Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pumpkin Roots

I worked on the hail netting structure today and boy am I sore tonight. I'm almost done and I will be happy when I am. I had to move one of the hoop houses a foot in order to get a pole in and on one side of the hoop house I had a bag of sand on the edge of the hoop house in order to keep it from flying away in our Denver spring wind storms. To my suprise, when I move the bag, I saw pumpkin roots under it about 2 1/2 feet from the edge of the closest leaves. Atlantic Giant pumpkin plants continue to amaze me. In particular this 1161 plant has been amazing. The root structure looks equally as good as the leaves. If I don't kill this plant and if I can get a pumpkin to set on it we will be growing big in a month. Those are awfully big IFs however.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two of Three Happy Pumpkin Plants

Both of my plants seem super happy. Green leaves, good growth and nice vigor right now. Finally a week of sun and warmer weather have kicked the plants into high gear. Couldn't have come at a more perfect time. Both of the plants got their grow on about the same time that the better weather came in so things couldn't be much better. The kids plant however has been struggling for the past two weeks. It is growing but the leaves have been drooping a lot this week and the color is a touch yellow these days. The kids have been doing a good job of watering and misting it in the heat but something is a bit off with this plant. Two weeks ago it was the best plant of the three and now it has fallen behind.

I gave the plants some compost tea today with an extra boost of alfalfa pellets in the tea. Alfalfa has triacontanol in it which is a naturally occuring plant hormone that acts as a growth promoter. Triacontanol increases yield by improving photosyntheseis and cell division.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

1161 Main Vine Finally Lays Down

The main for the 1161 Rodonis plant finally laid down today. The main is about 2.5 feet long but it had been hanging about an inch off the ground for days. Now things are going to really get fun. Lots of new side vine growth this week on both plants so the vines will start running like crazy over the next 6 weeks.

Vine burying is a lot of work but that is what I will be doing for the next 6 weeks. This isn't my favorite time of the season. It is fun watching the vines grow a foot a day but it can be time consuming hard work getting all of the vines buried so roots will come out of the leaf nodes but it is vitally important in growing a big pumpkin.

The 1161's main vine is a nice looking one. Might even turn out to be one of those big, beefy thick vines that I've seen on some plants. My 755 plant had relatively thin vines in 2008.

Gave the plants some compost tea today.

My hoop houses are looking pretty beat up these days. Small holes are starting to appear and the poles are all leaving opposite of the wind. Three 50+ mph wind storms and a snow storm can be brutal on a hoop house. Good thing I'll probably only need the hoop house two more weeks at the most.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Secret Formula for Record Breaking Pumpkins: Part 2

A little over a week ago I talked about a secret project I have going to grow bigger giant pumpkins. I promised a full disclosure of what I did in my tests along with results so this post is going to reveal all.

As everyone knows carbon dioxide (CO2) contributes to plant growth as part of the miracle of nature known as photosynthesis. This enables plants to combine carbon dioxide and water with the aid of light energy to form sugar. Some of these sugars are converted into complex compounds that increase dry solid plant substances for continued growth to final maturity. However, when the supply of carbon dioxide is cut off, or reduced, the complex plant cell structure cannot utilize the sun's energy fully and growth or development is slowed down.

A Colorado State University study with carnations and other flowers in controlled CO2 atmospheres ranging from 200 to 550 ppm found that the higher the CO2 concentrations the higher the rate of formation of dry plant matter and total flower yield.

In my tests what I did is take a regular pop bottle, drill a hole in the cap and glued a bendable straw into the whole to create my CO2 chamber. I then took warm water, dry yeast and sugar and put it into the pop bottle.

CO2 is produced by yeast fermenting sugar into alcohol. Slowly the pressure will rise within the pop bottle as more and more C02 is produced so the hole in the cap and the straw produces a conduit for the CO2 gas to escape. The straw is placed over the pumpkin leaves so as the CO2 gas comes out it falls down to the leaves (CO2 is heavier than air) so additional photosynthesis can take place. Please note: the bottle will explode if you don't put a hole in the cap and don't fill the bottle more than half way full of water.

I should note that my pumpkin plants are in enclosed hoop houses so there is no wind and the CO2 is somewhat trapped within the enclosure. Otherwise most of the CO2 would probably just be carried away.

Will added CO2 by itself create a state record pumpkin? No. But what I can report is that it appeared to have an effect on plant growth. I have two pumpkin plants in each of my hoop houses. Over one plant I put the CO2 generator straw so when the CO2 came out it would fall down across the leaves. Over the 2nd plant I put nothing. Each plant that got the CO2 outgrew the plant that didn't get the CO2. It might have just been a coincidence, but in the case of one hoop house the CO2 plant was behind the none CO2 plant at the begininning of the week and in the course of one week it passed it. Again there are a lot of factors when it comes to plant growth but based on my trials there doesn't seem to be a reason to not give your plants CO2 this way.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Nitrogen Time and Hail Netting Poles

Yesterday I gave the pumpkin plants nitrogen for the first time this season along with a little compost tea. Thad Starr taught me to hold off on the nitrogen so the young plants will focus on rooting early on rather than vining. Fast growing vines and big leaves are fun to see early in the season but this is a pumpkin contest and not a salad contest. A large root system will power the pumpkins as the season goes on.

The first picture to the right is the 1161. Second picture is the 1236. Both plants have good color and seem to be happy. The 1161 is growing a bit faster. The 1236 likes to grow towards the sky. It's been that way ever since it came out of the ground. It has a lot of double leaves coming out of each node. I'm hoping that is a sign of vigor rather than a sign that it is going to double vine. We will have to wait and see. Both plants I estimate are about 12 days ahead of where my plants were at with the same number of growing days last year so I am right on target for pollinating at 10-14' out on the main vine the last week of June which is my goal.

I spent a good part of my Saturday digging holes and cementing in poles for my hail netting. I wanted to have all of the poles in by now but busy schedules and the time that it takes hasn't allowed me to do that yet. I need to have it all done by June however so I'll have to pick it up a notch. Right now 7 of the 15 poles are in. Back and fingers are sore however from the work.
Sometimes people ask me why I do a pumpkin blog. One reason is to share ideas about pumpkin growing that I come up with, but the main reason is that it is a kind of a grower diary for me. It gives me a place where I can compare the growth of my plants from previous years and a place to look up when I last added amendments to the plants. My wife says other things about the blog. You can read them here on her popular mommy blog.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Monday is P-day

Probably on Monday I will be going down to one plant in each hoop house. That is always a sad thing because you always hate to see a good plant go down. If anyone is interested in a 1528 Starr or 1316 Harp pumpkin plant please let me know. Without question my two best plants are the 1161 Rodonis and 1236 Harp right now.

The plan is to put up the posts for the hail netting this Saturday and after I know the poles haven't fallen on any of the plants then I will probably dig up the plants that didn't make the cut and go with the finalists.

This evening I put a product called CO2 (nanoized calcium) on my kids pumpkin plant. Tomorrow I'll put some on my plants. Some giant pumpkins were grown last year using CO2 and although I'm not 100% sure it has a big impact on pumpkin size I thought I would give it a try.

I also gave all of the pumpkin plants a healthy amount of compost tea today. I believe this is the third time I have watered the plants with compost tea. Until the plants get too large I will water the plants with compost tea every other watering. Compost tea is an excellent way to build soil biology with healthy bacteria and fungus.

The 1161 Rodonis is about three inches from having the main vine line down on the ground. So far it is looking to be a very nice plant. The 1236 is still mostly pointing right up in the air. The kids plant is needing a little help from daddy because the main was planted pointing the wrong way because daddy planted it the wrong direction so we are slowing moving the main over the top using bamboo sticks to get it pointed the right way.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The 1236 Harp Pumpkin Seed

The picture to the right is the 1236 Harp. It has an interesting cross being 998 Pukos x 1385 Jutrus. The pollinator for this plant was the 1385 Jutrus that grew the world record 1,725 pound pumpkin. The pollinator for the 1385 Jutrus was the 998 Pukos that grew the 1,689 pound world record. The pollinator for the 998 Pukos was the 1446 Eaton that grew the 1,446 pound world record. Are you beginning to see a pattern? I'm just hoping for a nice, big giant. This plant so far has been completely resilient to sun, clouds, hot or cold. It almost always looks the same. It hasn't been a super fast grower but it hasn't been slow. Christy said that the first month her world record pumpkin grew it was a relatively slow grower. She hoped it would get to 1,100 pounds by the end of the season. Apparently it found another gear to get to 1,725 pounds. I'm hoping this plant carries those genes.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Comparison to Last Year's Pumpkin Plants

Pumpkin plants seem to be relatively happy this year. The picture below is a comparision of this years 1161 Rodonis (top plant) compared to the 1350 Starr from last year (bottom plant) at the same number of growing days. We are off to a fairly good start.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Plants Survived the Storm & Growing Well

Checked on the plants this morning and they all seemed happy. Hoop house was a nice 89 degrees at 10:00 this morning. The secret formula seemed to have some effect on the plants so it will be interesting to see how the plants do under better weather conditions.

