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Will Flash For Pumpkins: Our Patch By Larry Checkon

Our backyard patch is located in a valley and is very flat but sometimes is prone to flooding. Hills and a lot of trees that provide good wind protection surround it.

In the fall we put from 2 to 4 tons of fresh cow manure on each plant area and till it in immediately. Then mulched leaves are added and tilled in and finally rye is planted. In the spring the soil is tested and amendments added if necessary. We also add some Ironite, kelp meal and some molasses. Both of our patches have hardpan clay under them and we till about 8" deep. Our growing areas are about 30 x 30 or 900 sq. ft. and we grow diagonally across them in Christmas tree style. The mounds are about a foot high and nearly 10 feet wide. Most of the secondaries are left on except when they become congested where we curve the vines at fruit locations. We use foliar feed only when deemed necessary. The 1469 plant received just 2 applications of Fertrell #3 Fish and Kelp and 2 applications of 20-20-20 just 4 total. All watering is done by hand and sprayed under the leaves. We also have a homebuilt sprinkler system that is used on hot sunny days. It runs automatically and sprinkles the leaves for 15 seconds once every 20 minutes and is timed to operate from about 11AM to around 5PM. All of our water comes from a hand-dug well which is located about 30 feet from our main patch. The water is stored in a 550-gallon tank and supplied from there by a jet pump. 400 feet of underground waterlines supply water to other patch locations.

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We use only Warrior T for insects and a variety of fungicides including Compass, Banner, Immunox, Manzate and Stylet Oil with baking soda. We also use Holland's Bio Endo product in our potting soil and mound area. The growing season was about the hottest and driest that I can ever remember. There were a lot of nice warm nights though and this seemed to help quite a bit. We could have used a lot more rain though. Two of our 4 plants did suffer a lot from the heat, which resulted in slow growth. Another fruit split and rotted a week before the weigh-off.

The 1469 took right off though and never paused. It averaged well over 40 lbs. per day at it's peak growth period. In mid august, the first of 2 large sag lines appeared but the fruit somehow made it intact to weigh-off day. When it was cut open we saw that the cracks were paper thin at the surface. There were over 600 seeds inside but only 180 mature ones. I believe the pumpkin was trying to grow much heavier but simply did not have quite enough food. Possibly the plant needed to be a little larger, or maybe it just needed a few good rains.

When I started growing pumpkins just a few years ago, I wondered if it could possible to grow a pumpkin over 1000 lbs. Next I wondered if it could be done this far south in Pennsylvania. I think that if you are a new grower, you must believe that you can do it too. Get to know your soil very well and talk to other experienced growers in your area.

Many of them will be glad to help. If you want to be truly successful, you must get into it 100 percent and be willing to spend the time necessary. If you do not enjoy it, you are wasting your time. Good luck out there.

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