Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Vegas Here We Come; GPC Big Show

I registered for the GPC Big Show in Las Vegas today.  I went to the seminar in Niagara Falls five or six years ago and that was a great time, but the last time I went.  If you are going, let me know and say hi.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Cover Crops for Pumpkin Patch

I've talked about in the past about how cover crops (AKA green manure) can build biomass, build biology, suppress weeds, make nutrients more available to plants and a lot of other beneficial things.  One thing I haven't talked about here is some of the potential negatives, but there is an easy fix.  The downside to cover crops is that it can also, in some cases, harbor soil borne diseases and help keep them going.  Things like fusarium can use the cover crop and help perpetuate the disease.  The fix to get the benefits, without the negatives, according to some studies that were done in recent years, is simply not to plant after tilling in the cover crop for 2 to 3 weeks.  As the host plant dies and starts to decompose, the disease dies off with it and it is safe to plant your pumpkin plant.

Earlier this week I put down a little compost and today I put down some humic acid, sulfur and a little peat moss which I then tilled in.  After that I heated up the greenhouse to 99 degrees to warm the soil and then put down some winter rye grass seed which will slowly grow all winter.  I'll till it in ahead of the plant as it grows out.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Prepping for Bigger Next Year; Pumpkin Knights

I've been bringing in some compost for the patch for next year and adding it to the patch.  My soil scientist had suggested earlier this season to not add any compost this fall, but I decided to ignore with just a thin layer over the patch.   His concern was mostly in regards to nitrogen,which is warranted.  My nitrogen was too high in the patch this year.  However, I know my patch wasn't holding nutrients very well this year so I wanted to add some compost to build up the organic matter to help retain nutrients and also replenish what was lost during this season.  Just a small amount however.

In the spring I'm going to till in some sphagnum peat moss which will add pretty much no nutrients but will add organic matter and I should be in good shape.

On Saturday will I till in some humic acid and sulfur and then plant a cover crop.  That will also add additional organic matter, help suppress weeds and help make nutrients available to the plant next season.

Today I said goodbye to the pumpkin (aka Uncle Sam).  I sold the pumpkin to Pumpkin Nights at the Utah State Fair Grounds.  I'm told about 65,000 people will visit pumpkin nights, so it will be fun to allow so many people to get to see the pumpkin. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Wow! 1,325 Pounds: What a Suprise

On Friday, when we cut the pumpkin from the vine we have an annual tradition that started with my very first giant pumpkin of throwing a pumpkin party.  Everyone is invited and brings a favorite pumpkin/fall treat.  I'm told it is a lot of fun, but never have time to socialize as much as I like as I'm taking care of pumpkin stuff (aka bad host).  A big thanks to mom, dad, Tammy and Lisa for all of the big help they are with the party.  They were a tremendous help.

I'm often asked how you move a pumpkin this big.  Thanks to Justin, photographer for National Geographic, that story is told in pictures.  The fork lift I got this year was bigger than ones we've used in the past, which made things a little problematic for getting it into position, but everything worked in the end.

Thanksgiving Point always has a great weigh-off and so many people come together to make it happen.  This year they had about six lifting rings and two forklifts which really made things move along, because they could pre-stage the pumpkins to keep thing moving to the scale.  Great job UGPG!  It is a lot of work to put together an event like that.

I knew of four good sized pumpkins in Utah going into the weigh-off and I had figured 3rd place was reasonable, but you never know what surprise pumpkins could show up.  One pumpkin grower said he was going to go to the Hee Haw weigh-off, so to three seemed possible.  I knew my pumpkin in terms of inches was the smallest of the four.

At the weigh-off I gave my pumpkin (aka Uncle Sam) a few thumps and it seemed more solid than a remembered in the past.  I asked Matt McConkie to thump it and he thought it possibly sounded heavy too.   But I've been fooled by this in the past.  Going into the weigh-off I didn't really consider the chance of the pumpkin going heavy, meaning it weighed more than then the estimated weight from measurements.  Pumpkins in Utah don't typically go heavy, but my first season here both pumpkins went heavy.  My OTT measurements said something around 1,275 pounds.   I had been telling everyone 1,230 because it seemed reasonable and I hopefully thought it would weigh about that much, which would be bigger than my previous personal best of 1,220 pounds.

Of the big ones, Joey's pumpkin went first and unfortunately that pumpkin went light at 1,200 pounds.  He did a great job with that plant and got about as much out of 400sq feet as a grower could get.

Next was my pumpkin:

1,325 was a complete surprise and with that I got 2nd place. The pumpkin ended up 8% heavy on the official measurement.  So I present the 1325 Johnson (2005 Haist x 2255 Zaychowski)

But fortunately, I wasn't the best pumpkin grower in the family.   My son Bode outdid me with a 1st place finish in the children's division.  He really worked hard this year and didn't nearly reach the results he deserved this season.  About five weeks ago his pumpkin stopped growing after only about 35 days of growth.  We were fortunate to be able to get his pumpkin to the scale.  And he topped them all at 299 pounds.  I think if a deer hadn't taken a couple of bites out of his pumpkin we would have gotten to 300.  I look forward to see what he can grow next year.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

2019 Pumpkin Season in Review

One week from today is the weigh-off.   At this point I'm excited for it to come to an end.  Lots of 30 degree nights over the last two weeks and another week of 30 degree lows and that is a battle I'll be happy to have over.  I haven't checked in a few days, but the pumpkin is still growing as well as one could expect this late in the season.  If the trend line stays consistent there is a very good chance for having a personal best pumpkin, which is very satisfying.  The scale will tell the truth however.

