and the biggest at 2,142 pounds.  Just a great accomplishment for a great guy.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Inspired by the UGPG Annual Patch Tour Yesterday

I went to the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers patch tour yesterday.  Some inspiring patches to see.  All of them could be learned from.  Two of the last stops on the tour had some truly amazing pumpkins growing in them.  The first had three giants going.  The biggest estimated around 1,500 pounds and has been putting on as much at 60lbs per day.  The second has a pumpkin that is about 2 1/2 weeks older and was estimated at about 1,600 pounds.  To still be in July and see pumpkins with another 50 days to grow and  at those sizes is awe inspiring to see.  One ton pumpkins could be possible for both if they can keep those pumpkins together.

My takeaway from the tour is I need to feed the plant more.  I have been doing about half the potassium that the grower with the pumpkin doing 60lbs per day has been doing.  I've always struggled with how much to feed the plants.  My new strategy is the eyeball test.  Spoon feed them high amounts until something seems a little off and then start backing off.  I know a lot of growers who do testing of the fertilizer solution until it gets tot he right PPM.  That isn't a bad strategy, but with the eyeball test you can take the plant right up to the edge of what it can optimally handle and then leave it there. You don't necessarily get that with PPM testing.

Friday, July 30, 2021

56 Growing Days Remaining

Today we are at 56 days until we cut the pumpkin off the vine.   Typically, after the first week of September, I get very little growth, because I'm battling frost.  So I probably have about 40 days of growing left, based on past experience.  I'm on day 43 since the pumpkin was pollinated so give or take, we are at the half way mark.  

 Right now I continue to spoon feed nitrogen and potassium on a nearly daily basis and I rotate in some phosphorous from time to time as well.  Lately I've also been adding in just a touch of micro nutrients as I don't want the plant to bonk this second half of the season and need to make sure it is getting everything it needs and doesn't start to become deficient.  

As I watch the Olympics I'm reminded that often it is just the little things between Gold, Silver and 10th place.  If your plant becomes deficient in any on nutrient then pumpkin growth is limited.  The reverse is also true.  Too much of most nutrients and pumpkin growth is limited.  So the ideal isn't actually putting the pedal all the way to the floor.  It is just a sliver above the floor where everything the pumpkin needs is available, but not so much it starts to inhibiting uptake of other nutrients.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Slow & Steady Wins the Race

 At least that is what I like to tell myself.  Slow and steady.  But I wish it would crank it up some when it comes to the pumpkin's growth.  Right now the pumpkin is putting on a very consistent 25lbs a day.  It has been doing that every day since I started measuring it 10 days ago.  It really should be somewhere near 40 lbs per day right now.   However, there is still hope.

My biggest pumpkin was pollinated two days later than this one and this pumpkin is ahead of it, believe it or not.  That pumpkin that ended up at 1,325 was under my current pumpkins weight on this same date by a fair amount.  So, if this pumpkin can sustain the slow and steady through August, I should be in okay shape at the end of the year.  About 60 days of growing left to go.

I'm not sure what color this pumpkin is going to end up at.  Yellowing right now, but will a little hints of white and orange in it.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Time to Watch for Bugs

This week I've seen two aphids on the pumpkin.  Little green sucking bugs that suck.  I'm not great with insecticides, so I'm not going to write much about them here.  Must of what I've used have come from recommendations on  I've been fortunate in that I haven't seen much bug or disease pressure over the years, but I have been hit from time to time.  Because of that I would say I've used a relatively mild rotation of products.  I like bees, but I hate losing plants to disease spread by bugs.  So, I think there can be a somewhat happy minimum that you can use to minimize environmental impact. 

You can go the organic route or the pesticide route and there are pluses and minuses for both.  What I have been doing the last few days is at first I put down a contactant.  Then a couple of days later I put down a systemic.  And since then I've been spraying the leaves to wash off and hopefully kill the buggers with a mildly strong spray of water.

