Sarah's 2017 Pumpkin Diary

Post your Maine Growing Diary and Pictures Here

Sarah's 2017 Pumpkin Diary

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

01 Mar 2017, 17:16 #1

This warm weather has been getting me into pumpkin mode, so I'm started to plan out my growing season. Over the winter I made myself a reference binder that contains diaries and information from some of the world's top growers so I can see what they do and when they do it. On thing I found interesting was that Mathias Willemijn's winning plant germinated on April 2. This is so early for Maine, but I might do a trial with some of my seeds to see if I can take advantage of an early start like he did. I imagine I may need to build a bigger hoop house and save money for the upcoming heating bill.

While reading Ron Wallace's 2016 diary, I noticed he did some "test" germinations to make sure his system is running smoothly. I'm going to do this as well with some seeds I have in abundance, particularly from all my past pumpkins that have good genetics in them. I'll probably do this test within the next two weeks. It will be interesting to see if any of them are particularly vigorous.

The soil in my main patch is all set, but the Bangor Community Garden needs some work. I'll probably start purchasing those amendments soon so I'm ready when the ground thaws.

Other than that, I just need to ponder some more about an irrigation system. I think I would benefit from setting up drip tape this spring, but the money and time requirements might make that difficult, especially since I have no idea what I'm doing. Maybe I can recruit some garden help for a day in return for some cash and food :) .

I sure hope I have an exciting season this year, and I look forward to keeping everyone updated!
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

13 Mar 2017, 20:57 #2

A few days ago I made myself a germination chamber. I used Ron Wallace’s 2016 diary on bigpumpkins.com as a guide, and I was able to get most of the parts for cheap at the Salvation Army or my recycling bin. I used a Tupperware bin with a piece of plexiglass on the top for the chamber. Inside I have sand on the bottom and two 45-watt incandescent lights lying on the sand. I have a cookie drying rack propped up about halfway up, and I’ll be putting my peat pots on top of that. I’m making sure to have saucers underneath the peat pots so no water drips down onto the lights (the lids and bottoms of my big yogurt containers work well too). I think I have enough oxygen getting in through the holes that I cut for the electric cords and supports for the cookie racks.

I have a thermometer inside the chamber, and it is averaging between 80-90 degrees. I’m doing some test germinations with some excess seeds that I have to make sure the system works and also to see if any of my seeds are vigorous growers.

To prepare my test seeds I filed down the edges, dipped them in a 10% bleach solution, and then soaked them in ½ strength humic acid for 1 hour. Then I wrapped them up in moist paper towels (with the humic acid solution), placed them in plastic bags, and put those in the germination chamber for 12 hours overnight. Today I put the seeds in their pots, and now I’m just waiting to see how they do!

Just for fun, I planted a few giant cabbage seeds. I need to start them earlier than the pumpkins, so we’ll see how those do! I have extra space at the Bangor Community Garden, so I figured it would be fun to play around with some other giants (especially ones that are less maintenance!).

I also purchased a bunch of amendments for the Bangor Community Garden. The soil report was pretty bad... pH was 5-something, and most of the nutrients were very low. We got 6 yards of compost from Hawk Ridge Compost Facility this fall (thank you!), so I imagine that plus the amendments will help us out a lot. All I need for my patch at home is some liquid gypsum to help get a better Ca:Mg ratio.

That's all for now. I'll post an update when I get some baby pumpkins!
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

25 Mar 2017, 15:35 #3

The germination chamber was a success! My most vigorous seedling is the 920 Whitty. I planted two of each seed: one in a 4-inch peat pot and one in an old cardboard soup container. I used the soup containers to be cheap, but those actually worked a lot better than the peat pots, maybe because they didn't dry out as quickly. As long as I can prevent them from getting root-bound, I think they might be worth experimenting with when I do my real germinations in a few weeks.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