I thought before the pumpkin hits the scale and the emotion that comes with that, it would be a good ideas to review the 2019 pumpkin season.  If the pumpkin goes heavy, sentiment will be a little different than if it goes very light.  Either way I should be pleased with this season.

My early season plans was to complete the setup of stuff within he greenhouse in March/April so come May, when the plant was put into the greenhouse, everything would be ready and I could hit the ground running.  That didn't happen.  Bad weather, health issues and work made things challenging.  It wasn't until June 19th that I finally got all of the greenhouse stuff hooked up and running.  On June 20th I pollinated.   If I did anything right, I got all of the required stuff done when it needed to be done this season, but I was never head of it for the first couple of months and a lot of the little things didn't get done.

The spring weather was probably a tie for the worst growing weather I've ever had.   The interesting thing is that the other year that ties was the year I grow my biggest pumpkin to date.  Mays weather was terrible.  Maybe not as bad as the year I grew the 1220, but nearly as bad.   June's weather wasn't a lot better.  Was probably 1 1/2 to 2 weeks behind in vine growth by the end of June.  Even had frost on June 23rd.  I spent a lot of time the early part of the year just trying to keep the plants warm rather than trying to grow big.  I'd guess I lost 150 pounds on the pumpkin this year due to the weather.

In May, my dear mother-in-law passed away so spent some time in Canada.  Christine loved the pumpkins.  Wish we could have one year got her to a weigh-off.   She would always ask how the pumpkins where doing and loved to tell me about a big pumpkin her father once grow when she was a child.  Good neighbors helped take care of things when I was away.

The 2005 plant wasn't remarkable in the early season.  Vine growth was as fast as the 2255 which was outdoors in the cold and I sometimes mourned that I didn't grow the 2255 in the greenhouse.  The 2005 didn't much like the heat and easily flagged in the sun and the color wasn't great early on.  The 2255 by July had frost damage and bad wind damage.  Pumpkins on both plants were pollinated on the same day, but the 2255 pumpkin never really got going.  Weather damage, cold temps and then later disease took it down early.

By the end of July I was really disappointed with the 2005 plant.  It was gorgeous looking, but growth was slow on the pumpkin.  The root system on the plant was second to none.  Roots everywhere.  I hadn't seen roots like that since the plant that grew my 1220.  I had that plant vines perfectly maintained with everything nicely buried.  Leaves had great color.  Even the old leaves on the plant looked pristine.  But the pumpkin just was not growing well and I could not figure out why.

I did it later than I should have, but I sent in for a tissue test.  Honestly, I thought the season was a loss which was particularly disappointing because I spent so much time setting up the greenhouse and I didn't feel like I was getting a return on that investment.  But I figured the tissue test could at least give me info I could use the next season and that was the main reason I did it.  I'm really glad I did. 

My tissue test totally surprised me. I had been diligently doing EC testing and my numbers always came back really low.  It didn't seem to matter how much fertilizer I put down, but the numbers would only move a little.  I even bought another EC tester to make sure the first one was working.  They were the same.

EC testing tells you the amount of "salts" in the soil via an electric current.  Fertilizers are salts, so it can give you an idea of how much fertilizer is in the soil.  It doesn't tell you how much of each NPK, but just total.  In my spring soil test it showed low nitrogen and high potassium and phosphorous.  My soil is sandy, so it can leach nitrogen easily.  Potassium and phosphorous don't leach much.  So when my numbers were low, I assumed nitrogen was the missing element.  So I was putting down a fair amount of nitrogen with just a little potassium and phosphorous.  I wasn't seeing overly big, dark leaves or crazy vine growth, so that seemed to confirm my strategy.  Just prior to the tissue test I was considering adding even more nitrogen.  When I got my tissue test back I had to put the brakes on everything.

The tissue test showed very, very high nitrogen levels and moderately low potassium and phosphorous levels.  I called the soil scientist about the test results and asked why the numbers had changed so much since spring (note: what is in the soil and in the tissue of the plant isn't always the same thing).   On the potassium and phosphorous part he said, "The plant is just using it up."  So basically the pumpkin was ringing the dinner bell. 

The nitrogen part I didn't have to ask him about.  I knew where that had all come front.  The interesting thing about that point between where I sent in the tissue test and I was waiting for results to come back the plant completely changed.  It went from an average growing plant with neat and tidy vines to a jungle.  Mineralization had kicked in and vines started growing from everywhere, leaves started getting really tall and big and the plant became something of a mess.   That literally happened overnight.

On that same phone call I had mentioned an issue to the soil scientist about my fertilizer injector not working so I hadn't really used it to that point of the season.  When I mentioned what was happening he said, "try turning the water volume up."  I had forgotten that on the valve I had turned the water volume down and as soon as I turned it up just a little the injector started sucking up the fertilizer again.  I love the injector and look forward to using it for an entire season next year.  Makes it easy to evenly spread fertilizer throughout the patch.

On July 27th the pumpkin was only about 375 pounds and not growing very well.  About the same time as the tissue test.  From August 5th to the 12th I was away on vacation, but had started the adjustment on the potassium and phosphorous.  On August 13th I measured and the pumpkin had doubled in weight and it continued on that path through the end of August.

