Monday, July 15, 2013

Giant Pumpkin Growing Tips; Making Adjustments as You Go

The hardest part about growing giant pumpkins is that there are 1,000 different pieces to growing a big pumpkin and those pieces change from time to time.  Two years ago I had insect problems, least year it was heat some time in the future it might be rain and the potential list goes on.  Also growing in Colorado isn't the same as growing in Ohio or California.  Every area has their unique challenges.  That is part of what makes this so fun.  It isn't easy.  It can be heart breaking.  But the hope of growing a really big pumpkin keeps me coming back. 

One tip I would give anyone that wants to grow a giant pumpkin is make sure you do the basics very well. Get your soil tested and understand what is required in a soil to grow a giant pumpkin.  This is an ongoing effort but the basics, if you can find someone to guide you are somewhat simple.

The next tip would be to understand the different cycles that a pumpkin plant goes through during a season.  This takes time to learn but when you recognize what a plant is doing you can take advantage of it.

The last time is to understand proper watering.  This also isn't quite as simple as it would seem but again the basics are pretty simple.  Keep the soil lightly moist.

For my own benefit I'm writing hear what I have done differently so far this season so I can learn from it for future seasons:
  • Tripled the amount of alfalfa that I put into the soil in the fall and spring.  
  • Used about double the amount of bilogicals on the soil this year that I have used in the past and with that I added beneficial nematodes to the soil in the Spring.
  • Watered a little more.
  • Did a cover crop that I tilled in later and I put down myko with the cover crop.
  • Did more targeted foliar applications to help get the plant what it needs that it isn't getting from the soil
  • A lot of this came with the alfalfa but I also added probably 125% nitrogen to the soil then I have in the past.
One interesting thing that I learned from my tissue tests is how some nutrients get bound up in the soil or are not able to get absorbed.  My soil isn't balanced as I would like.  My potassium is too high and as a result it isn't allowing other nutrients to get absorbed as they should because potassium is blocking the cations so minerals aren't getting absorbed as they should. For example, I have lots of sulfur and zinc in the soil but my tissue test showed me low for both items.  As a result I'm doing foliar applications now to make up for what the roots aren't able to get.


Anonymous said...

Pumpkins looking good Jamie!
Lakewood Erik

Jamie said...

Thanks Erik. In about 7 days things will start getting fun with the really big gains. Hope things are going great for you!

Anonymous said...

I have a good salad and good roots but my fruit is not growing very fast.
What is the proper method to terminate all of the new blossoms and small fruit growing on the rest of the plant?

Jamie said...

For about the first two weeks the pumpkin usually grows very slow. On about week three it tends to take off. How old is your fruit? Taking off the flowers isn't a bad idea but isn't absoluteness necessary. I wouldn't be digging into the plant to remove them because you may damage the plant while walking around in it. Once you know your fruit is set (after 10+ days) and you know you want to go with the fruit then starting ripping the other female pumpkins on the vines so all of the energy goes to your pumpkin.

Anonymous said...

They are 10-14 days old. I expect they will start to get big in next few days. How do I tell the difference between male and female fruit?
This is my first try at growing giant pumpkins. Part of a local hardware store's friendly competition.

Jamie said...

You should start seeing some descent growth in the next week. There isn't any male fruit. The female flowers have a little pumpkin at the bottom of the flower petals.