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Click on a thumbnail picture below to see the full size version. 45 Entries.
Tuesday, January 1 View Page
December 2018 Applying Leaf Compost Every season starts shortly after the previous season ends and this year was no exception. I decided to only grow two plants in the 2019 season and go all out. In short, this means I am playing a higher than normal stakes game and will likely either have a great pumpkin year or a lot of fishing time, so in my opinion I cannot have a bad year;-) I have been bringing in compost to the planned two pumpkin plant locations. Each site will be about 32 feet wide and 40 feet long (about 1280sq.ft.) with the actual area the plant is allowed to take up being a slightly less.
 
Tuesday, January 1 View Page
December 2018 Loading The Trailer Equipment is a great thing, and here is the trailer being loaded with leaf compost before being transported to the pumpkin patch. It only took one bucket to fill the 2 cubic yard trailer.
 
Tuesday, January 1 View Page
December 2018 Leaf Compost Stock Pile This is a look at the stock leaf compost pile, and even though I took quite a few loads out it barely looked like I took anything.
 
Tuesday, January 1 View Page
December 2018 Unloading The Compost Having a dump trailer made the unloading process very fast and efficient. Each 2 cubic yard pile was selectively placed to ensure even coverage over the two planting sites. The blue snow shovel is plastic and made getting the compost that was adhered to the corners of the trailer easy to dislodge with no damage to the trailer.
 
Tuesday, January 1 View Page
December 2018 Compost In The Patch Here is what the patch now looks like with the leaf compost piles generally covering a 40 feet x 64 feet area which will be where two plants will grow in 2019. All totaled I estimated about 34 cubic yards (17 trailer loads) of compost was brought in for this area.
 
Friday, March 15 View Page
Hail Storm Hail is not very common in the area, and hopefully this storm that produced dime sized hail counts for the season. It melted fast, but this is a sight I do not like to see at any point of the year.
 
Thursday, March 28 View Page
Pumpkin Grower Helping a Fellow Pumpkin Grower It is great when fellow pumpkin growers help each other out and this is a prime example. I have helped this grower out in the past with soil test results, disease diagnosis, patch tours and general pumpkin help. He returned the favor with delivery of his tractor and operated it to help spread the compost I had deposited in the patch. We were cutting it close to having enough light before the sun completely set, but we got it done just in time.
 
Sunday, March 31 View Page
Spread Compost Here is a look at the compost post tractor spreading. It ended up being about 3 inches thick across most of the planned growing area. The yellow rope you see is to mark the division between my two plants as I have something unique planned for one of the plants;-)
 
Sunday, March 31 View Page
Indoor and Outdoor Plant Plan This image shows the plans I have for one of my plants. This hoop structure is not planned to only be up for an early start, but will be up for the entire growing season. There are still many items to set-up but I am starting with the hoops to get a general idea of the area the structure will occupy.
 
Sunday, March 31 View Page
Not Using the Entire Patch This Year The entire patch is 60 feet x 100 feet, but I am only going to be growing in a portion of this area where the compost was placed and leveled which is 40 ft x 64 feet. There are still more hoops to put up, but those will have to wait for another day.
 
Sunday, March 31 View Page
Patch Overview March 31st, 2019 Here is my traditional patch image angle so the general progression can be seen over the course of the year. If you are curious about the large white boxes, those will be explained later, but they are going to be part of insect screen covers for the ventilation system.
 
Saturday, April 6 View Page
Steaming Compost All of the structure hoops are up and work is being done on the end walls. However, this morning the steam off the compost can be seen as it starts to heat up from the sun which has just broken though some early morning clouds. The compost itself was finished and stable; this was simply the high amount of moisture evaporating after a quick change in temperature.
 
Sunday, April 7 View Page
Indoor Structure and Soil Preparations If you look carefully compared to the previous image there have been wind braces added and the first run of purlins installed to help increase the rigidity of the structure. On the ground there are 10 bags of peat moss (total of 30 cubic feet) that will be added to the growing site of the structure. (*Note: there will also be 10 bags added to the traditional outdoor growing site as well, but my trailer could only hold so many bags at once.)
 
Sunday, April 7 View Page
Peat Moss This is an image of the label for the peat moss used. Peat moss was chosen to be added to help increase the general soil porosity, its high CEC (Cation exchange capacity) of 100-200 and its ability to hold 10 to 20 times its dry weight in water. All of these are positive qualities for giant pumpkin growing and peat moss was chosen because of its consistency compared to another media such as coco coir.
 
Sunday, April 7 View Page
Peat Moss Color Difference In the structure, the recently spread peat moss can be seen by a clear change in soil color. The peat moss has not been incorporated yet, so this is the reason for the distinction at the current time.
 