Friday, July 16, 2021

What I'm Looking at for the Pumpkin this Time of Year

At this point pumpkin growth doesn't appear to be breaking any records this year, it is growing.  I haven't measured in a while.  Over the last few years of growing I've found this time of year to maybe be a little less important and my sanity is better if I just eyeball it.  For some reason my peak growth seems to start a little later here in Midway then it did in Colorado.  Typically at around day 28 the pumpkin really starts to crank up the growth, but how high and how fast, seems to come later here.

What I am reading the plant for right now is what the potential is looking like.  Last year, about this time, my older leaves looked sad.   I believe that was at least in part do to spider mites or maybe aphids.  But the growth of the pumpkin was not good last year until the leaves after the pumpkin got mature in size.  I think that was possibly also maybe due to under fertilizing the first half of the season last year.

This year the leaves look really big, green and healthy.  Even the oldest leaves look to be in pretty good shape.  Vine growth is also good.  By Monday I believe the plant will be fully terminated due to no more space to grow in the greenhouse.  

Right now I'm at day 28th for growth, so the timing is pretty good.  What I'm seeing in the plant is it has energy to spare.  Since 85% of the plant is terminated right now I'm having sucker vines popping up that are growing aggressively.  The plant has all of this energy and it just doesn't know what to do with it all.   Leaves on the plant are getting taller and big too.   I think I've got a lot of the 2416 Haist side in my plant.  Once this plant makes the pumpkin the main sink, I believe the pumpkin will want to take off as all of that salad energy transitions to pumpkin energy.  At least that is what I expect and hope to see happen.

Very hot summer this year after a cool spring.  Not sure if the heat is an advantage or disadvantage in my cooler climate, but I think it is an advantage (although don't tell my drought stricken lawn that).   Nights are a few degrees warmer, mornings warm up more quickly and generally I can keep the greenhouse under 89 degrees during the heat of the day, so I think it slightly plays in my favor.

Weather is going to play a descent factor in where this pumpkin ends up.  During the summer I don't see the trend changing until September.   September will be do or die.  Usually I get frost the 2nd week of September, but if the weather can be a little more kind, maybe I can get a full 100 days of growth on the pumpkin to see its full potential.

For a bit, I thought this pumpkin was going to go white (I've never grown a white pumpkin before), but now it looks like it will maybe go yellow, like the 2009 Wallace did.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Some Fugicide & Insectocide for Pumpkin Plant

 We've been in the high 90s and low 100s for the last week+ so I've been running the misters extra long, sometimes, during the heat of the day running the misters non-stop for 4-5 hours a day, to keep the greenhouse in the 80s.   Normally I have the misters run for 1 minute during the heat of the day every 15 minutes.  That is enough to cool the green house by about 5 degrees, which is typically enough during the hot part of my summer days.  It is also enough time, with the greenhouse fans running to dry off the leaves between each misting, which helps to reduce disease pressure.

This morning I sprayed a combination of three different insecticides and one fungicide to help keep the plant from getting diseases.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The Little Things that Make the Biggest Difference in Growing a Giant Pumpkin

 Last year I went to the GPC pumpkin seminar.  A number of great speakers at the event.  Joe Jutras, former world record holder for giant pumpkins, gave a presentation and most of it I don't specifically recall, but the part that grabbed me is when he talked about terminating the vines at the edge of the pumpkin patch.  Once you cut off a vine tip, the vine will stop growing.  Because at the vine tip on the plant typically has the vines up in the air, you can't bury the vines at the last leaf node at the end of the vine, because they don't lay down on the ground.  

At each leaf node, a plant will grow a root.   So to get more roots growing at the end of the vine, Joe said he let the plant grow out 2 feet beyond the edge of the patch and then would cut it off after the leaf node so he could get the vine to lay down so he could roots  at that last leaf node.  Brilliant!

Why would that be brilliant?  Well, the difference between a 1,500 pound pumpkin and a one ton pumpkin is usually not one or two things, but 20 or 30 different little things.  Every time you don't bury the vines because it is too hot outside in July or maybe don't bury the vines deep enough you can scratch off a pound or two off the pumpkin and those pounds add up over time.  