25 Mar 2017, 15:57 #4

The above photo was taken on March 18, and the one here was taken today, March 25. I transplanted my best seedlings into bigger pots and stuck them under fluorescent lights. I surrounded the area with white plastic (from my used bags of pellets) so that I could get as much light as possible reflected back and concentrated onto the plants. The 920 Whitty is still the most vigorous grower, but "Peanut" has been catching up. The leaves are getting so big now that the light is burning the edges (I can't raise the light any higher). However, I'm not too worried because by this time I will have my real seedlings out in their hoop houses. These are my two favorite candidates so far from the "Whitty" seed stock:

920 Whitty (758 Berard x 1790.5 Wallace) - The 758 Berard is a cross of the 1756 Lancaster x 2323.7 Meier

"Peanut", aka 867 Whitty (1695 Gaboury x open)

The only thing that worries me about these seeds is that both of them weighed light.

I have a bunch of other seeds that I will be planting for my "real" germinations, so we'll see how those do.

In the photo below, Peanut is top left, 920 is top right, and 1185 is bottom.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

02 Apr 2017, 17:00 #5

I'm sick of looking at all this snow, so I went out and shoveled as much snow as I could out of my patch (basically until I hit the layer of ice underneath). I spread some wood ash from our stove onto my planting sites, and just that alone allowed the snow to melt because of the black color. Plus it will help raise my pH a little, which will be perfect. To help even more, I place clear plastic over my planting sites to finish melting the snow and warming up the soil. I think we have a lot of rain coming next week, so I'll keep the plastic on until it gets sunny again so I can get my soil nice and dry. Once the soil is dry enough, I'm going to place soil heating cables in the ground and set up my hoop houses.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

13 Apr 2017, 16:07 #6

I watched an excellent webinar last week on Facebook, and it gave me some new ideas for my pumpkin patch. One thing they talked about was getting an earlier start. This was my plan as stated above, and now I’m even more confident in my decision. They also talked about a new vine burying technique done by Ian Paton. He fills a big plastic pot with peat and simply places that over the vine where the top root is going to come out of. This keeps it darker and more likely for the root to emerge. Plus, it’s a lot easier and won’t be an issue with drip irrigation. There was a ton more information that I won’t go into detail about here, but I highly recommend watching the video, which you can find here:

https://www.facebook.com/10001546464609 ... =2&theater

So I planted my seeds earlier than usual this year. I planted them on April 6, they emerged on April 10, and I transplanted them into bigger gallon pots April 12. The roots were already going crazy after two days, so I’d like to get them in the ground as soon as possible. I currently have the lights on for 14 hours a day. My most vigorous seedlings are the following (starting with the best):

1. 1524.5 Vincent (1676 Daletas x 1623 Wallace)
2. 920 Whitty (758 Berard x 1790.5 Wallace) - The 758 Berard is a cross of the 1756 Lancaster x 2323.7 Meier
3. “Peanut” 867 Whitty (1695 Gaboury x open)
4. 1700 est. Checkon (1821 Checkon x 2323.7 Meier)
5. 1155 Crosby (1727.5 Pierpont x 1865.1 Paton)
6. 979 Berard (1900 Watson x 2323.7 Meier)

I’ve been working really hard at fighting Mother Nature this spring. It’s raining all the time, and it took quite a while for all the snow to melt (it snowed another 2 inches after my last post, and yes I shoveled that out too). I bought two greenhouses for $60 each, and I’m really impressed by them. They’re 7 feet wide, 10 feet long, and 6 feet high. For the price, I’m surprised at how sturdy they are. I set those up a few days ago to get the soil warmed up, and I did my best to expose the soil to let it continue drying up. The soil is still pretty wet. I tried to accelerate the drying process by sprinkling some dry peat moss over the soil since that stuff likes to suck up the water.

The photo below is of my best seedlings: 920 Whitty in the back, 1524.5 Vincent in the middle, and "Peanut" in the front.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

13 Apr 2017, 16:12 #7

This is a photo of my greenhouses. They're more spacious than the hoop houses I used to make, and they appear to be quite sturdy so far. I will be placing a wireless thermometer inside the greenhouse so I can monitor the temperature from inside my house. I am also going to place an LED lamp in each greenhouse to give the plants some extra light this time of year.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

18 Apr 2017, 18:32 #8

As expected, my cheap greenhouses followed the rule of "You get what you pay for". The stakes and string that were used to anchor them down did absolutely nothing in the wind, and it wasn't long before my two greenhouses were upside down getting tossed around. I made some modifications, using duct tape to make the frame sturdier, heavier-duty rope, and rebar as my stakes. It worked great, and my greenhouses are secure now.

