Sunday, May 24, 2020

Which is the Best Fertilizer for a Pumpkin?

Which fertilizer is best to grow a giant pumpkin?  I hear that question a lot.  The answer that any good grower will tell you is that it is the one that the plant needs.  You'll only know that through a soil test, tissue test or an experienced eye.  

About every four days or so lately I've been giving the plants a little RAW Grow 7-4-5 fertilizer.  That isn't as aggressive as I know some growers will do, but I think it is sufficient at this stage.  The Grow fertilizers I like because they are water soluble and have a little more than just NPK in them.  The main nitrogen source in it is plant protein hydrolysate, which I've read good things about.  It also has humic acid, cane molasses, boron, copper, seaweed, iron DTPA, magnesium, manganese, silica, zinc and azomite.  And the qualities of each are sufficient to see results from them.

The little extra nitrogen will help support the rapid growth of the plants at this stage.  Ideally I would like something like a 7-2-5 at this stage, but a 7-4-5 is close enough. 

Soon, I'll be adding a little blood meal to that fertilizer mix to add more nitrate nitrogen.  The studies I've read suggest that during rapid growth nitrate demands of the plant go up, so this will help support that.  I've also read that too much nitrate nitrogen can help vine growth, but diminish root growth, so to me, it makes sense that June is the time of the season for nitrate nitrogen (like blood meal and calcium nitrate) and then stop that once you start getting into the fruit growing stage.

So, which fertilizer is best to grow a giant pumpkin?  It is a balance of what your soil has and what the plant is asking for at that time of the season.  But at this time of the year, something with some nitrogen should be given regularly in spoon feeding quantities.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

How to Use Plants in Your Yard to Help Your Pumpkins Grow

From time to time I find issues in the yard that can be canaries in the coal mine for the pumpkin plants.  For example, my lawn over the last two weeks went from beautiful green and growing nicely to an off color.  At first I thought it might be a nitrogen deficiency so I gave it some more nitrogen with little change in results.  Watching it closer, I've decided it is an iron deficiency, so I gave it some iron today.  At the same time I gave the pumpkin patch some iron. 

Although my lawn doesn't get an anual dose of compost and some of the other treatments, it is sometimes safe to assume if you are low in a nutrient in the yard, the pumpkin patch might be heading the same way.

I'll often use binder weed in the same way.   Binder weed seems to be very susceptible to powdery mildew.  If I see binder weed getting some powdery mildew on it, I'm start ramping up my fungicide program in the pumpkin patch to help fight it off before the plants get it.

In further updates, I've pulled the 2005 Haist that went flat vine (sad!) and will be growing the 1325 Johnson in the greenhouse.  Not overly sad however.  This 1325 is growing nicely and I like the genetics. 

In the hoop house, I'll be pulling the 1325 Johnson which has gone flat vine and growing the 2051 Marshall.  The 2051 has been a beautfiul plant so far and maybe even a better grower than the 1325 so far.

Both plants will have reached the end of their hoop houses by tomorrow.  Weather over the next three days is bad (below freezing some nights), so I'll but cutting a hole in the plastic so they have additional room to grow.  Fortunately after the next three nights it warms up considerably.  I'll try to keep the plants in the hoop houses as long as I can, so I can keep them as warm as I can at night and within 5-6 days I'll have to remove them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Vine Burying for a 1,000+ Pound Pumpkin

I talked a lot about it in the spring seminar, but I think the one thing that most growers can improve upon to get a 1000, 1500 or 2000 pound pumpkin is vine burying.  It isn't fun.  Particularly in the middle of a hot day in early July when the vines are growing like weeds, but it pays off big time.  Why?  Properly buried vines, done soon after vine growth means more roots growing at each leaf node.  In the past I know I've lost potential roots out of the top of the vine because I didn't bury soon enough or deep enough and the root start dried up.  Growing a giant pumpkin is like a death by a thousand cuts.  There is no magic fertilizer or seed.  It really is about doing about 100 things really well.

This year I'm going to vine bury earlier, a little deeper and I've added a couple of other things into the mix.  In the past I've done myco, seaweed, humic acid and Azos at each leaf node as I've been burying.  I'll continue to do that, but on the main vine I'm also putting down Wallace;s WOW Super Starter Packs.   That is the only fertilizer Eddy Z has been using (he puts one at every leaf node).  I don't want to do it at each leaf node because with my fertiligation I feel I can better apply targeted fertilizers when I need them, but I think there might some value in adding these starter packs.

I'm also adding Rootshield Plus at each leaf node.  I won that at the Spring meeting and it was something I wanted to buy anyway.  Rootshield is a natural, beneficial fungicide that can help protect the roots from pathogens.  Healthier roots should mean bigger pumpkins.

The last thing I'm doing, which I did last year, is putting a little compost down on top of the buried vines.  So I bury with soil and then put compost on top of it.  That will add some nutrients, but it also adds a ton of beneficial bacteria and fungi to the soil.  Actually much more than some of the beneficial you can buy in packets from the garden center. I personally don't prefer to put compost right on the vines.  I can see too many possibly problems that could come from that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pumpkin Flatvine (Dang!)

