Monday, November 25, 2019

1325 Johnson Pumpkin Plant

Started one of the 1325 pumpkin seeds last week to make sure the seeds are viable.  This nice little plant was produced.  I think this could be a good cross.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Mulder Chart for Nutrient Interactions

The Mulder chart that Joey Hogan shared I found very useful.  It basically shows how different nutrients interact in a very easy and understandable way.  In giant pumpkin growing we always talk about a balanced soil.   This chart shows the interactions of different nutrients and can be useful when trying to balance your soil. Click to enlarge:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

2020 Pumpkin Seed Lineup, Kind Of

Okay, my seed lineup got solidified today when I got a bubble in the mail.  It's like an early Christmas.  I haven't met Mr. Karl Haist yet, but I'm hoping he will be in Vegas because I want to shake his hand.  I asked him for one seed and he sent many.  And they good ones.  I'm going to grow my own 1325 Johnson seed this next year, but haven't decided what seed I'll grow in the greenhouse yet.  The 2005 seed is the one I grew last year and it grew the biggest pumpkin in 2019.  The 2nd seed is the 2517 which is a seed from the biggest pumpkin grown in the world this last year.  Decisions, decisions.  Which one would you grow and more importantly why?


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Giant Pumpkin Seed Gentics's Lineage of the Kings

When you look at pumpkin seeds that have consistently grown the biggest pumpkins in the world over the years you find a line that connects the dots to the seeds that seem to point a path to the future.  From time to time there have been side shoots to these lines, but typically the progeny on those lines peter out quickly.

So a little history.  Today's lineage and the seed that was the one that everyone wanted when I first started growing was the 1068 Wallace.  All of the big pumpkins today come from the 1068 genetics.  The first pumpkin over 1,500 pounds was grown by Ron Wallace from his own 1068 seed.  A lot of growers grew a personal best from the 1068.

The next big seed was the 1161 Rodonis.  I grew a 1161 Rodonis and it grew me a personal best pumpkin.  That seed grew the world record 1810 Stevens, but that seed line seemed to peter out.  A number of big pumpkins came from it, but the progeny didn't seem to produce any lineage that continued to grow big pumpkins.

There was also the 1404 Bryson that grew the 1818 Bryson, but that line fizzled out as well.

The next big seed was also a world record grower and it is a second generation out of the 1068 Wallace.  That seed was the 1725 Harp.  The 1725 Harp produced what I would call a game changer seed. The famous 2009 Wallace seed, which was the first one ton pumpkin and was grown by the same Ron Wallace that was mentioned earlier.

I got a 2009 seed from Ron and I didn't even ask for it.  Unfortunately it was the only seed that didn't germinated that year.  The 2009 produced the world record 2032 Mathison and the world record  2323 Meier world record pumpkins.   A lot of big pumpkins came out of the 2009 Wallace seed.

At that point the seed line deviated just a little.  Out of the 2009 Wallace, but not directly came the 2145 McMullen which produced the current world record 2624 pound pumpkin.  I say deviated, because I would have expected the line to the next hottest seed to be directly out of the 2009 seed.  There have been a lot of big pumpkins from 2009 progeny, but none have seemed to be as good as the 2145, which is 3rd generation 2009.   The interesting thing is that mama's side of the genetics in the 2145 is a lot of 2009 and papa's side was mostly 1161.  So in some ways the 1161 Rodonis line didn't really die out, it just took a few generations for it to pop back up.

What is the next big seed?  My money is on the 2005 Haist line.  It produced the biggest pumpkin in the world in 2019 and the average weight of the pumpkins grown was something like 1,700 pounds and all of them went heavy to the chart.  I grew that seed and wish I could grow it again.  Didn't have ideal conditions this year, didn't have good health and would have changed up my fertilizer program some knowing what I know now.  My guess is the next world record will come out of the 2005 line.

My 1325 Johnson seed takes the #1 seed of 2019 in terms of average weight, being the 2005 Haist and crosses a top 25 seed pollinator 2255 Zaychkowsky.  I think it has some good potential.  The seed is available for sale here.




Giant Pumpkin Growing Podcast

This is pretty cool.  A giant pumpkin grower podcast with some of the bigger giant pumpkin growers:

http://giantpumpkinpodcast.buzzsprout.com/

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Found Farewell to the Great Pumpkin



The pumpkin went out in style.  It got professionally carved Halloween night at Pumpkin Nights.  Kind of a fun way for it to live out its last days.  The carving is a cityscape with a dragon in the upper left hand corner.  It kind of reminds me of something out of Lord of the Rings.  Today the seeds were harvested and will be dried over the next two weeks.  Over the last month the pumpkin was in front of our home, went to two schools and then was on display at pumpkin nights in front of about 60,000 people.  For as much work as it was to grow it, we got as many miles out of it as we could and hope many smiles were put on many faces.

I asked Jim Seamons to take a picutre of the meat of the pumpkin.  The pumpkin went 8% heavy so I was interested to see how thick the was the meat on the pumpkin.  Not exceptionally thick but it matched what Dale Marshall said about his pumpkin which shared the same "father" as was in my pumpkin.  His pumpkin went heavy, but he said the meat wasn't overly thick on his pumpkin either.  But he said the meat was just dripping wet.  My guess is that the 2003 genetics has that trait and why almost every 2018 Haist seed produced a pumpkin, except for two, that went heavy and some went very heavy to the charts.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Coversation with Dale Marshall; 2,051 Pound Pumpkin Grower in Alaska

Talked for about 1 1/2 hours with one ton pumpkin grower Dale Marshall this evening.  Really nice guy.  When I saw he popped that 2,051 pounder in Anchorage I was really happy for him and I knew I needed to get him on the phone with him.  I hadn't ever spoken to him before, but I've got a hint of the extra work that he has to put in to grow something like that in that environment and it isn't a small task to start your season in March when it is 20 degrees outside.

His summer days are long, but his nighttime temperatures during the summer are very similar to mine, although his lows are shorter because his sunset is around 11:30pm and his sunrise is around 4:30am.  I wanted to understand how he is dealing with his temperatures, because obviously whatever he is doing is working for him.

What I found is that what he is doing is pretty close in many ways to what I've been doing, just a bit better.  He has a soil heating system that uses radiant heating that is similar to what I'm getting from my geothermal system.  Same types of soil temps.  The biggest piece is he is using a Mr. Heater like I did late in the season this year, but he is doing that all summer long.  I'm not quite ready to put in the money for the propane  yet, but what I've decided I need to do around peak growing time (days 28-42 after pollination) is I'm going to run my heater at night for that period to help maximize growth.  Right now I'm typically at around 54 degrees at night.  I think I can get that up to around 60 degrees with the heater which is about what his nights in his greenhouse are like.  Maybe I can get a few extra pounds a day for those two weeks that way.  If I could get the 50 pounds a day that he was doing at his peak this year I'd be thrilled.

Really appreciated Dale taking the time to talk.

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 next season.

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.