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How to Clone Pumpkins off the Main Vine by Marc Sawtelle

How to Clone Pumpkins off the Main Vine by Marc Sawtelle

Successful cloning off the main vines is as simple as burying the vine in some soil, then waiting 7-10 days to cut the new plant from the main plant. Many growers bury vines during the season to give their plant an added root system which anchors and feeds the main plant. To make pumpkin clones indoors {or out}, the same basic principal is applied. Once the original pumpkin begins growing over the container and has a vine long enough which can be placed in another pot, all the grower must do is provide that vine a rooting medium for the plant to do what is natural for it; sprout roots. Bury the entire vine 1/2 inch below the soils surface in the new pot. This is soon to be a new plant, of the same origin as the original plant. Place a heating pad below the pot the clone is in, and keep head on low or medium. The clone pot should be well watered, but not overly saturated. It is helpful to use vitamin B-1, Superthrive plant hormones, and Shultz 2-7-7{with micronutrients} Cactus Plus. Using similar fertilizers will work as well. Both the host pot and clone pot should then be put underneath a shop light which is kept on 24 hours a day. Check the clone plant after a couple days, and keep the soil moist in that pot. The host pot needs little to no water during this period. By stressing the host plant this way, the clone becomes less dependent on the roots at the base of the host plant, and is encouraged to sprout it's own roots. After 7-10 days if you have given the new vine what it need to grow, the host plat can be cut away. Cut the old vine away from the clone as close to the soil as possible. Larger leaves which were buried earlier should be cut at this time. This will allow the new plant to not have to care for so many leaves initially, and allow the plant to root without stressing. You now have a cloned pumpkin plant which has the same genetic makeup as the host plant it was cut from! This process can be done again and again and again.

The uses of pumpkin cloning are simple. One can keep a good genetic plant alive for a new season and not worry about seeds. Also, if the grower has a short growing season, cloning can help get a jump on the season by allowing flowers to develop earlier than normal. This is because a newly spouted seed takes time to start flowering, and a clone is already producing them at the base of the plant.

Imagine if the Checkon's plant was cloned! Since the plant produced only 34 seeds, having a clone off of that pumpkin plant would have allowed them to cross it this season and have more seeds from this wonder! Growers also may wish to keep a clone through the winter which they liked as a possible pollinator for the next season. Cloning just may be the next way to reach a 2,000 pound pumpkin.



Waited until now, to finally post this, so I would have enough time to really write a detailed, and informative message for growers serious about genetics.

It may appear as I am a not a serious or experienced grower, as my personal best was a 432 here in Colorado Springs this year, while Joe Scherber and Kevin Holman both destroy the old Colorado state records exceeding the 800 pound mark {also this year}. I have been growing for 9 years now, growing just average genetic seeds. Last year I was lucky to have met Joe Scherber and see some 600 pound pumpkins. WOW! I was in disbelief that Colorado supported conditions favorable enough to grow them so large. He explained it just takes finding good genetic seeds if my growing techniques were not the problem. He suggested I try to request as many seeds from larger pumpkins, and hang on to some until I found seed proven to grow the large ones. I did just that, and I did have a good stock of good genetics going into this season.

The season was lost in mid May though. In spring we have mites which find cold frame pumpkin plants as good hosts. I usually just use the "safe spray" stuff they sell for houseplants, which has always done the job, until this season. Someone in my family dumped 1/2 of a bottle of Liquid Seven into an empty "safe spray" bottle, and you can guess the rest! It took until mid July to get things going again, and I knew I would have yet another sub par year. I used the rest of the year experimenting with my own breeding program. I usually grow 2 plants in 880 square feet with one pumpkin per plant, but instead I grew 7 pumpkins on 3 plants. Two of the three plants seem like they could have really done a lot more, if not for the "accident", which prevented me from having plenty of leafs and rooted vines when the first and second week of July came. I pollinated females with similar genetic backgrounds or traits, and 3 of the 7 pumpkins may be great crosses. I will find out how well my match making is next year, when other growers test them out. I, though, will finally be testing out my theory!

Well, since you know some of my background now, I can cut the bull and get right down to it. My theory is simple...

  1. Cloning can help produce superior genetic pumpkins quicker than using the cross breeding methods we all use now.
  2. Cloning could save a great strain of ANY pumpkin which grew a 4 digit pound fruit and enable someone to try all kinds of different male or female cross breeding combinations with that plant.
  3. Cloning original plants can save a strain that might have just had a bad growing season, like the kind of season the upper East coast areas had. I know there had to be a few growers saying " I think I really had a great plant going...but I'll never know what it would have done since we had such poor growing conditions!"

Cloning is nothing new to the horticulture world, as some make it seem. This is not any "Dolly the sheep" cloning stuff...just simple plant propagation techniques and an open mind to try them on a plant which requires a lot of care in between the growing seasons. I experimented all of last winter trying various cloning methods and techniques, and seen 2 other growers raise them without any different results than if it was a seed started plant.

One of the best advantages I noticed over a seed started plant is that once it gets rooted outside and gets some larger "outdoor" leafs, a clone has plenty of male flowers, and even some females to "practice" or "experiment" on as early as the first week in June. By the time the golden zone to pollinate rolls around, there are plenty of females and males to pollinate! No need to put all your hopes on just a couple of fruits, not when there may be 10-15 getting ready to bloom on a plant which can have many "main stems" if the grower so desires.

I have received a lot of personal e mails about this subject ever since I posted some news explaining that I was actually trying it. I will not post any names of growers that are experimenting this winter, as I respect the fact some of them may not want everybody else knowing that they are currently experimenting with it. Those that want to post results to me in private can do so without me spilling the news all over the pumpkin sites. There have been a couple of growers I have been curious about {You know who you are}. Those who want more info can privately e mail me if they so desire.

Future Plant

Future Plant

Cloned Plant

Cloned Plant

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