The first week of September the weather was unseasonably warm and the pumpkin continued to crank along.  The last two weeks have been very cool and about a week ago weight gains have been more consistent with what you would expect for a pumpkin over 90 days old and in fall weather. 

Next year I should have all of the pieces in place and hitting the ground running.  I think with a descent seed, better spring weather and everything working on May 1st that next season could be an improvement.  But like this year, pumpkin growing typically is never what you expect it to be.

Friday, September 6, 2019

How to Take Care of Rot on Pumpkin Plant

Anytime of the year, but particularly late in the season, you have to watch out for rot on the pumpkin plant.  I'm not in a humid environment, but even still, rot is a problem and it can sneak up on you.  The stump, stem and pumpkin in particular are vulnerable with the amount of water we pour onto these plants. 

This morning I was a little ways from the pumpkin on the stem side and decided I should scan that side because it isn't easy to see and it isn't very accessible with all the leaves around it.  I noticed there were some minor cracks that were forming on the stem, that didn't really concern me, but the color was a little concerning.  So I went around to the other side and leaned over the pumpkin to check it out. 

I found there was a little rot forming around those cracks.   So I wiped the mushy rotted stuff away (it wasn't very deep) and then took a fair amount of sulfur powder and rubbed it into the affected areas and all around it.  After I got done with that, I decided to pour a 10% solution of bleach with a touch of sulfur powder in it and all over the stem area.  There are some places under the stem that there wasn't enough space to get my fingers into that I wanted to make sure got hit because I couldn't be sure what was going on under there.  Now I need to keep that area dry.  Typically when you catch this stuff early and use a little bleach and sulfur powder it will knockthe problem right out.   I lost a pumpkin once because there was a spot of rot under the stem that I couldn't see and by the time I found it I was too late.  Best to check often to be safe.

Monday, September 2, 2019

And Down the Stretch they Come!

I feel like it is the final leg of the Kentucky Derby.  Just three and half weeks until I'll be cutting the pumpkin off the vine for the Thanksgiving Point weigh-off.  Did some measurements today for the first time in 6 days (it was a brutal week this last week) and the pumpkin is still growing nicely.  Nights have been cool, but it has been abnormally warm for this time of year with each day this last week in the 90s and some high 90s.  My good wife doesn't appreciate it, but it is good for pumpkin growing.

Friday and Saturday was Swiss Days in Midway and we've been booth managers at the famous taco booth for the last three years.  It takes a village to build a taco.  Literally.   At peak hours, we'll have about 60 volunteers making Navajo tacos and we need each and every one of them to get it done.  It is hot and dirty work with 14 hour days for the two days and about 40 hours of work over the week.  I'm glad to be back to pumpkin growing.  

My main focus over the last week has been killing off the spider mite population, taking out old/dead leaves and keeping up with the potassium and phosphorous demands of the pumpkin. All of that seems to be going fairly well.   Pumpkin is still putting on about 17.5 pounds a day right now, which in my book, for the beginning of September, is pretty good.  Looks like we stay in the high 80s and low 90s until about Sunday and then we start seeing some more seasonal type forecasts with low 80s after that.   With the greenhouse, if there is sun, I can get it warn enough in most any outdoor temperature eventually.  It is the night temps that I need to stay up for the next few weeks.

I'll kind of let the vines go over the next two weeks to get some new, healthy leaves for photosynthesis.  Fortunately this plant has no problems growing leaves and vines right now, so replacing the old stuff to keep the plant fresh, isn't an issue. 

Today, I'll be putting down some Actinotate and Biotamax on the soil to help keep any soil born diseases at bay.  To this point I've seen very minimal powdery mildew, which has been a pleasant surprise.  That tells me my misting hasn't been too much and my rotation of Actinovate, TKO and Daconil have worked well.  I was very concerned going into this season of how to best manage that stuff in a greenhouse enviroment, because it is all kind of new to me and I knew in a greenhouse that there would be more disease pressure than growing outdoors.

Very pleased with where things are at right now.  Not going to hit the lofty goal I had coming into the season, but for where I was at around the end of July, I can't complain.  I was way behind at the beginning of August, so it is a pleasant surprise to still be where I appear to be at right now.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Pumpkin Updates

Goodness.  I can't believe it has been this long since my last post.  I'll try to be more diligent over the next month, but it is going to be a busy one, so I can't make any promises.  Where to start...

I pulled the 2255 plant in July because I wanted to spend time with my son, helping him with his plant.  That poor 2255 plant had been through a lot.  The wind and frost had done a number on it and it being outdoors, compared to the 2005 plant were night and day.

The 2005 plant was disappointing in July.   The salad looked beautiful and I had a root system on that plant that I hadn't seen since my 1421 plant that grew my personal best, but that pumpkin just didn't seem to want to take off.  It was way behind and that was discouraging.  I hadn't measured it much, so I don't know what it peaked at for growth rate, but the eyeball test made it fairly obvious.   However, I kept plugging away at that plant and didn't give up on it.

The very beginning of August, my family and I went on vacation to Lake Powell for a week.  I got a tissue test on that plant a week or so before and it showed that I was mildly deficient for potassium and phosphorous and through the roof to high on nitrogen.  All of those numbers caught me by surprise.  In the spring my soil test showed I was very low in nitrogen and high in potassium and phosphorous.  During the season I was doing EC testing regularly and it most always showed I was at about half of what I should be.  Since my numbers were low in the spring for nitrogen I gave a little extra nitrogen each time, because I figured that must be the low number and I didn't see overly fast growth for the vines and big dark leaves, so I knew nitrogen had to be the missing piece.

