Thursday, May 31, 2018

Goodness, Life is Busy

It has been a bit since my last update from the pumpkin patches.  Worked my tail off last memorial day weekend, but unfortunately most of it wasn't in the pumpkin patch.  Trying to finish the landscaping in the back yard so I can plant grass seed and that has consumed my non-job hours lately.

Two days ago I sprayed insecticide on the plants.    I've found a lot of these little caterpillars in the soil.  Haven't been able to figure out what they are going to grow up to be, but I sprayed everything to keep the plants safe.

Yesterday I sprayed some 7-4-5 under the leaf canopy of the plants.  Today I gave the plants some compost tea with seaweed, blood meal, compost, molasses and alfalfa pellets in the brew.  

Weather this week has been cooler, with sporadic clouds.  On average temps have been a little too cool.   Seems like the 1974 plant has been close to its same growth, but the 2145 has seemed a little slower this week, but vine growth still has been descent.

The plan was to take the hoop houses off last Saturday, but they are still not off.  Today was calling for high winds and tomorrow the low is getting down to 37 so I've kept them on.  The plants are feet past the end of the hoop house and I've had to cut holes for the side vines.   It will take a surgeons skill to get the plants safely out of the hoop houses on Saturday, but that is the plan.

The female on the 2145 opened yesterday.  I didn't pollinate it.  1974 will probably open on Saturday, but I won't pollinate it either.  

I'm giving the plants just enough love right now to keep them happy, but it doesn't feel like I've had the time to do the little things.  Hopefully two more females will show up in the next few days and that would put me on target for mid-June pollinations, which would be perfect.   The plants should have good size by then and primed to start growing.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Putting Tech in Giant Pumpking Growing on the Cheap

I've been killing myself off over the last few weeks trying to get the backyard landscaping done, get a greenhouse setup and do the regular pumpkin patch prep you do each spring.    I'm pretty excited about it all and hope I get it all done. 

First, the low tech updates.  For the south patch, I've added a 4 foot tall wind screen on the south side of the patch.  Here winds only blow from the north and south and the south winds are usually strongest.  It is windy about 90% of the growing days, so this wind screen will help.  I've also added 6 sprinkler heads to that patch.  A nice improvement over the single head on a hose that I moved around the patch manually.  I'll get much better coverage now because water will hit from multiple directions.

The tech stuff is being done in the north patch.   The greenhouse and geothermal heating and cooling system I've talked about previously.  In the greenhouse I'll have an Acurite wireless temperature gauge.  Same kind you use to check outdoor temperatures at the house.  I've connected the data for that to (easy to do). has an API.  So I'll connect into that data on a website to decide when to do things in the greenhouse.   So, for example, I'll have a simple fan (free cheap one) like you would get at Walmart that we were given) at the top of greenhouse that will be set to turn on anytime after 10:00am but before 8:30pm if the temperature is over a set amount.   The geothermal fan ($40 ebay) will be set to turn on if it is after 1:00 or before 4:00 if the temperature is above a certain amount.  This will pull heat into the soil and blow cooler air out the other end.   And it will be set to turn on after 1:00am but before 7:00am if the temperature is below a certain amount.  This will blow the heated air out at night.  The coding for this is more complicated if you don't know coding, but if you own a website design business it is relatively easy.  The on off switch will be done by an outdoor wifi enabled smart plug ($30).  Using its API the two fans will be turned on and off.

I'm also adding mister foggers ($50 to help cool the plants during the heat of the day.   These will be connected to a valve that will also be controlled in the same way as the other devices, with misters getting turned on every 15 minutes or so during 10:30am and 5:30pm when the temps are above 86 degrees.

Last change is that irrigation for the north patch.  For the watering I'll have my old Daan micro sprinklers watering under the canopy.   That is hooked into a portable camping water heater ($120 on sale at  Amazon) and then that goes into a fertigation siphon ($15 ebay).  So basically I hope to warm the water to 80 degrees.  The watering will get turned on at about 5:00am which is right before the lowest of the nighttime lows.  That will not only water the plants, but will get the biology in the soil going and heat up the greenhouse.  The fertigation will allow me to constantly add low levels of fertilizer to the plants constantly.  That way the plant will be constantly pushed and never in need.

My hope is that with these changes I can better control the environment and get greater gains for longer during the growing season.

Friday, May 25, 2018

King of the Patch and Final Amendments

Last night I amended the 1974 plant's patch and tilled in the winter rye.   I put down some 32-3-8 with iron, humic acid, manganese, boron and kelp meal and tilled it deep.  The 1974 plant is king of the patch right now.  Big leaves and aggressive grower.  It is about 8 inches from the end of the hoop house right now.  I'll leave the hoop house on it as long as I possibly can.  Will probably have to take it off on Saturday.  It has a female in the vine tip that will be at about 9 feet when the vine lays down (this plant has cobra vines).

The 2145 plant is maybe a foot behind in length and also looks good.  Been delayed on the greenhouse setup for it, but hope to get back to it after the weekend.  The female on this plant has a bit of color to it, so I think it will produce orange pumpkins.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Female Flower on the 2145 at 6-7 Feet

I won't keep it, but I noticed on the 2145 plant that there is already a female flower on the main vine.   That is a somewhat good sign.  Means the plant is kicking into gear and sometimes it means it is a plant that will throw a fair number of females.  That is a good thing, because at 10-14 feet from the stump you want a female(s) to appear when the plant has gotten sufficient in size/mass to start growing a pumpkin.    It is kind of frustrating when a plant doesn't produce many females. 