Joe, by allowing roots to grow at the last leaf node was capturing probably 45 more leaf nodes around the edge of the patch to grow roots that can help power the pumpkin.  Would those 45 more leaf nodes produce 45 extra pounds on the pumpkin by the end of the season?  No way to really know, but it would be highly unlikely that it not add some positive results on the pumpkin with all of those extra roots powering the pumpkin.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Foliar Feeding the Pumpkin Plant

Today I did a foliar application of 7-4-5 and multimineral on the plants.  The multimineral is a blend of chelated minerals that are essential to the plant.  Foliar feeding can be helpful, because it can give the plant what it needs through the leaf tissue that it may not be able to adequately take up via the roots.  I don't prefer to do a lot of foliar feeding, because I think it can be hard on the leaves, but I think some is a good idea.

Plant has been growing really nicely over the last week.  I think in about two weeks I'll be fully terminated.  Main vine is about 5 feet from the end of the greenhouse.  The pumpkin growth is relatively slow however.  That isn't untypical for me however this time of year.  Not sure why, but early growth has been slow the previous years here as well.  But then around day 30 after pollination it starts picking up speed, but not big growth and the growth after that has traditionally been steady for a long period.

I'm loving the smoothness and length on this pumpkin.

This year I'm going to try doing something different.  Around day 28, I'm going to add some heat over night in the greenhouse for about 10 days.  Too cost prohibitive to do more than that.  I believe my limiting factor is the nigh time temps and I want to see if I get the greenhouse 7 degrees warmer at night if I see better pumpkin gains.

Today my son pollinated his 1398 Janowaik (1501 VanderWielen x 1885 Werner) with my 1825 Sadiq.  The plan was to self it, but there were no male flowers available.  His plant's growth has been somewhat slow, so for the last couple of weeks we've been throwing more nitrogen at it and it is starting to take off now.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Fungicide and Pesticide for the Plants

 This evening I used a fungicide and pesticide on the pumpkin plants.   I've been doing a lot of extra misting through the foggers over the last week because of some brutal heat with lots of wind and that is going to push disease pressure up on the plants.  To help with that I've sprayed the leaves.  Some growers do chemical applications and others use all organic.  I think there can be a place for both depending on your needs and what you are trying to do.   Either way, you'll eventually run into a situation were one, other or both will be needed in the pumpkin patch and you need to do it before you start seeing the problems.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Pumpkin Tissue Test at Polliniation Time

On Monday I cut a leaf off my pumpkin plant and sent it into Western Labs to get a tissue test.  This is the fourth time I've done a tissue test over the years and I found it invaluable.  What you have in your soil isn't necessarily what the plant is taking up.  The reason for this is if you have too much of one thing in the soil it can actually prohibit the uptake of other things in the soil in some cases.  So a tissue test can let you know what the plant is actually getting into it and what it needs.

I got the tissue test back yesterday, just in time for the pollination of a 4 lober this morning.  I'm really hoping this pollination takes, as the timing and placement is pretty ideal.  I selfed the pumpkin, using two flowers from the 1825 plant that I used to hand pollinate with.  

On average a pumpkin will grow about 90-100 days.   Right now I'm 98 days from the weigh-off, so weather permitting (which almost never happens for me),  I can get all the growth I can out of this pumpkin.

I don't know why, but I'm always surprised by the tissue test results each year, even though they seem to always come back about the same.  Basically anything in the soil that is leachable, I'm deficient in (common with sandy soil).  I thought I would be high in nitrogen and phosphorous.  In particularly phosphorous, because when I put down the monoammonium phosphate in the spring, I thought I was putting down sulfur, so I over did it (oops).  To see in the tissue test I was low in phosphorous was a surprise.   I was also low in nitrogen, copper, zinc and manganese.   So I'll be applying extra amounts of those to the soil and doing foliar applications over the next week of each.

It has been scorching hot in Miday, Utah this last week.   98-99 degrees every day and some days with high winds.  To moderate the temperature in the greenhouse I sometimes run the misters non-stop for hours to keep the temps inside in the 80s.   Today is supposed to be the last of the high 90s and then it drops into the low 90s for the foreseeable future.