Then, really in one day, the leaves just took off.  Normal leaves started getting really tall and I started getting sucker vines all over the place.  As a matter-o-fact I remember distinctly a week before that day noticing that the leaves didn't show any sign of there being too much nitrogen and even considered doing more nitrogen because I thought maybe I was still under doing it.  I asked the soil scientist why the flip-flop in numbers.  His answer was that the plant was using a lot of potassium and phosphorous and obviously I was putting down too much nitrogen.  So I haven't put down almost any nitrogen since and have been doing a fair amount of potassium and some phosphorous.

I started to notice some changes just before going to Powell in the size of the pumpkin, but after Lake Powell it was a little more obvious.  That pumpkin was growing fairly well.   I don't know for sure, but my guess is the pumpkin peaked in the low 30s per day, which isn't great, but it has just kind of kept trucking since.  Right now it is still doing 20 pounds per day with no signs so far of slowing down.  Weather has stayed consistently warm and the forecast looks like more of the same.  That might help keep it going.  Nighttime lows starting the beginning of August started a dip however.  40s in the night right now, with some nights as low as 43.

I have a theory as to why this pumpkin has done what it has done.  Some might be genetics.  Some pumpkins are just long growers.  Will never hit 50lbs per day, but they just keep chugging along to get their weight.   I also think that maybe I was a little deficient in potassium when the pumpkin started hitting its peak growth time and was ringing the dinner bell but couldn't quite get all that it wanted.  Lastly, I think it was our spring weather.  It was horrible and I think size wise it was a bit behind, but also maybe maturity wise.  Typically a pumpkin starts taking off around day 28.  This one didn't.  Maybe that rapid growth phase was delayed a little by the weather.

Talking with Sadiq and Joe Scherber, they saw the same kind of growth pattern this year as myself.  Disappointing growth in July and then much better than expected growth in August.  Both of them saw the same kind of weather as me (although not quite as cool).

Patch tour came to my house on Saturday.  Nice of growers to come up all the way to Midway to check out the patch.  I was told I got first prize for views.  Patch tours are always fun and a great learning experience.  From what I gather, there are four pumpkins that will be neck and neck going into the end of September if everyone was giving straight numbers.  Sadiq I would guess would have the greatest advantage.  His 1,200 square foot plant with fairly healthy leaves should be able to power him over the next 30 days.  Joe has the healthiest looking plant, but the plant is only 400 square feet, so he'll need those leaves to push through to the end, but he has a great looking pumpkin.  Andrew is the wild card.  Just know the numbers that he shared and he wasn't on the tour, so I can't say where he was at currently.  My advantage is that my numbers were the biggest of everyone, but everyone is so close in size it doesn't really matter because I assume I'm going to come in light and I suspect my night time temperatures will start giving me problems eventually.  The other wild card is who has a pumpkin in the weeds.  There is probably somebody that isn't talking.  It should be a fun weigh-off.  Happy to see a number of pumpkins over 1,000 pounds, because that hasn't happened over the last 3 years.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Cooling the Plants in the Heat of the Summer

It is a hot one today.  In the three years I've been in Midway, today's forecast of 98 degrees is the highest I can remember.  When you have a plant in a greenhouse it obviously can get even hotter.  Yesterday we got to 97 degrees and the greenhouse cooling system did its job fairly well.

If you are seeing burnt leaves on your plants the best solution I've found is misting the plants during the heat of the day.  Anything over about 91 degrees and your plant isn't doing much growing.  So keeping it below that is critical to grow a big pumpkin.   In July and August, that can be hard, but some misting during the heat of the day can do the the job.  

At the old house I just used a sprinkler that could spray about 30 feet put it did it with a fairly fine mist.  You don't want a lot of water.  Just enough to lightly dampen the leaves in a way that it can fairly quickly evaporate.  I used a hose end timer to have it run at set times.

For the greenhouse I've setup foggers at the top of the greenhouse and use a Rachio controller with the Cycle and Soak setting turned on which gives me a nice mist every 15 minutes during the hot part of the day and every 20 minutes during the warm parts of the day.  

With the fans running and the foggers going I can, even on hot days like today, keep the plants about 3-8 degrees cooler (see screen shot above).   Current temperature is 96 degrees, but the greenhouse is 89 degrees currently.  Our typical summer day is about 91 degrees here and on average the greenhouse is around 88 degrees during the hot part of the day.  Which means less stress on the plant, little to no leaf burn and possibly more growth.

I'm using Jain foggers.  Fairly easy to setup and they put out a very fine mist with very little dripping after they shut off.  Like the name implies, it looks like a fog when there is no wind and if you run them long enough.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Latest Pictures from the Patch

I've been a little slack on the posts lately.   Pictured here is the 2005 pumpkin (AKA Uncle Sam).   This pumpkin I think is shaping up to have the 2005 ribbing and the 2416 coloring, which if it is true, could be ideal in terms of looks.  I've never had a better looking plant in mid-July than this one.   Great color, the leaves are all in great shape and the plant looks healthy.  The root system also appears to be impressive.  I see roots all over the place.