The weather has been great lately, so I've been able to get my plants outside in the sun most days to harden them off. The soil is warming up, especially the soil in my best spot because I have a soil heating cable in that one. I have also added perlite to the soil to help aerate it.

Today I decided to transplant my best plant outside. I've liked the 1524.5 Vincent (1676 Daletas x 1623 Wallace) from the second it sprouted, and it continues to be the most vigorous seedling, although others aren't far behind. My seedling was in a gallon plastic pot. I cut the pot in half and duct taped it back together before filling it with soil, and now transplanting will be a lot easier since all I have to do is take the duct tape off, remove one half, place it gently in the hole, and then remove the other half of the pot. I sprinkled Azos and Pumpkin Pro (mycorrhizae) in the hole before putting the plant in. Also, I made sure to put the plant at a slight angle so that when the vine starts to grow, it won't kink the stem.

I have an LED grow light in my greenhouse, and I will have that on for 16 hours a day. It's not a big light, but I'm hoping it will help supplement the sunlight it's already getting and extend the daylight for the plant a little bit.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

18 Apr 2017, 18:39 #9

This is a photo of my greenhouse setup. In the back left is a heater, which I turn on at night to keep the plant warm. In the top center is my LED light. It's not much, but I'm hoping it will supplement the sunlight enough to make some sort of difference. I have this hooked up to a timer, with 16 hours on a day. To the right of that is my wireless thermometer. That transmits the temperature to another screen inside my house, so I can monitor the temperature without having to walk all over my patch. This is the earliest I've ever had my plant outside, and I'm excited to see what comes of it!

I still have work to do on my other greenhouse at home, and I haven't even touched the patch at the Bangor Community Garden yet, so stay tuned for more pumpkins in the next few days.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

29 Apr 2017, 02:51 #10

Things have been going pretty well in pumpkin land. The 1524.5 Vincent was slow to start growing after transplanting it, but it seems to be picking up now. My other plants are still in their pots and have overtaken the 1524.5 Vincent, but I imagine they will slow down as well when they get transplanted. I have a space heater running in the greenhouse at night and sometimes during cool days. The plants love it, but I'm very scared at what my electricity bill is going to be! I put my favorite plants out in the greenhouse as well to harden them off a little, and they have done well.

Today I transplanted the 1548 Powell (1362 Lieber x 1784 Glasier) to the other greenhouse in my backyard. This wasn't on my "Top 5" list in the beginning, but now it has overtaken most of my other plants. I'm curious how well it does with the transplant since the pot was quite root bound.

I also like the 1262 Vincent (1698 Ceja x 1623 Wallace) and the 920 Whitty (758 Berard x 1790.5 Wallace), and those will probably be the plants I bring over to the Bangor Community Garden.

I will be starting some long gourd seeds soon. I had trouble germinating them last year, so hopefully I'll have better luck this time. Thank you Elroy for the seeds!
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

05 May 2017, 01:48 #11

It's been raining like crazy up here, and we just had two days of nice weather, with another two weeks of rain in the forecast. I transplanted my pumpkins over to the Bangor Community Garden on Tuesday, and it was way overdue. The 1262 Vincent had roots 7 inches long coming out the bottom of the pot, and I did my best not to damage any. I also transplanted the 920 Whitty. Those roots weren't quite as vigorous, but she's still growing well. Those two pumpkins are in homemade hoop houses made with PVC piping and clear plastic. They don't have a heater or supplemental lighting, so we'll see what happens with them.

I took a picture of my backyard tonight because it makes me happy every time I look out my window. I have my supplemental LED lights going for 18 hours a day inside the greenhouses, which means my backyard glows at night. Dale said it looks like aliens are about to land, and the neighbors have been driving by real slow to try and figure out what is going on. The pumpkins are become more and more of a hit each year, and that makes me happy.

I'll try and post a picture of my plants tomorrow. They're all doing great, and I'm hoping these LED's help with all these overcast days.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

05 May 2017, 21:40 #12

This is a photo of the 1524.5 Vincent. She is looking great! I have not been watering her because I'm trying to encourage the roots to grow more in search for water. I got this idea from an article Mathias Willemijns wrote on his world record. It's been raining pretty steadily, so I'm really not that worried anyway!
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

16 May 2017, 23:57 #13

From here on out, my updates will be mainly for the 1524.5 Vincent. Although I'm growing 4 pumpkins, I really only have 1 that has a chance to be the "big one". It's unfortunate because I put a lot of work into all of them, but I just don't have the land to give them all ideal conditions. Even the good one could use more sunlight, but I do the best with what I have.

The 1524.5 Vincent is doing great despite the fact that it has been overcast and rainy for nearly 2 weeks. We have a stretch of nice weather coming up, and I'm looking forward to seeing what that does. My plant is the biggest it's ever been this time of year!

I'm not sure what I'll be doing in terms of soil amendments and foliar feeding, so my next job is to figure out a schedule for that. I'm really excited to watch this plant's progression, and I would love to be able to get a pollination the second or third week of June.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

19 May 2017, 18:13 #14

Today I did a foliar spraying of harpin proteins (Axiom) on my plants. I learned about this from Ron Wallace's diary, and I was intrigued by it. Harpin proteins are produced by pathogens, and the plant has receptors for these proteins to detect when it is being attack by a pest or disease. When it senses the presence of a pathogen (or in our case just the harmless protein), the plant's growth and defense system are stimulated and supposedly can increase yields. I will apply this every 2-3 weeks from here on out. I will also be doing foliar applications of fish/seaweed and Cal Mag.

I'm still doing some research to figure out a feeding schedule. I will probably start making compost tea soon, and I'm looking into some products that I've never used before like Epsom salts, Essential Plus, Root, TKO phosphite, and 0-0-25 from Growth Products. I've read a lot of grower's diaries, and I've come to the conclusion that everybody does something different. It's hard to pick out which products are beneficial vs. a waste of money. I'm interested in the products above because I've noticed them being repeated in many diaries.

The 1524.5 Vincent is looking great. The weather has been great, and she is really taking off. It looks like she might even be growing out of her hoop house soon!
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

24 May 2017, 19:16 #15

The 1524.5 Vincent is doing unbelievably well, and it looks like it will be growing out of its greenhouse in a few days. The secondary vines are starting to grow out, and I need to start burying vines soon. I ordered some Essential Plus, TKO Phosphite, and 0-0-25 from Growth Products, and I have created a feeding schedule that I will try to follow for the rest of the season. I made my feeding schedule based on readings from other top growers, mainly Ron Wallace who had a well-outlined schedule in the MePGO newsletter. I get most of my amendments from the Urban Garden Center in Brewer. They carry stuff that most other places don't. I want to make a shout out to Beau, who has helped me this spring and gave me a packet of Axiom (harpin proteins) and ROOT from his personal stash for free. This stuff can get expensive, and I feel very lucky to be able to try out new products that I may not have otherwise been able to afford. Thank you Beau and the Urban Garden Center!
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

04 Jun 2017, 02:14 #16

I measured the main vine today, and it is 12 feet long! There are two female pumpkins on the main vine right now: one at around 10 feet, and one at the very tip. I cut a female off a secondary vine today and dissected it, and it had six lobes. I would love if the ones on the main vine had six as well.

Yesterday I did my second application of harpin proteins. I've been doing my best to stay on schedule with my fertilizer program, although I'm having trouble keeping up with everything. I've neglected the Bangor Community Garden a little bit, but I'm starting to get back on track. My battle with the cucumber beetles has begun, and I've started burying vines as well.

One of my long gourds just germinated, and Elroy was nice enough to give me one of his long gourd seedlings as well, so I have some plants to experiment with this year. I'm looking forward to it!

Today I started "pitchforking" the soil. This was an idea I got from Ron Wallace to help get oxygen down to the roots and loosen soil compaction. You simply stick a pitchfork in the ground and move it back and forth a little just enough to loosen up the soil (don't turn the soil over).

We had a hail warning two days ago, but luckily we didn't get any. I was freaking out, running around my backyard in a thunderstorm trying to find a way to protect the new growth that has grown out of the greenhouse, and I was able to make a shelter out of tires and a wood pallet. I'd like to say I'm on track for a personal best this year, but I also know I'm one hail storm away from that goal being crushed...

That's all for now. My baby is growing quick, and I'm really excited for the next few weeks. I think I have a good chance of getting a pollination by the third week in June, hopefully at least 14 feet down the main vine.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

19 Jun 2017, 02:22 #17

The 1524.5 Vincent has been growing steady, although it seems the cloudy days have slowed it down a bit. I was hoping the plant would grow a bit quicker, and I have no idea if it's the weather or me that's causing it to be sluggish. I pollinated a 4-lober at 11.5 feet on June 14, although I have one I like better at 14 feet that should open up in about a week. Maybe that pollination is the reason the plant growth has slowed down.

Dale and I are building a monstrosity of a long gourd trellis. It's taking a bit longer than expected, and I'm hoping to get the plants in the ground in a few days since they've been in their pots for a while. I did transplant them into gallon pots to give them some more room, but I'd prefer to have them in the ground.

I'm looking forward to the next few weeks since we'll actually have some pumpkins to watch!
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

24 Jun 2017, 15:12 #18

I've pollinated every pumpkin on the main vine so far, and I'm glad I did because my first one aborted. I wasn't planning on keeping that one anyway since it was only 9 feet down the main vine. The next one down (which is currently my "chosen one") is only 11.5 feet down the main vine, but it's the only one that's doing well. I initially thought it was 4 lobes, but I think it is actually 5 when I look more closely. The next one down the vine is on "stand by". This one is at 14 feet and is only 4 lobes. It is a bit deformed, and you can see some baby seeds on the outside of one of the lobes which worries me. The next one down after that is on the tip of the vine, and I can already see a deformed lobe peeking out of the flower, so it looks like I might have to stick with the pumpkin at 11.5 feet. I pollinated it on June 14, which is about two weeks earlier than I've every pollinated a pumpkin before. There is a little spot near the blossom that looks like a crack was about to form, but it seems to have stayed the same size as the pumpkin continues to grow. I will definitely keep an eye on that. I'm still waiting for the plant to fill out, so I'll continue burying vines and hoping for the best.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

01 Jul 2017, 16:28 #19

The 1524.5 Vincent is doing well despite some more cloudy days. The vines haven't slowed down yet which is good because I'd like my plant to fill out a little bit more. I'm doing Ron Wallace's vine pattern that was drawn out in the last MePGO newsletter. I have the pumpkin positioned as best as I can to avoid it growing into the main stem, and I have placed it on top of some sand which has mill fabric underneath it. Life has been very busy, and I'm a bit behind on my feeding schedule. I did a tissue test and was surprised that a few tings were low despite them being in abundance in my soil. So I'm guessing the balance is off, and I will do my best to alter my feeding program to better balance things out. I have two back up pumpkins on the vine still, and I'll probably keep them a little longer since they're not really sucking up much of the plant's energy anyway.
Reply
Like

swhitty
Advanced Member
swhitty
Advanced Member
Joined: 02 Jun 2015, 14:13

03 Aug 2017, 18:54 #20

It's been a while since I've posted an update. The 1524.5 Vincent is growing a steady 20-25 pounds a day, and it is currently estimated at 624 pounds. I have been so busy with life and work that I've had a really hard time keeping up with the Bangor Community Garden. This might be my last year there, and I'm thinking of handing it over to volunteers at the garden and teaching them how to grow giants instead of me. Right now I'm doing my best to stay on top of things. The long gourd is a few inches from the top of the trellis, and I'm hoping to pollinate it soon!
Reply
Like