Monday, June 29, 2009

1566 Rodonis Pumpkin Plant

The 1566 seems to have slowed down a touch on the main but the side vines are growing like weeds. This is an exhausting part of the season as vines are trained, buried and bamboo shoots are used to stake the vines down. There is a nice female at about 10' and another female at about 12' 4 inches that just appeared today. Should be ready to pollinate around July 6th. The 12' one will probably be my keeper if it looks good as I will only grow one pumpkin on a plant. A keeper in my book is a 4+ lobe flower, with no bad deformities that pollinates and seems to grow well. In about 2-3 days I'll setup a shade structure to cool the pumpkin to help it pollinate and grow.

All of the females on the 1566 to this point are long and skinny shaped things. In the picture to the left you may see the female (aka the next state champ or bust). I like long shaped pumpkins because I believe it decreases the risk of some types of splits. If this female pollinates and becomes my keeper I will call it BubbaBoy.
The root system on the 1566 is really impressive. Whenever I trench for the vines I find tons of little white pumpkin roots everywhere. I hope this means a equally massive root system that runs deep and far.

1350 Starr Pumpkin Plant

The first 3 sides vines on each side of the 1350 are growing really fast (some have already been terminated) but the side vines after that are moving really slow. This happened on my plant last year too. Both plants lost the main vine at about the same time so I'm guessing that this is the side effect as the new main becomes a sink and starts growing again.

The one thing that gives me hope for the 1350 is the large females that this plant produces. Maybe this plant isn't much of a salad producer but if it can grow big pumpkins who cares. It is ahead of where my plant was at last year at this time so I expect very good things from it. Right now the main is at about 9 feet.
Because of the rainy weather patterns we have had this year this was only the third time I have irragated the plants with the sprinklers this season. I usually mist the plants 1-3 times a day by running the sprinklers for 1 minute but today is only the third time I have needed to actually water with the sprinklers.

Silly Wabbit

Found a wabbit hole next to the stump of my 1350 plant today. Not a good thing. For some reason I've been singing the theme to the Bugs Bunny classic today, "Kill the wabbit, Kill the Waaabit, KILL the WaaaBit!"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Latest Pics from the Denver Pumpkin Patch

The following are the latest pictures of the 1566 and 1350 plants. Each are growing about 10 inches per day right now. The 1566 should be out to 12' tomorrow (pollination time!) and the 1350 will be at about 9 feet tomorrow. The 1350 has it's first female with open flower today (3rd picture). Unfortuneatly I don't have a single male flower to pollinate it with. Its on a side vine so no big loss.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Be Careful What You Ask For

I've been begging for some heat the last few weeks to get the mains on the plants growing a little faster and today we got it. The 1566 has liked the high temps about as much as my Canadian born wife. The new, large leaves don't have the structure yet for the 90 degree temperatures. The 1350 hasn't seemed to mind the higher temps much. I've misted the plants twice today to try to keep away any leaf burn and make the plants a little happier.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pics from the Pumpkin Patch

The following are the latest pics from the pumpkin patch. The 1566 is growing very nicely and has the classic Christmas tree shape with a bit of a modification where I'm bending each of the vines back towards the stump. The 1350 has a bit of a funny pattern to it and it is about 2-3 days behind the 1566 but it is growing well too. Temperatures in the 88+ degree range over the next week will help the vines grow even faster.

Right now we are looking good for a 12 foot pollination on July 4th for the 1566. Probably a 10' pollination for the 1350 on the 6th so I'll probably wait a couple more days until I pollinate on that plant so I can get a little farther out, if the right females will appear. Official length on the mains: 1566 is 8' 10", 1350 is 7' 4".

