Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Winter Rye Cover Crop

The cover crop I planted 2 1/2 weeks ago is finally taking off.   It started to pop up last Friday.  The day time highs have been relatively warm the last week, but previous to that things were fairly cool so it took some time to get the grass coming up.   The lows have been at or below freezing every night for weeks. 

This cover crop will do a few different things for the soil.  It will help prevent erosion and compaction.  It will help keep the biology in the soil going.  It will suppress weeds.  And it will also make a nice green manure that will be tilled back into the soil in the spring adding organic matter to the soil.  

What I'll probably do is amend the planting area and till it in the early Spring.  About a 10x10 space.  The rest I'll mow down from time time time to keep it manageable until June, when I'll till the rest in, about the same time that the pumpkin plants are about to grow out of their hoop houses.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Nice End to a Challenging Season

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.   Two months ago if you would have told me that I would have grown my 2nd and 3rd largest pumpkins this year I would have been surprised.  Early on, I was estimating the pumpkins to end up in the 700lb range.  Wind damage, hot days and cold nights seemed to limit the pumpkin growth.  The pumpkins at their peak only got to 25lbs per day.  Far from the 43 pounds a day my biggest pumpkin hit during its peak growth four years ago.

I weighed my 1685 Scheber pumpkin at Hee Haw Farms on Saturday and it ended up a little bigger than the 747 pumpkin at 965 pounds.  4th place again.  Overall I felt relatively satisfied with that.

Both of my pumpkin plants I think had more to give from a genetics standpoint.  Particularly the 747 Johnson plant which lost about 1/3 of its leaves this spring in the strong winds we get here.  It was an aggressive plant that did really well considering its challenges.

Looking at the data about 1/4 to 1/3 of my day the pumpkins weren't growing because it was either too cold or too hot.  When I moved here I anticipated the cool night problem.  The hot days was worse than I thought it would be so I misted to help with that.  There wasn't much of anything I could do about the night time lows however and I think that was a big limiting factor.

The fact that both pumpkins peaked at about 25lbs per day and both ended up at about the same weight tells me that there is an environmental cap.   Just a guess, but without that cap I think 1,300 pounds would have been probable, but I might be wrong.  There may have been other limiting factors that I haven't discovered yet.

One limiting factor that I should have corrected next season is irrigation.  Pretty much both plants only had a single impact sprinkler head watering the entire patch for most all of the season.  I knew that as a problem, but when you move into a new home in the mountains in October you don't have time to get irrigation lines setup.  I was lucky to get the soil tilled (which wasn't easy because of all of the compaction from the construction equipment).  You don't get even watering from a single head.

My soil wasn't in bad shape this spring, but it could have been a little better.  Again, limited time only allowed for so much patch prep, but I did work it pretty hard last fall and this spring.   I should be in much better shape next spring however.  On Saturday, after the weigh-off, I put down a cover crop of winter rye which will be tilled into the soil in the spring.  With the big Kubota tiller I was able to till 8-10 inches deep and get the last of the compacted spots out of the patch.  The soil looks really nice now.  Very fluffy.

A big thanks to Amber, my wife, for helping to make this all possible.  She doesn't help with the pumpkin growing, matter-o-fact, I'm not sure she went into the pumpkin patch more than twice this year, but she puts up with a lot to allow me to do all of this.  Love that girl.

In the coming months I'll talk more about what I'm going to do to change things up to overcome some of the environmental challenges I've had and to try new things.   My goal for the last 4 years has been 1,500 pounds.  I know that is obtainable.  4 years ago, I thought I had a 1,500 pounder until the pumpkin went really, really light on me.  So, I know I can get a pumpkin to that size with a good seed and changing things up.  What I know for sure, is if you are growing the same sized pumpkin almost every year and trying to grow bigger using the same old techniques, it will only happen if you get a magic seed.  They do come along from time to time, but if you want to grow with the big boys, you have to re-invent how you grow.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Final Pumpkin of the Season & Patch Prep Has Begun

Today I lifted the 1685 pumpkin.  Measurements are bigger than the 747 pumpkin, but we'll have to see if it weighs more.   My guess is that it goes light. 

Big thanks to the team at Power Equipment Rental in Heber for the equipment.  Used the telescoping fork to lift the pumpkin and then used the Kubota tractor to put compost into both patches.  When I asked if the had a tiller attachment, they said no and then went out and bought one for me to use.  They even supplied some very nice compost.  So a BIG thanks!

I put down grass clippings from the lawn that I saved all summer, elemental sulfur, yards of compost and some 8-2-1 fertilizer.  That big Kubota made nice work of the soil.   Three swipes in the smaller patch and it was done.   Also used the Kubota to till the entire backyard in preparation for putting in a lawn the spring.

Tomorrow or the next day I'll put in a cover crop of winter rye into both patches.  I was hoping to do it today, but was working the soil until past sundown.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Pumpkins are for Children at Heart

For years we've taken the pumpkins to local schools.  It really makes all of the hard work worthwhile, because anyone who is a child at heart appreciates a giant pumpkin.   The questions and the level and enthusiasm are always the same.  "How much does it way?"  "How to you lift it?"  "How many pumpkin pies can you make?" "What will you do with it?"

Matt McConkie said it well on TV.   I challenge you to see a giant pumpkin and not smile.   One of my favorites is driving the pumpkin around and watching people at the side of the road light up when they see the pumpkin.

To answer the last child's question about what we will do with this pumpkin?  One will be on our driveway for Halloween, so make sure to stop by if you are trick or treating in Midway.  The other pumpkin will be at Signam Signs in Midway.  Both are the biggest pumpkins ever grown in the Heber Valley, so they are kind of fun.

Monday, October 2, 2017

See Ya at Hee Haw Farms Pumpkin Championship on Saturday

The plan is to take the 1685 pumpkin "Cujoe" to the Hee Haw Farms weigh-off this Saturday.  I've never been to this weigh-off before.  I knew it is traditionally much smaller than the Thanksgiving Point weigh-off, but looking forward to attending.   Starts at noon, so come on by.