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.

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