Sunday, April 7 View Page
Peat Moss Added to Indoor Structure Grow Site This shows a close-up of the actual structure area with a lone single 50 pound bag in the middle which is calcitic limestone. This is added to counter act the naturally acidic properties of peat moss so the overall pH does not shift much since it is right around my target pH of 6.8.
 
Sunday, April 7 View Page
Calcitic Lime A single 50 pound bag of calcitic limestone was added to the structure area which is about 1280 sq. ft. to help keep my pH stable and not become acidic as the peat moss will typically reduce soil pH levels. Allyndale Limestone is a local company based in East Canaan, CT. However, their CT mine location is dolomitic limestone and the calcitic actually comes from just to the north in Massachusetts. This is a great lime source and is the powdered form which has a high surface area to volume ration for improved soil contact. The only downfall is making the application. Wind will easily cause drift and it is difficult to run through a spreader so be cautious.
 
Sunday, April 7 View Page
Even Spread of Powdered Lime Powdered lime is great for having a high surface area to volume ration to help with the interaction with the soil particles, but it makes it a challenge to apply. The bag was placed in the middle so that an aluminum can could be used to help with the spreading process. Overall, it came out fairly even which makes the next step of raking it in much easier.
 
Monday, April 8 View Page
Breaking-up Soil for Heating Cables Sometimes the weather dictates when the heating cables should be installed and this was one of those years. The soil was dry enough and the day was relatively warm so today was the installation day. The white pvc pipe marks the side walls to the cold frame which are spaced 5 feet wide and 3 feet from each other in row. Soil in about a 5ft x 6ft area that is 8-10 inches deep is removed and then pitch forked to increase the drainage and aeration.
 
Monday, April 8 View Page
Installing Heating Cables This is the pattern I use for my 40ft. soil heating cables that have a built-in thermostat. It is important to have the thermostat in-between two heating elements and about midway through the image the power cord can be seen on the left hand side for orientation. This pattern is held temporarily in place with bamboo stakes and it can be very helpful to let the cables heat up in the sun before trying to get them to lay in this pattern. If it is a cold and/or cloudy day the cables can be plugged in and allowed to heat up to aid in trying to reduce the frustration of installing them. Testing the cables before installing them each year is highly recommended to ensure the time spent will produce the desired result.
 
Monday, April 8 View Page
Soil Heating Cables Installed Once soil is placed on top of the cables the bamboo stakes are removed and the rest of the previously excavated soil is replaced. The final product should look almost like nothing happened as is seen in this image. There is a slight color difference but this area is now ready for the next part of the growing process.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Peat Moss For The Outdoor Site Both sites (structure and outdoor) have the soil heating cables buried and now, the 10 bags (total 30 cubic feet) of peat moss will be added to the outdoor plant site. Once this is done, one 50 pound bag of calcitic lime will also be spread to replicate the soil treatment procedure that was followed for the structure growing site.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Soil Amendments Line-Up *Listed from right to left Kelp Meal Humic Acid Greensand Alfalfa Ferrous Sulfate Copper Sulfate Manganese Sulfate
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Kelp Meal This is a universal fertilizer and while it will not provide high amounts of primary nutrients it does offer many trace elements, vitamins and plant hormones. This can be used also as animal feed due to its many trace elements that offer a good general nutrient supplement. For giant pumpkins, I use a high rate of soil application which is about 65-75 pounds per 1,000sq.ft.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Humic Acid Humic acid can help plants uptake nutrients and reduce leaching. This is a finely ground granular product that should be cautiously applied especially if it is windy out. For giant pumpkins, I use a rate of about 15-20 pounds per 1,000sq.ft.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Greensand While many growers will note the potassium this contains, I do not add it for this purpose. The plant availability of the nutrients is very slow due to the long time it takes to break down in the soil. However, I do add it for the trace elements that much like the kelp meal, can be beneficial to the plant and soil biology but are not needed in any large quantities. For giant pumpkins, I use a rate of about 30-40 pounds per 1,000sq.ft.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Alfalfa This is another animal feed that I add to my soil in the spring. It is in a powdery form which makes the application process a little challenging. There is a feed pellet form, but this would take longer to break down, so this is why I prefer the powdery horse feed additive grade. In addition alfalfa is known to contain the plant hormone triacontanol, which is a plant growth regulator that has been shown to increase crop yields. There is also nitrogen, but again I do not think much of this is used by the plant. For giant pumpkins, I use a rate of about 15-20 pounds per 1,000sq.ft.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Ferrous Sulfate Ferrous sulfate (Iron(II) sulfate) is a product I typically do not add, but needed to this year to help keep everything in balance. I personally, prefer to have a soil slightly lower in nutrients but balanced rather than to high and out of sync. Also, tissue tests in the past have indicated that my plants are on the lower end of the range suggested range for iron. Adding some to the soil may be helpful at reducing the amount I may need to supplement with in-season. Be careful when adding nutrients since it is much easier to add nutrients than to try and take them away. Rate applied is based on soil test.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Copper Sulfate Generally in New England soils are low in copper, so this is something I typically add both in soil and as a liquid feed. Rates are small which can make even spreading a challenge so see below the tip I used to help with an even distribution. Rate is based on soil test.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Manganese Sulfate From what data I have seen, I have reason to believe that pumpkins consume more manganese (Mn) than may be currently recognized. It seems that this is something I am always in need of, so it could just be my soil does not hold it very well, or the pumpkin plants are efficient at removing it. Rate is based on soil test.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
How To Spread Small Quantities Over a Large Area This is my tip when you need to spread small quantities over a large area, mix them with a product (example kelp) that will be applied at a high rate to act as a carrier. When you mix everything together it can make it much easier to ensure an even distribution rather than trying to precisely apply each product individually. In the image this is my spreader that contains some kelp (brown/tan) in the bottom and then copper sulfate (blue) and manganese sulfate (white). I will hand mix all three of these together and then add in some more kelp which with be further mixed to ensure an even distribution before applying. This does save time and creates a consistent end product distribution.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Soil Amendments Added Here all of the soil amendments have been applied and while mostly the kelp can be seen (since it was applied at the greatest rate) everything is ready to be incorporated into the soil profile. I use a walk behind tiller for this purpose.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
One Till Per Year Here the amendments are being tilled in after being recently added to the growing sites. Even though the structure is set-up everything has been added evenly across both planting areas. In addition, both areas are being tilled at the same time, as if they were the same. This is part of the intention to keep as much consistency across both planting sites as possible. The support hoops to the structure provide a little obstacle during the tilling process, but these also help keep my tillage paths parallel.
 
Tuesday, April 9 View Page
Troy-Bilt Horse Tiller This is a late 1980’s Troy-Bilt Horse Commercial rear tine tiller. It is only used it in the spring so proper storage, and a winter test run are important to make sure it is ready to go the day it is needed.
 
Wednesday, April 10 View Page
Seed Starting Day! = April 10, 2019 The seeds are started in the evening and today is the official starting day! The seeds are taken out of the freezer, labeled with permanent marker, filed and then given about a 2 hour soak in tap water before they go into the germination chamber. The chosen seed for this year is the 1989.5 dmg Daletas ’17 (F: 1756 Howell/Jolivette x M: 1625 Gantner)
 
Wednesday, April 10 View Page
Digital Thermometer The germination chamber uses a 17 watt single tray seed starting mat (9” x 19.5”) as the heat source and is assembled in advance of seed starting day to ensure the temperature is right where it should be. It is set-up in a basement which runs on the cool side (65F or 18C) which makes it easier to regulate the temperature. The target temperature range is 82-84F (28-29C) that is determined with a temperature sensor placed under the plastic bag that contains the seeds to ensure an accurate reading of what the seeds are being exposed to.
 
Wednesday, April 10 View Page
Germination Chamber This shows the seeds in a cooler with a seed starting (single tray sized which is (9” x 19.5”) heat mat in the bottom. A standard 1020 crate is elevated about one inch above the mat and then some dish towels are placed in the tray. The seed bags are placed on the towels with the temperature probe under one of the sealed bags which will provide an accurate seed exposure temperature reading. The seed bags contain the seeds in a paper towel that has been wet and then rung out so it is moist, but not dripping wet and then placed in a sealed plastic bag. There are also some back-up seeds (the 2170 Daletas ’18 this year) started at the same time, “just in-case”.
 
Friday, April 12 View Page
Germination in 48 Hours! After about 48 hours both 1989.5 dmg Daletas ’17 seeds have produced a radical and were placed into planting containers containing Pro-mix BX growing medium. The containers were prepared ahead of time on a seed starting mat and under a HPS (high pressure sodium) grow light, which is why there is an orange tone to the image. A CMH (ceramic metal halide) light would be a preferred choice, but since the seedlings do not spend long inside the HPS works out well.
 
Saturday, April 20 View Page
Drip Tape Main Line (Header Line) Preparations for Structure Plant Site Even though it has been a very wet spring, this will likely change as the season progresses, so to be proactive the drip irrigation main line is being assembled. This main line is for the structure grown plant and each emitter has an on/off valve for precise regulation of each drip line to allow for better control over the entire plant irrigation. Being able to water the newer and older growth portions of the plant differently, will provide the opportunity to ensure the proper amount of water is fed with the intention of maximizing production and efficiency.
 