Gave the plants some compost tea this morning along with a good watering. Later this week I'll be putting on some Happy Frog 5-8-4 fertilizer to help support flowering for pollination. The common myth that potassium or phosphorous can help flowering is a common myth. The truth is that the absence of macro nutrients can reduce flowering but hormones in the plant is what really controls flowering and not fertilizers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pumpkins Love the Compost Tea

Gave the plants some compost tea today. Will in Colorado Springs was kind enough to give me some worm castings along with a bunch of red wigglers in February and I am using the castings in the compost tea I brew. Compost tea really isn't a fertilizer. It is a build up of bacteria and fungi that can be beneficial to the plant. I change my ingredients in the tea bag regularly but usually it consists of worm castings, molasses, a few leaves, and a bit of compost. At the very end sometimes I add a little Neptune's Fish & Seaweed. I then brew it for about 24-48 hours depending on if I want bacteria or fungi in the water. After brewing I pour it over the leaves of the plants, which helps protect them from disease and I pour it on the ground around the plant. The bacteria and fungi added to the soil will help break down the nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and other minerals in the soil and will put it in a form the plants can readily use.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Pumpkin Plants

The first picture below is a picture of the plant that grew my 755 pound pumpkin in 2008. The second picture is of my 1566 Rodonis plant this year. Both pictures were taken on June 16th. The 755 plant was planted 10 days earlier and the holes in it are from a hail storm that pummeled the plant about 7 days before the pictures was taken. I estimate that the 755 plant was about 4.5 feet long. The 1566 is about 7.5 feet long now.

Monday, June 15, 2009


All three pumpkin plants survived the hail storms of the last two days. I was out of town in Colorado Springs this weekend and was driving home when I reached the I-70 and I-76 interchange when the hail started. You could see this storm system from miles away. Big, black clouds with greenish tints and large swirls. I immediately said we are going to see a bad storm and it didn't disappoint. I immediately pulled under an over pass to protect my car as quarter sized hail fell for 15 minutes. When it finally let up to a heavy downpour I drove strait to the house. Immediately upon my arrival I jumped out of the car, threw on a Gortex jacket and went out to the patch. To my amazement it was obvious the hail was very light at my house and the plants were spared.

All three plants grew considerably when I was gone. The 1566 plant is now busting out of all sides of the hoop house (I cut holes in the sides to give vines a place to grow) and the main is 7 feet long now (which puts me about 2.5 feet ahead of this time last year). The 1350 is recovering nicely and a new main is about a 8 inches past where the old one main once existed. I had lots of vine maintenance to do this morning. More to do tomorrow when I remove the hoop houses permanently. Another storm is forecasted for this afternoon so I want the hoop houses up for one more day to protect the plants and then I will take them off for good because 80 and possibly 90 degree temperatures are in the forecast. Hopefully that will mean main vine growth of a foot a day starting in the next week

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pumpkin Main Growth Update

Slower growth yesterday due to the cooler weather. About 3.5 inches of new growth on the 1566 and basically no new growth for the main on the 1350 since terminating the main by accident. Gave each plant a little blood meal and compost tea to keep the growth growing. Joe Scherber (aka State Champ) stopped by to look at the plants and said they were looking good. Pictures to be added when my wife gets back into town with the camera.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What Not to Do

I had a DOH! morning this morning. Did the stupid thing. I saw a new curly vine growing near the tip of the 1350s main vine and I usually take those off because they just take energy from the plant in my opinion. I reached over to the curly vine and pinched it and then pulled and as the curely vine came off one part of it wasn't fully pinched and it tore a strip along the main vine all the way to the tip of the main. Put explitives here. I had to terminate the main vine about to where a secondary was growing about 5 inches away. Lost a days growth in the process.

The vines on both plants continue to grow on shedule but I'm praying for warmer weather. I'd like to pollinate at 12 feet and I'm not sure it is going to make that by the 4th right now. We are more in the 10-11 foot range at this time. Cutting a days growth off the main vine (AKA negative growth) doesn't help things either.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Insects and Giant Pumpkins

Last year I didn't use any insecticides on my pumpkin plant because I didn't have any issues. This week I found a bunch of eggs on the underside of some of the leaves on the 1566 plant. It appears that they are aphid eggs but I can't be 100% sure. To make sure I don't run into any problems I hit the plant with a broad spectrum insecticide. I'll continue to watch the plants to make sure nothing appears and I'll probably use some soap in a week just to be sure.