The 2005 Haist plant has gone flatvine (AKA flat vine).  That is really too bad.  Probably won't be able to grow this plant now, which is disappointing.  I haven't had a flatvine ever before.  The problem with a flatvine is the vine tends to go mutant and has trouble splitting.  What you can do is train a side vine to be the new main vine and that works fine, but it sets you back two weeks when you have to do that.  Since I have a very healthy 1325 Johnson plant, I'll probably go with it, but I'm going to let this 2005 plant grow out as long as I can to see what it does.  Right now the vine tip hasn't gone mutant.

Today I gave the plants some Omina, silica and yucca.  I've been watering the plants heavy.  In particular the 2005 plant, because some people have said it will grow out of it if you do that.  This video shows the flatvine.  I'm not sure anyone truly knows what causes flatvine in a pumpkin plan.  I think it is a combination of a strong plant vigor, temperature and nutrients playing together in combination.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

1325 Johnson Pumpkin Plant

Yesterday we finally got all of the plants into the ground.  I'm hoping the 1325 in the outdoor patch shapes up as nicely as the one that is in the greenhouse.  It is a beautiful looking plant.  The weather yesterday was fantastic.  Mid-70s with little to no wind.  We spent the better part of the full Saturday working in the yard and pumpkin patches.

Gave all of the plants some alfalfa pellet compost tea, with the new plants getting the same nutrients at planting as the greenhouse plants got earlier in the week.  As I mentioned previously in this blog, aerated compost tea does not seem to add biology in the soil that makes a significant difference.  Tests has shown that the increase that should happen with addition of biology from compost tea should cause an increase in respiration in the form of CO2, but that does not appear to be the case in the studies I looked at.

So why add an aerated compost tea using alfalfa pellets then?  Triacontanol!  Triacontanol has been called "the most potent growth hormone ever used on plants." I'm not sure yet it meets that high of praise, but it can't hurt and an aerated compost tea I think is one of the best ways to give it to your plant that is in the soil.  Studies have found that triacontanol can increase root mass by as much as 26%.  These studies weren't done on pumpkins, but I like those numbers.

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Little Fertilizer for the Plants & Plant Protection

I'm really pleased with the two plants in the greenhouse.  They've transitioned perfectly to the soil and haven't seemed to slow down at all.  Today I gave the plants a little Neptune's Fish & Seaweed 2-3-1 that I got at the GPC pumpkin seminar.  I've used this in the past and really like it.  No horrid smell like some and I like how they cold process it until some of the fish fetilizers.

Fish and seaweed to me is a great early season fertilizer.  I want to push the plants at this point, but not too hard.  The nice thing about this fertilizer is it is going to have a lot of micro nutrients along with growth hormones.  Enough to give the plants a nudge.  The one thing I wonder about is how soon the nutrients are available, but based on a presentation that the Neptune guys did at the convention, there is some evidence that at least some of the nutrients are readily available to the plant.

I add a new night time covering for the hoop houses this year.  The local construction has had a lot new new basements poured and the works threw into the dumpsters the tarp "blankets" that they use to help the cement cure.  They are basically two tarps with a foam insulation core and I've been able to keep the hoop house from getting much below 60 even when it is below freezing outside.  Plants are not happy below 54 degrees, so this helps keep them growing constantly.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Some Nice Plants & Growing in a COVID-19 World

2005 Haist (left) & 1325 Johnson (right)
Finally got plants into the greenhouse today.  Will probably do the other plants tomorrow.  The 2005 Haist and 1325 Johnson are pretty much twins.  Both plants have the same leaf shape, coloring and growth patterns.  If it comes down to it a tie, I'll grow the 2005 Haist, because I'll have a 1325 in the other patch.   I predict both plants will be about the same when it comes to picking the finalist.

I'm about 5-7 days past due for planting.  Between a very, very busy schedule in a
COVID-19 world and still at freezing temperatures lately (29 degrees last night) I've been holding off on planting.   Usually when I put large plants that are a little too big for their pots out on a sunny day they tend to get really droopy and sad looking.  These ones weren't that way however.  After a healthy watering they sprouted right up after a bit and seem pretty happy.  I hope that is a good sign.

I like where my soil is at.  I wish I had tilled in the cover crop a week earlier so it was broke down a little more.  It was the biggest cover crop I ever had at tilling time and as such there was more organic matter than normal.  That isn't a bad thing.  In particular with my sandy soil, but I like all that organic material to be visually fully broken down when planting.

I've got most of the setup in the greenhouse done and feel like I'm in pretty good shape.  Have been warming the soil via the geothermal system the last 4 days and it seems to have done its job.  I was planning on checking the misting system prior to tilling the soil, but I forgot, so I have to hope now there is no troubles with it.

The good news is we are back in the patch and growing again.  Five more months of labor in the patch and we will yield the fruits of our labors.