All of the plants are vining now. The picture to the right is the kids' 1129 Orleck. It is a beautiful plant, with nice green color, a good start for the vine and good size. The kids are going to shatter their personal best this year for sure.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Secret Formula for Record Breaking Giant Pumpkins

I'm trying something new this year to grow bigger pumpkins. Before I've talked about that there are no real secrets in growing giant pumpkins. Most of the best ideas out there are known by most of the growers. The best growers in the world don't have a secret sauce that grows giants, they mostly have 5-10 little things that they do better or slighly differently than most other growers to add 10 pounds here and twenty pounds there to a pumpkin in the course of a season.

The thing I'm trying isn't exactly new. I've seen youtube videos were people were doing something similar for other applications, but I haven't seen it done this way with giant pumpkins before. I did one test this Spring on a plant that I'm not going to grow and it didn't kill the plant so I think nothing but good should come of it. If I don't literally blow up the pumpkin plant then I expect nothing but good. To the right is a picture of the secret project to give you a little hint with the secret blacked out. On May 24th I'll give the whole story with results.
Any guesses on what this is?

Pumpkin Plant Update & Colorado Growing

The pumpkin plants are doing well even though our Colorado weather is not so great. The picture to the right was taken this morning. More snow in the forecast for tonight and then we should be back into the 60s again. I have a thermostatically controlled space heater in one hoop house and I have 150 watts of light bulbs in the other hoop house so the plants should be fine.

So far the 1161 Rodonis is my best plant. The 1528 Starr slowed down about a week before planting it outside and it has never recovered. The 1316 Harp and 1236 Harp are about the same but in different ways. The 1316 Harp doesn't seem to like the heat at all and gets droopy leaves when it gets hot. It also looks like it is going to double vine. The 1236 Harp is about the same size as the 1316 but has lighter color. I'm guessing that in the next 1.5 weeks I'll be to the point that I'm going to have to decide which plant to keep.

The best looking plant so far of all of the plants isn't my plant. The kids 1129 Orleck is the best plant to this point. Nice green leaves, good vigor and maybe the biggest in size of all of the plants. The kids are going to grow big and heavy this year. I'm second guessing if I should have kept the Orleck for myself. It will be a good pollinator.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Hate Wind

To the wind a pumpkin plant looks just like a kite. It catches the big Atlantic Giant pumpkin leaves, lifts the vine off the ground and then twirls it in the air until it snaps the vine. Today we are having some nice 40-70mph gusts of wind. Some of the gusts have been strong enough to move the hoop houses 8 inches even with large boulders anchoring it down. And the wind tore the staples out of the plastic on one side of one hoop house. To make things worse it is a sunny day so the hoop houses are heating up fast and it is fine balance between opening the hoop houses up so the plants stay around 85 degrees and creating a wind tunnel that is wiping the pumpkin plants around. I hate wind.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Pumpkins are in the Ground, Finally!

About a week late, but the pumpkins are finally in the ground. The roots didn't seem to be bound up from being in the pots so we should be okay. Now we just have to survive nights that are still hovering around freezing and making sure that the hoop houses get opened up early enough that the plants don't cook. This time of the pumpkin season isn't my favorite. For the next two weeks the plants tend do just sit there and plants are very tender so I tend to worry (but as Joe Schreber once said it, "that is what we do.").
I'm relatively happy with where the plants are at. Wish they were a touch bigger, but the color is really good (exept the 1528 is a little light in color) and they seem relatively happy.

In one hoop house I've put a space heater with a thermostat to keep the plants warm at night and in the other hoop house I've got two light bulbs and a 5 gallon jug of hot water to keep the plants warm.

The picture inside the hoop house is the 1528 Starr and the 1161 Rodonis. In the other hoop house is the 1316 Harp and the 1236 Harp. So far the 1316 Harp is the best looking plant of all of the plants. On Saturday the plan is to plant the 1129 Orleck and the 1048 Scherber.

I've put barb wire around the hoop houses to keep Biz from poking around and stealing all my secrets. lol