Joe Scherber pointed something out to me that I was aware of but didn't fully put together. He suggested that my plant may be stressed and that was the reasons the aphids were appering on the plant. He suggested too little light, cold temperatures or water issues may be the source of the stress. He didn't know it but for the first two items my plant has been ideally taken care of. For the last item however there is an issue. A low spot in the soil near the planting spot has been collecting water during our frequent and heavy rains lately. The soil in that spot hasn't been drying out and this is not good for the roots. Constantly wet soil can cause air to be forced out of the root zone and diseases can then start forming. I haven't given the plant any water for over a week and a half but the spot is still wet. Over the next few days I'm working to dry out the spot (although its tough when the forecast is for 70 degrees and possible rain) and then I will level out the soil to hopefully fix the problem.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pumpkin Plant Growth Update

So far we are on track for the 1566 main vine growth (see previous post for more details). It grew about 4 inches yesterday. The 1350 grew about as much but since the main decided to go to the side rather than straight out (usually the main goes opposite of the first true leaf) we are about a foot short as I bend the vine around. Vine maintenance is done during the heat of the day so that the vine is more ply able and won't snap. I like to use bamboo shoots to guide the vine and also to stake it down so the vines don't get blown around in heavy winds. The 1350 is growing fast so no worries at this point on getting the main out to 10 feet by June 28th as long as the weather plays nice and warm.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Your Pumpkin Main Vine

This time of year you hear a lot from giant pumpkin growes about their pumpkin's main vines. Where you want to set (or pollinate) you pumpkin is on the main vine (or the origional vine that all of the side vines come out of). The minimum length that you want your pumpkin to set is at least 10 feet from the stump. This will give your pumpkin plant enough mass (i.e. leaves) behind the pumpkin to power the pumpkins growth.

The reason growers talk about the main vine growth this time of year is that it is important to get that main vine out to 10+ feet by about June 28th. At that time hopefully a little female flower will start forming and by 6 days later that flower will open up and be ready to be pollinated around the 4th of July. What is magic about the 4th for pollination? Pumpkin growing is all about timing. Growing a massive root system and getting enough leaves is important to power the pumpkin. The timing of when those events happen is equally as important. Growing salad to early in the season as a result of to much nitrogen can cause minimal root growth which will hurt you later in the season. Growing the plant too big too fast can also force you to remove hoop houses to early which opens the plants up to the elements and that can cause potential problems as well. However if you don't get your main out fast enough your pumpkin will start growing to late. Each day that your pumpkin isn't pollinated after the 4th of July will cause you 3-20 pounds of lost weight which can mean potentially a hundred pounds lost on the scale. Pumpkin growing is often about the little things. When you talk to heavy hitters you begin to realize there isn't a big secret or magic bullet to giant pumpkin growing. It is about doing the 30 small things right and those small things add up to big weights at the end of the season.

Right now I need to average about 5 inches a day in main vine growth in order to pollinate at 11-12 feet, which is my goal. I'll keep you updated on the growth. If I can do 3.5 inches per day right now and the weather gets warm I should be okay because the main vine should start growing a foot a day about 2 weeks from now.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

2 1/4 Inches of Rain in Denver Makes for Big Pumpkin Growth

The rain finally stopped after 1 1/2 days this morning. I hadn't seen the plants in nearly two days. The 1350 did some big growth and actually passed the 1566 in main vine length. The 1566 is still a bigger more hefty plant but it now has some competition. Below are the latest pics. I'll be giving the plants some compost tea and liquid fish fertililizer (5-1-1) tonight to keep the plants in high gear.

1566 Rodonis

1350 Starr

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Drainage

One thing you think about some but can't really test is the drainage of the pumpkin patch during a big rain storm. The ability of the patch to absorb water is one aspect but the other aspect is the ability of the patch to allow excess water to run off the patch once it can't absorb it. My patch has okay drainage. After 5-6 hours of rain you start to get puddles which can be a potential problem for the plant. We have had about 12 hours of none stop rain and I'm grateful for it. The plant is still relatively small and nice and dry in the hoop house but outside of the hoop house a number of puddles formed that I'm going to need to take care of. If it wasn't for some long and heavy rains I wouldn't have recognized these issues and might have had problems later in the year. The picture is from the back window of my house. If you click the image you will see small channels cut in the soil beyond the fence where the hoop houses are to temporarily help with the drainage.