Saturday, April 20 View Page
Outdoor Grown: Drip Tape Specifics For my traditional outdoor grown plant I use the following drip irrigation set-up… Total of 27 lines each 30ft. long to cover my 40ft x 32ft single plant area Drip Tape Thickness: 15mil. Emitter Spacing in Tape: 12 inches Flow Rate per 100ft @ 8psi: 27 GPH (or 0.45 GPM) Space between Drip Tapes: 18 inches Run Time: Daily for 30min. (*unless it rains.) Estimated Water Usage: 100 gallons per 30min. irrigation over 1,280 sq.ft.
 
Saturday, April 20 View Page
Indoor Grown: Drip Tape Specifics For my structure indoor grown plant I plan on using the following drip irrigation set-up since the plant will not be receiving any direct natural rain. Total of 48 lines each 31ft. long to cover my 40ft x 32ft single plant area Drip Tape Thickness: 15mil. Emitter Spacing in Tape: 8 inches Flow Rate per 100ft @ 8psi: 20 GPH (or 0.34 GPM) Space between Drip Tapes: 9 inches Run Time: Daily for 30-60min. (*This will depend on the season and plant stage of development as I can also control the flow to each line individually, so I may select to have two 30min. irrigation events per day during peak growth and heat.) Estimated Water Usage: 150 gallons per 30min. irrigation over 1,280 sq.ft.
 
Saturday, April 20 View Page
Indoor Drip Line Organization A 3ft wide greenhouse floor/weed barrier has been installed before the main header drip tape to ensure the valves will be easy to access and relatively clean to allow for operation when needed. At the present time each is in the "on" position, to allow for testing and observations. However, there is the option for custom irrigation to best fit the plants needs as the season progresses. Each line has two U-Shape wire hold downs, with one around mid way (16ft) and the other near the end, to keep every line as parallel as possible. With only 9” spacing this can be quite the challenge to initially accomplish, but once completed it allows for even and consistent irrigation over the entire growing area.
 
Saturday, April 20 View Page
Patch Overview: April 20th, 2019 Drip Irrigation This images shows a general patch overview and the difference in the spacing of the drip tapes between the indoor (9”) and outdoor (18”) plant areas. The wind has been moving some of the drip lines as they have not taken a set from recently being taken off the stock roll. Cold Frames The small cold frames that are in both the structure and the outdoor site are 5ft. wide and 9ft. long. For construction details check out this video I made… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y_9s9AQqYc Large Structure End Walls The end walls on the structure are up and 6mil greenhouse grade plastic has been installed along with the 48” aluminum high velocity shutter vents. There is a tilt to the patch with the left side being higher than the right. To take advantage of this natural elevation change there is one vent on the left that will have an exhaust fan and two vents on the right (lower side) that will provide the cool outside air intake. There is still plenty of work to do, but progress is being made.
 
Saturday, April 20 View Page
Cold Frame Set-up Is Now Plant Ready This shows the area prepared before the plant goes in the ground. The drip lines have been already installed so the plant can easily grow over them and the planting location can be selected so that it does not have a drip line directly in contact with the initial planting site. A ceramic 100watt reptile heat lamp is on a timer (on at 7pm and off at 9am) and used as a heat source at night that does not give off any light to ensure the proper photoperiod is received by the plant. Heat cables have been buried and running for at least 24 hours prior to planting and the white circle is actually a soil thermometer which is reading 72F (22C) which is the ideal soil temperature. There is a black wire decorative fencing around the plant site which helps support blankets and sheets that may need to be put on during cold nights. This keeps the area to heat small and the sheets off the plants and heaters which reduce the chance of damage. The fencing is also fold-able which makes for easy off-season storage. The orange color at the top of the image is mill fabric/ plastic belting material that will go under the pumpkin, but at the moment it is acting like a weed block for the cold-frame. It is a great width (5ft) and also helps hold in some of the heat generated by the heating cables to help improve soil warming efficiency.
 
Saturday, April 20 View Page
Ideal Soil Temperature = 72F (22C) When heating the soil it is important to remember the ideal soil temperature is less than the ideal air temperature. The target temperature for the soil (root zone) is 72F (22C) and based on this thermometer my heating cables have elevated the temperature of the root zone to 70F (21C) which is ideal. It takes about 18-24hr for the soil temperature to stabilize so it is important to test the cables before burying and also before the plants go in. If the cables are installed and run for a few days (or even over a week or more) this can help flush out potential insects and reduce the chance of damage to a new transplant. However, this is not always possible but making sure everything is good to go before the plants are planting can save a lot of frustration. Now that everything has passed the initial set-up tests tomorrow will be planning day.
 

 

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