Growth hasn''t seemed to be matching the beautiful plant so I sent in a tissue test to see what was going on.  In my spring soil analysis potassium and phosphorous were very night and nitrogen was low.  When doing my EC testing the numbers consistently came in under the ideal, so the natural assumption, since sandy soil leaches nitrogen easily, is that nitrogen would be what was missing.  So I've consistently been adding nitrogen throughout the season in spoon feeding amounts.  Only in the last 1 1/2 weeks have I seen the plant react in such a way with bigger leaves and darker color to indicate that the nitrogen was making much of an impact.    But in the last 1 1/2 leaves the leaves did go a bit jungley.  Gotten noticeably taller, darker and with bigger leaves.  But as you can see the leaves don't have that overly bloated, blue color when the nitrogen has gotten to be too much.

I have been adding potassium and phosphorous in much smaller amounts as compared to nitrogen over the last two months.  I was a bit surprised by the tissue sample results however.  Nitrogen was very high in the tissue and potassium and phosphorous were a bit low.  What!?   Didn't see that coming because my soil was just the opposite back in April.  So probably for the next month I'm not going to be doing any nitrogen and possibly do some foliar potassium and phosphorous in the form of TKO along with soil applications. 

I'm wondering if the nitrogen has been the inhibiting factor to this point, because of too much.  It will be interesting to see if as things come more into balance if the growth curve will improve.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

How to Know How Much to Fertilize a Giant Pumpkin

One thing that is critical, but kind of difficult is to know how much to fertilize a pumpkin plant for maximum growth.  This is kind of something I don't feel I've fully figured out, but something I think I'm starting to get a better idea on.   In my experience there are four ways to know how much to fertilize a plant.

First, is a soil test.  A good professional soil test can let you know exactly what you have in your soil and can give you some idea of what you need to add.  One challenge that can come from a soil test is knowing how much of the nutrients in your soil are actually available to a plant.  For example, your test may show you have a lot of calcium and a lot of potassium.  The question is how much of that is in a form that a plant can uptake and is having too much potassium affecting the plant's ability to uptake the potassium.   A soil test is crucial, but doesn't give all of the answers and unless you are testing frequently, it doesn't tell you how the numbers are changing as the season goes on.  It is more of a one-time snapshot.

Second, leaf tissue test.  The nice thing about a leaf tissue test is it tells you what is in the plant (more accurately, what is in the leaf), so it gives you a better idea of what the plant is up taking and what might be deficient.  So in some ways more accurate than a soil test, but the two go hand in hand in a lot of ways.  A lot of growers will get a tissue test around the time they pollinate.  It is kind of expensive, but a great way to know exactly where your plant is at.

Third, EC testing.  Using a little EC testing unit it can tell you about what the fertility of your soil would be based on its conductivity.  Most of the macro nutrients are in a form of a salt, which conducts electricity.  So you shoot for a range and it will give you an idea of where you are at with macro nutrients in the soil at a given time.  The nice thing about EC testing is you can do it frequently and then make adjustments accordingly.  The downside to it is that it doesn't tell you if you have too much of one thing or not enough of another.  You just get one number for everything.  My soil is sandy, so nitrogen leaches easily.   If my number is low and my soil test said he was a little high with phosphorous and potassium then I an assume that my nitrogen is low.

Fourth, is the eyeball and experience test.  Plant color, growth and what the vine tips are doing can give you good clues to what your nutrients are doing for you as well.  It can be a little tricky at times because yellow leaves can be caused by a lot of things, but where and when the leaves yellow are excellent clues to potential issues.  The downside to the eyeball test is that you usually get information a little too late.  Only after the problem occurs.  But if you can't afford to tissue test, weekly, it is the next best thing. 

The best solution is a combination of all the above.  The right testing at the right times will give you the information you need to grow a big pumpkin.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Biologicals for Giant Pumpkin Plants

Today I gave all of the plants biologicals such as beneficial bacteria and fungi to help to protect the plants.  I sprayed Actinovate on the leaves and on the soil which helps to protect the leaves from things like powdery mildew and soil born diseases. Then on the soil I also sprayed azos and Biotamax (tricoaderma & bacteria).  This time of the year the soils are warm and moist.  Perfect conditions for the bad guys to try to take over the biology of the soil, so in theory, adding the good guys to the soil helps the good guys dominate as well as protect and feed the plant. 

One thing I recently read was the idea of how the soil near the new growth is exposed to the sun so it dries out faster, but the soil under the leaf canopy says moist because it is shaded.  So the challenge is not over watering the stump area while under watering the out edges of the plant.   I don't have a great solution for this, but something to think about.

One other biological I add while burying the vines is mycos to each leaf node along with granular seaweed, azos and humic acid.  Just a pinch at where the roots come out at each leaf node. 

Not since my 1421 plant from years ago have I had so many roots popping out of the soil on my 2005 plant.  In particular I can tell these roots are coming off the side vines.  I may be over watering some (I backed off a little on the water today--hard because of the temperature swings), so that could be why, but I hope it is because this plant has vigorous root growth.  The plant seems very happy.

The 2005 plant has been terminated on about 1/2 of its growing space.   I would guess I'll have it terminated 90% by the middle of July.   In about 2 weeks from now that pumpkin should be taking off.

The 2255 plant has a lot more room to grow.  On one side it is about 25% terminated.  On the other side it has a fair amount more room.  I'll let this plant grow as much as I can, because the old leaves on the plant are already hammered, so I'll need new growth to power the pumpkin.   It has only taken up about 35% of its available growing space.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Day 10

2005 pumpkin AKA "Uncle Sam"
I usually take measurements on the pumpkins 10 days after pollination to see how they are growing.  Day 10 measurements don't really mean anything however.  I know one great grower who had some very, very big pumpkins and he said his day 10 measurements were always very small. 

No barn stormers in my patch after just 10 days, but I would have been really surprised if I did have one.  Two days after pollination we were in the 30s for the lows for the next three days.  So about a third of these pumpkins lives have been in cold weather.   The good news is that both pumpkins seem set and are growing okay all considering.

One interesting thing about both plants have been how in sync they have been.  Growth rate has been very similar on the main vine.  Both plants had females at 8 feet and then again at 14 feet and all of the females flowers opened on the same day.   If I were to guess, the 2255 plant might be the better plant, since it is grown outdoors and harsher conditions, but it has kept up.

The one noticeable difference is that 2005 plant is in much better shape.  Winds and frost have taken a toll on the 2255 plant.  I was out by the patch with my daughter and she said, "What is wrong with that plant?"  It is pretty noticeable.  It will be interesting to see where they both end up at the end of the year.  My guess is that wear and tear on the 2255 plant by the end of September will have taken its toll.

I've decided to name the 2005 pumpkin Uncle Sam and the 2255 pumpkin Frosty.  Uncle Sam because of the Federal Governments contribution to the greenhouse and Frosty from the battles the 2255 plant have had to endure.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A Little Frost & a New Pollination

So on Monday I found that the 2255 plant did get some front damage.  Took a day for it to really show up.  No destroyed leaves but maybe 1 out of 10 leaves show some damage on them.  The pumpkin on that plant seems to have taken but is growing slow.   I think extra cold temperatures slowed it up.  The day after I pollinated it was in the 30s for the low the next 4 nights.  Hard to get much growth when more than half of the day is below 50 degrees.  Even after that we haven't had a low in the 50s yet.

I pollinated a second female on the plant this morning.  I'll let it grow out 14 days or so and see if it does any better.

2005 pumpkin is growing a little better than the 2255, but not tearing it up.  Its been growing in the same weather as the 2255, so no expectations that it should be blowing it up.  I'm interested in seeing what day 10 looks like for it to see if it is close to par.  If it is then it could be interesting. 

I've come up with names for both of the pumpkins.  Once I have my fruits down to one on each plant I'll make an announcement on the names.  Last week's weather inspired me.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

How to Build a Smart Greenhouse on the Cheap

This video is the culmination of about 4 years of research on the internet on how to build a smart greenhouse.    I share this information here so you don't have to spend all the time that I did  if you want to do so.  At the end of this video it talks about how to get an almost free greenhouse via a grant.

Watch on YouTube here.  I wish I knew where that stupid cricket was that you can hear in that video.  Pretty annoying.

About four years ago, when I knew we were moving to Midway, UT, I started researching how to setup a smart greenhouse for my giant pumpkin growing.  You've heard of smart homes, well, why not a smart greenhouse?   I knew the environment in Midway was going to tougher than Denver's.  We are at over 5,600 feet and the growing season is a whole month shorter than Denver's.  So I started researching how to deal with cool nights and hot days.  A greenhouse was the obvious solution and the new house in Midway has enough land for one.  But a greenhouse can't really control night time temperatures.  The thin plastic really provides no insulation.

So the first solution was to add 55 gallon water barrels painted black and filled with water.  Those black barrels absorb the sun's warmth during the day (85 degrees+ in the water) and then after sun down release that heat during the night.  So far, what I've found is that the greenhouse stays warmer then the outside air for a couple of hours, but not much more than that.

The next solution I came up with to help with the temperatures was a geo thermal system.  I dug out the pumpkin patch soil prior to moving into the house and put corrugated pipe winding back and forth through the whole patch about two feet down in the soil and then covered it.  On one corner of the greenhouse that soil pops up and is attached to an inline fan.  On the opposite corner that same pipe pops up and goes to the top of the greenhouse where it sucks the air in.  That hot air then warms the soil during the day, which can then be radiated into the greenhouse.  You have to be careful not to run it too long however, because I'm told you can burn up the roots.

The next solution was shared to me by Ralf Laub and was probably the 2nd best idea he gave me (the best idea saved me thousands of dollars and is shared at the end of the video).  Ralf lives in Vernal and has a very similar growing environment.  In his greenhouse he added one of those portable, camping hot water heaters for showers that he has connected to his irrigation.  That hot water heater warms the water and then is mixed with his regular irrigation water.   The combination of the warmed water and the exhaust from the hot water heater warms the greenhouse early in the morning just before sunrise.  These hot water heaters don't have enough volume (about 3-5 gallons per minute) to run an irrigation system, so that is why you have to mix two irrigation lines together.

For the heat of the day I put in indoor/outdoor fans (thanks mom for the Christmas present--best way to build a smart greenhouse on the cheap) that are controlled by an indoor/outdoor smart plug that can stand a little water.  This smart plug has an app that I can set multiple timers for and I can also manually turn on or off.  Earlier this spring I was in Canada.  I have a Acurite wireless temperature gauge that also has an app and will give me alert messages if the greenhouse gets to hot.  A couple of times I got alerts so I would go to my smart plug app and click the button for the fans and cooled things down fairly quickly.