Have had a strange thing with new leaves on the main vine.  All of then are shriveled.  Now sure if it is because of the heat or something else, but something I'll be watching.  Side vine leaves don't seem to have the same issue.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Almost Pollination Time; Prepping for a Pumpkin

One thing I came away from the last year's growing seminar was prepping the pumpkin for big growth BEFORE the big growth begins.   In the past, I've more taken the approach of feeding as the demand ramps up.   So typically, around day 28 after pollination the pumpkin starts really kicking it into gear and can start putting on 40 pounds in a day.   So what I was doing in the past, is ramping up my potassium around day 25ish so the supply could meet the demand.  The new thinking is to start ramping up much earlier now.

So four days ago I gave the plant a foliar application of TKO.  A four days before that a little 3-12-12 on the soil.  Today I gave the plant some 7-4-5, with a touch more of potassium, some zinc and manganese.  I did a small amount of manganese because my soil test showed it a little low in the spring.  Manganese is used in seed production and it is looking like the female flower at 13 feet will be opening in the next two days, so I figure now is a good time to add a little more to help with seed production.

I should mention, although I'm pre-loading on potassium a little, nitrogen in the big demand in the plant right now.   The vines on all sides are growing very quickly, so spoon feeding nitrogen is still important.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Frost on the Pumpkin? Not Last Night, but it was close.

 Last night it hit 31 degrees in the pumpkin patch, but the plants were kept safe.  My plant, which is in a greenhouse, isn't protected from overnight lows by the greenhouse.  The temps at night in the greenhouse are the same as the temps outside.  Sometimes even a little cooler at the first part of the evening.  However, if you run a propane heater, which I did last night, you can get it warmer.  The low in the greenhouse got to 37 degrees, but not cold enough to do any damage.

My son's plant, which has grown to the end of his hoop house, was kept nice and warm and did well last night too, under an insulated tarp and with a ceramic heat lamp.  But there was ice on the tarp this morning, so it got cold outside.

Yesterday I gave my plant some liquid seaweed with humic acid on the recently covered vines.   That should help with root growth.

I have a female flower in the vine tip at about 12-13 feet out on the main vine.  So we should be 7-9 days out from pollinating what should be a keeper.  I'll need to send in a tissue sample soon to the lab to see what the plant needs.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Pumpkin Fertilizer and the Choice is Made

I was lamenting what pumpkin plant to pull until a few days ago.   The vine tip on one of the plants got burnt, which is pretty inexplicable, because in the greenhouse that hasn't happened to me before, so that plant has self selected to be pulled today.

Gave the plant some 14-0-14, calmag and seaweed today.  Right now I've been fertilizing small amounts about twice a week.   Once I start using the irrigation rather than hand watering, when I remove the hoop house, I start fertigating small amounts of fertilizer almost daily.

The chosen plant is a couple of feet outside of the greenhouse now and growing nicely.   Side vines are coming on strong now, so this plant will go from looking like a stick to filling the first half of the greenhouse in a matter of weeks.  I haven't checked the vine tip yet, but I'm hoping to see a female flower show up in the next week.  The plant has had a couple of flowers on it already, so I'm guessing a female should show up soon.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Pumpkin Plants Today

Gave the plants some nitrogen, seaweed, sulfur and humic acid over the last few days.  Buried the main vine and using those nutrients to help support new root growth along the main vine.  I bury the vines with garden soil and then put a little compost on top.

Will be making some decisions for which plant to keep in the next few days.  Both are neck and neck.  Will probably go with the one on the right.

Tilled in the cover crop today so it will be mostly decomposed as the vines grow out to the second half of the patch.

Was doing some additional research on the 1825 Sadiq seed my plants are from.  It came from a 1911 Wolf (2145 x 2416) seed.  The 2145 seed that produced the 1911 went 15% heavy.  The 2416, which didn't make it to the weigh-off, was 1803 pounds and went 18% over the chart after losing its stump early and going down early.   The 1825 pumpkin went 7% heavy.  So lots of heavy genes in this plant.

This is the picture of the 1803: