Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Patch Fall Soil Prep and Amendments

50% or more of the work for growing a giant pumpkin isn't done during the growing season. It is done in the fall and early spring. It doesn't matter how great your pumpkin seed genetics are if you don't have a great soil to grow it in. I'm starting a new patch for 2009. My good neighbor Chris is allowing me space on his 3 acre property to grow 4 plants next year. A BIG thanks to him for letting me do this. He has gone above and beyond by having his employees use his earth movers to help me move the soil and compost piles.

Soil preparation starts with a soil test. Unless you know what is in your soil you don't know what you need to add. The soil for my new patch was pretty poor. It was compacted, low on NPK, low organic matter and had a high ph of 8.1. To build the soil I added poultry compost, alfalfa meal, bone meal, green sand, humic acid, organic 10-5-5 fertilizer with calcium, tree leaves, elemental sulphur, peat moss and aluminum sulphate. That was all rototilled in deep.

After that I put down a cover crop of annual rye grass and white clover seed. I then spread a 4-4-5 fertilizer with mycorrhizal fungi and sprayed it all down with Neptune's Fish & Seaweed, compost tea, molasses and some fat free milk. The last 5 items were added to help build the microbiology in the soil. The good bacteria and fungi will then start working those soil amendments and turn them into great soil. After that was completed I then ran the sprinklers and covered the main growing areas with 10x25 clear plastic sheets to help build warmth in the soil to get the cover crop going before we get a hard freeze.

In early spring I will do another soil test and will probably add additional composted manure and other amendments as needed. I will also add some worms to the soil as I didn't see any in the dirt today.

As I re-learned today, if you think it will take 3 hours to get your patch prep work done count on it taking 6 hours. Man am I sore and tired tonight.


Anonymous said...

hi guys how much of this result do you attribute to humic acids ?

Anonymous said...

Hello fellow pumpkin growers please advise me what is green sand we do know and swear by the use of humic acids here but have no idea what green sand is ?

where does one get it hat does it do and how much doe sit cost ?

Jamie said...

I think humic acid is a worth while amendment but I'm not sure of it's value. I've read a number of studies on humic acid and it gets real mixed reviews. The most value seems to come from clay soils. Many of the claims are just marketing hype. The value that does seem to hold true is that it can help in nutrient uptake.

Jamie said...

Green sand can be purchased at most good garden centers although some times it is hard to find. I used a Whitney Farms brand of green sand. Green sand is an organic source of potash and comes from very old sea beds in New Jersy. You usually find it in a 0-0-3 or 0-0-6 form of NPK. The downside of green sand is that it takes a while for it to become available to plants because bacteria has to break it down first. Adding it in the fall is a good way to make sure it can be used by the pumpkin during growing season.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jamie,

thanks for very nice and informative blog. Im from Finland and your blog has been bookmarked long time ago.
Keep the good work coming.

RMGVG member

Jamie said...

Thanks Miika. I've seen you around I enjoy doing the site and appreciate that you follow it.

Jonathan Phelps said...

This is a transcipt from the Late Show with David Letterman. How does this make you feel?

ACT 2:
On the show tonight, we will explode a giant pumpkin and it is our biggest one yet. For the past 5 years, we've gone to Coney Island and imported a giant pumpkin for us to explode.
2003: 1,000 pounds
2004: 882 pounds - a bad year for pumpkins
2005: 1,333 pounds
2006: 1,390 pounds
2007: no pumpkin . . . . writers' strike.

This year's pumpkin: 1,464 pounds, out biggest by 74 pounds.

Pumpkin stats:
- 1,464 pounds.
-36 inches
-63 inches wide
-16 feet, 1 inch around
This pumpkin won first prize in the Topsfield Fair Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off in Massachusetts. It was grown by Wes Dwelly and when it comes to growing pumpkins, you'll find none better than Wes Dwelly.

We find Biff in Coney Island with pyrotechnic expert, Drew Jiritano. Later in the show, they will blow up this great gourd to smithereens.

Jamie said...

I am for anything that is entertaining with pumpkins after they are grown. I was going to turn my pumpkin into a boat and paddle around a lake but it got a split shortly after it was harvested on the blossom end. I met Wes Dwelly and his pumpkin at the weigh-off at Topsfield last month. You can see a picture of both of them a few posts down.