Also for the heat of the day I added a fogger misting system in the roof of the greenhouse that uses Jain foggers.  It sprays a very fine mist into the air.  Just enough to cool but not so much that the moister stays on the leaves long, which is perfect).  It is controlled by a Rachio sprinkler controller that I love and controls all of the irrigation.   I got it and the state rebated something like $120 off for it because it can help save how much water you use on the lawn.  Rachio also has an app so I can manually run the water as I need from anywhere and set dozens of water schedules.  The downside to Rachio is it isn't cheap, but with the rebate it made it very worth it.

All of these devices have an API that allows you to write scripts (programming experience needed).  My plan is to write a script that automates intelligently the different pieces.  So for example, the fans will come on when it gets over 84 degrees, but turn off when it gets below 84.  But also, when the foggers turn on the fans will turn off for 1 minute and then turn back on.

Does all of this stuff work and is it worth the time and effort?  The honest answer to that is I think so, but time will tell.   Most of the stuff I talk about in the video has only been up and running for a week or less.  Circumstances and time have set me behind this year.  Originally I planned to have most all of this done back in April.  So I really lost the advantages of it to this point, so hopefully I can make up some of that lost time now.  I can tell you I've never had leaves look so good at this point of the season.

Is some of this stuff an unfair advantage?   Yes and no, but mostly no.  Even with all of this smart greenhouse stuff my growing environment isn't even close to someone that is growing in Ohio or Rhode Island outdoors.  Today is the 2nd day of summer and it was 37 degrees last night (greenhouse was just 6 degrees warmer with heat lamps and a space heater running, plus all of the rest of the stuff I mentioned).  Tonight is forecasted for 32 degrees (this isn't normal).   An average summer nighttime low in July for me is usually only 50-54 degrees.  I just looked at Ron Wallace's night time temperatures for July of least year and he is usually between 60-70 degrees at night.  His highs typically don't get much more than 90.   So I would take his environment over my greenhouse every time.  For me, the greenhouse is just a way to try to get things closer to normal.

I hope you enjoy the video.  I hope it saved you some time, got you some good ideas, helps you grow bigger and saves you some money.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Project Over 3 Years in the Making; Geo Thermal in the Pumpkin Patch

I figured I would have had a lot of this stuff done back in March, but such is life.   The good news:  geothermal is up and running.  I started researching about geothermal systems about 4 years ago when we were deciding to move.  Before we moved into the house I had the one patch dug out and put in corrugated pipe which was then covered.  Today I finally hooked up the inline fan to the pipe and ran it for the first time and it works.

Geothermal 2016 - X is about where the stump is now
At 11:30 today I turned it on for the first time and took the soil temperature with a probe the goes 4 inches down.  With two nights of 34 degrees in the forecast, I've been scrambling again to figure out how to keep the plants warm and if I could warm the soil so that radiant heat would help keep the plants from freezing (someone forgot to tell the weatherman that it is the first weekend of summer).   Eddy Z had warned me that he burnt up his roots with his geothermal system his first year, so I knew to not to do too much.  At the same time I wanted to give it a test to see how much I could warm the soil for the big freeze.  I've had the temps mostly around 84 degrees in the greenhouse most of the day, but let it get up to 94 degrees when I first turned the fan on.  

The pipe that goes underground goes up to the top of the greenhouse so the air that is pulled in is probably 4-7 degrees warmer than what my temperature gauge shows.   I put my hand at the exhaust end of the pipe to feel the air coming out after about 1/3 hour.  It was clearly cooler than the air in the greenhouse.  Eddy had told me that the soil warms a fair amount more at the intake end of the pipes and heats less at the other end, which makes sense, so I have the intake end at the stump end of the plant.

At 4:30 today I shut the fan down and took the soil temperature again at the same spot that I took the temperature earlier.  I was pleasantly surprised.   When I started the soil was 68 degrees.  When I stopped it 5 hours later it was 80 degrees.  Not bad.  That is actually more warming than I would have supposed.  This will be particularly nice in the early parts of future seasons when the soil is cold.

In other news, I'll be pollinating both plants tomorrow.  Both at about 14-15ish feet.  My thought is to cross the 2005 and 2255 together.   Then depending on what pollen is available to possibly sibb cross the 2255 or cross with the 282, but I haven't checked to see what males I have available.  More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Last Two Weeks

Okay, I'm a bit behind on my posts, but I've been busy.  I posted on Facebook that my growing has felt like I'm swimming up a waterfall, but things are better now.   This last Sunday it hit 27 degrees for the low, so somebody obviously didn't tell the weatherman that it is June.  The day before that we had strong, sustained winds for the entire day and all of the hoop houses had significant damage to the plastic, but the plants were protected enough to be fine.

The next day I took an extra hoop house and added it to the end to extend it and then used chairs to create a wing for the side vines that were out of the hoop house.   I had obsessively been watching the weather, so even 10 days before I knew the frost was coming.  I assumed eventually it would get updated to something like 40 degrees, but as the day grew closer the foretasted low went from 32 to 28  as it approached.  Officially at the house it was something like 27 degrees.  In June!

I know of more than one pumpkin grower and gardener that lost plants.  I feel sorry for them.  Hard to deal with these large plants and temperatures that low.  Using multiple tarps, heat lamps, blankets and light bulbs the plants stayed happy.  As for me, not quite as happy to be spending time trying to keep plants happy rather than trying to grow big pumpkins.

When the plants are in hoop houses it is hard to do a great job of watering.  I got the plants out yesterday finally and then gave them some heavy watering today after burying vines with humic acid, seaweed, mycos, azos and Actinovate.