I once had a plant have a female at 8-9 feet.  I foolishly took it off.   Next female didn't show up until about 20 feet.  The pollination took and was growing really well, but I had to take it off because the pumpkin was badly male formed.  A segment did form correctly and the pumpkin would have definitely split.   It was another 5-6 until the next female showed up and at that point I was way to late into the season.  Lots of female flowers means lots of pollination opportunities.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Updates from the Pumpkin Patch

The last week has flown by and I've been real busy with the greenhouse.  About 1/3 of the way done with its setup.  I hope and plan on having it done next week.

Today was selection day.  Kind of like ripping a child out of the ground.  Always have to think what opportunity is lost when you take out the 2nd plant in a hoop house.  But it has to be done.  I like to look at the characteristics of the plants before making a selection.  It isn't always the biggest plant that is kept.  Today that was true.  For the 1974 hoop house, I went with the plant that was maybe a foot shorter in length.   The two plants for the most part were duplicates of each other, but the one I kept had a much thicker main vine.  I remember Pap once say, "Can't grow a giant pumpkin if the pipe to the pumpkin is a small one.  I've seen plants with massive vines, but small pumpkins however.

For the 2145 hoop house, it was an easy pick.  You don't toss out a plant that is from a seed the grew the world record pumpkin and north American record.  Not only that, it was the obvious choice.  The 1974 plant that was in that hoop house was the runt, but it started wiring up in the last week and I could tell that if it had more time it probably would have made a nice plant.  But we'll never know now.

Here are pics from today.  The first is the 1974 plant.  Like I mentioned previously, Matt said his plant was very aggressive.  This plant doesn't seem to be an exception.  King of the patch right now.  Big leaves, thick vines and a fast grower.

The 2145 plant below has also been a nice looking plant.  The other day I saw roots popping out of the ground around it.   I've only had one other plant do that and it grew my personal best.   So far, I'm very pleased with both plants.   I think they will both be out of the hoop houses next week.  That makes me a little nervous.  Tough springs here in Midway, UT.  Lots and lots of wind with cool to cold temps from time to time.  I've bought some wind cloth and will put that on the windy side of the 1974 plant.  It should help.  Hopefully the 2145 plant will have the greenhouse over it soon, so we can protect it as well.

Today I gave the plants some compost tea with liquid fish, alfalfa, pinch of blood meal, pinch of 6-2-0, actinovate, friendly bacteria, yucca and a tablespoon of liquid seaweed.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Little Fertilizer & Compost Tea for the Pumpkin Plants

Today I gave the pumpkin plants some compost tea with a descent dose of alfala pellets in the bag.  I also included a drop of liquid seaweed, a touch of Biotamax and 1 1/2 tablespoons of fish in the 4 gallons of tea.  That will go on all plants.

One 1974 vine should be laying down today.  The 2145 plant's main vine is probably the longest, but it is hanging in the air because of a fairly thick stump which isn't allowing it to lay down easily.  On all of the plants, a few days ago I put a bamboo stick against the main vine at a slight angle.  It helps support the main some as it grows out, but allows the main to slide down the stick as it grows out.  This helps keep the main vine from snapping off from its own weight.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Making a Fertilization Plan and Sticking to It

I find one of the hardest things to not do with pumpkin growing is not doing too much.  Too much fertilizer and water can be just about as bad as not enough.   If you make a plan before the season begins I find it helps keep those "urges" in check and it helps make sure you don't accidentally miss something.  

For example, I put together this fertilizer program before the season started:

Will I follow that plan exactly?  No.   I watch the plants and see what they are telling me and make adjustments, but for the most part I'll following what I outlined.  There are specific things given to the plant at specific times for a specific purpose.   Every plant during vining needs nitrogen.  So unless I see bloated, overly dark or over sized leaves, I will follow what is outlined in my fertilizer program. 

Soon I'll start giving the plants spoon feeding amounts of fertilizer every day.   I know some excellent growers who do that from the very start.   I lean a little more towards letting the plant get what they need from the soil they were just planted in initially.  I figure there should be plenty of nutrients available that first week.  The 2nd week after planting I'll start adding a little light fertilizer occasionally aand then in the 3rd week I'll start putting the hammer down.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Pumpkin Plants are in the Ground; Let's Role!

I've finally gotten the pumpkin plants in the ground.  Yea!  Forecasted night time lows was for 35 degrees the last two nights and even with heat lamps I didn't want to risk it.  Probably was a good idea.  Power went out around 5:30am today for a short bit.

This is my 2145 and a weak 1974 in this hoop house.   I'll got with the best plant.  I'm guessing it won't be a hard decision for this one.   That 1974 took twice as long to do anything.  Was late germinating, late popping through the soil and slow growing since.  The other two 1974 plants have looked very good however.  Not all seeds are created equal.

These 1974 plants I think will also make for some nice plants.  The 2145 is the biggest, leaf wise so far, but the root systems on all three seemed fairly equal.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Latest Pumpkin Plant Photos

Here is the latest picture of the pumpkin plants.  They have really taken off the last five days.  The ideal would have been to plant them last Friday, but I held off because forecasted lows were for 35 degrees the last few days and I decided not to risk it.  I noticed two of the plants are getting lighter color just today, so they are probably not 100% happy in the pots anymore, so the plan is to plant them today or tomorrow.  Interesting to compare these photos with the ones from last Friday.