I've been pretty good about doing EC testing this year and have been giving the plants a lot more fertilizer this year than I have in the past.  This sandy soil seems to really leach nutrients faster than I thought, so in particularly nitrogen has been going down at a rate of about 100% more than I've typically done in the past.  Today I gave both patches a pretty good dose of nitrogen with just a little phosphorous, potassium and iron.  I prefer spoon feeding with divided doses, but I hope to till the last of the cover crop this afternoon and I wanted to till it all in together.

The 2255 plant right now I would say is the champ of the patch.  Which is a little disappointing.  Not that the 2255 seed isn't good, but the 2005 plant is in the greenhouse, which should mean it is getting a little more TLC, but it is a little behind in growth.  The bigger issue is that 2005 plant doesn't like it when it gets even a little warm and folds when it gets over 85 degrees and I'm not sure why.  Both 2005s that I started were that way.   I'm increasing water on it to see if that makes it happier.

Both plants are around 13-14 foot in length right now I would guess and growing quickly.  Both also have a female flower in the vine tip so I would guess I'm 7-8 days out from pollinating right now.  Timing is good.  That will give about 100 days to the first weigh-off.   Usually around days 90 to 105 a pumpkin has stopped growing or just barely growing, so I should be able to get almost everything out of them if can get these pollinations to take.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Updates from the Pumpkin Patch

Yesterday and today are looking to be the best weather we've had in about 3 weeks.  Cool, cloudy and rainy has been the norm, with the daytime highs in only the low 50s for the most part.  NOT great growing weather.   I've done everything I can to try to mitigate that.  I don't think I've turned off the heat lamps in the last three weeks.   On rate occasion, the sun has popped out for an hour or so and I could get the temps into the high 70s or sometimes low 80s during those stretches, but typically it has been a battle.

Color on the 2005 is much better these days so the RAW Grow and nitrogen have been doing the trick.  Some but not a lot of side vine growth on that plant, but the main vine growth has been good.  I've had to create a hole for the main vine to grow through yesterday because it has outgrown the 8 foot long hoop house.  A female on the main vine tip on it.  This plant is a bit of wuss when it gets hot so it will need some babying.

The 2255 is maybe just 8 inches behind on main vine growth. It is at the very end of the hoop house.  Side vine growth is good.  Big leaves on this plant.   Nothing seems to bother this plant much.  It reacts the same in all weather conditions and temperatures.   It also has a female at the end of the vine tip.

Weather forecast starting Sunday looks like we might be in a more spring like weather pattern.   70s and 80s with a lower change of rain.  Yea!  Maybe we can start growing these things.  It has just felt like a battle most of May.   Comparing this years plants to last year (which had much better weather), I would guess I'm about 6 days behind on growth.  Which isn't bad considering.  I started the plants 3 days later than last year, so maybe 3-4 days behind when looking at the total number of days grown.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Grow Lights for Cold, Cloudy Weather

I've seen this before.  Back in 2013 Denver had its of its worst Mays that I can recall.  I believe there was three days that the sun cracked through the clouds at all that year.  By the end of the month my plants looked a little lime green.  I thought at the time that my season would be dismal.   It turned out that it couldn't be further from the truth.  I grew my biggest pumpkin that year and by the inches was way above state record territory.  Two other growers also had the inches to be state records as well and one turned out to be the new state record.  The lesson was that every growing day is an import day, but maybe May is not an overly import month.

The forecast for the next 10 days looks pretty bad.  Highs in the low 50s with cloudy/rainy weather.  The rain doesn't bother me at all and actually I'm for it.  Since the plants are in hoop houses/greenhouses they don't know when it rains and it is good for the rest of the patch.  The lack of warmth is a mild problem.  I have heat lamps in all of the hoop houses, so we can probably keep the plants at least at 70 degrees during the day and maybe warmer.

The lack of sun is a bigger problem. In the greenhouse I've hooked up two grow lights over the two plants.  This will give a little supplemental light to the plants and allow me to keep the plants covered for warmth a little longer in the morning.

Hoping June has much better weather.  It is an important month.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


I've been keeping the most important things going in the pumpkin patch, but it has been a struggle.  My dear mother-in-law passed away a little over two weeks ago, so the whole family headed to Canada for the funeral.  The timing wasn't great for pumpkin growing.  Two days before heading out I finally had a window to get the plants in the ground, but for that first week the plants tend to be pretty sensitive to the wind, temperature and bright sun, so I usually baby them for the first couple of weeks while they wire up.

A good friend volunteered to take care of the plants while I was gone.  He basically turned the heat lamps on and off and opened and closed the doors each day.  The 2255 plants fared rather nicely, but the 2005 plants struggled.  The two days I was home before heading out of town the 2005 plants did very nicely, so I thought we were safe, but looking back it was cloudy and cool.  The sun came out the 2nd day I was gone and some of the leaves burnt badly.  I think that was due to the fact the plants were in the pots a little too long, so the plant had gotten bigger than its roots could fully support.

All plants seem to be growing nicely, but the 2005 leaf color is a little light.  Yesterday I gave the plants some 7-4-5.   Today I gave the 2005 a little cane molasses in the water and then did a foliar spray of multi-mineral on all of the plants with just a very small touch of nitrogen added.

Weather for the next 7 days looks like rain, clouds and cool temperatures, so not ideal.