Giant pumpkins in 2016?

giant pumpkin

One of my giant pumpkins in 2011. Wasn’t she beautiful?

I am trying to grow giant pumpkins again this year and haven’t talked much about them as I have not had good luck growing them the last 3 years. I broke the NM State Record for giant pumpkin in 2010 and broke my record in 2011 and then my record was broken in 2012 by someone else. Since then, nobody has set any records here for New Mexico as far as I know. It is not as easy as I first thought. I must have had beginner’s luck.

This was back in 2008-my first year of growing giant pumpkins

If you can get one to take and keep growing, nothing is more beautiful in the garden than seeing these huge orange globes in a sea of green leaves!

This year, I bought some seeds from the world record holder 0ver 2300 lb and both of them never germinated. Arrgh! So now I’m down to 2 pumpkin plants that came from a 2009 lb pumpkin and 1 pumpkin plant from an 1879 lb pumpkin and 1 pumpkin plant from an 1135 lb pumpkin. The 1135 pumpkin plant had some animal dig by it and it got buried for a while but might come back. Actually doesn’t look too bad but should be growing a little faster-it might have been set back from the incident. That’s why I grow more than one-sh*t happens. And the last 3 years, it’s happened a lot regarding giant pumpkins.

giant pumpkin plant from 2009lb pumpkin

giant pumpkin plant from 2009lb pumpkin

So far, one of the 2009 (grower-Langevin) pumpkin plants looks very good, growing nicely, the other one is a little slower but still good and the 1873 (grower-Steil) plant is looking pretty good too. A glimmer of hope! I fertilized all of them on Monday with a cocktail that had fish fertilizer, mycorrhizal, Azos, kelp emulsion and 2 fungicides-Rootshield Plus and Companion.  I give them some fungicides because I’ve had some die from some fungal wilt before so I’m trying to be preventative. I always say I’m giving them some juice which really is a cocktail of a mix of things all at once and all must be compatible. All giant pumpkins are BIG EATERS so fertilize them 1x a week with at the least fish/seaweed fertilizer. My first year I only did that and got some 200-300 lbers. This is not like the ‘Biggest Losers’ show where you starve the pumpkins in our lousy soil but more like the ‘Biggest Winners’ by feeding them a lot and giving them a lot of water too. You don’t get to be 500-1000 lb+ in 4 months without feeding them every week.

Except for the 1138 pumpkin plant, all giant pumpkin plants are in section 3 of my main garden. I have a mantra I say every time I look at them, “Grow nangua, grow!” It means pumpkin in Chinese. I guess I hope it brings me good luck this year! Time will tell…

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What’s up in the garden!

I’ve been busy in the garden. Which is why I haven’t written lately. Hard to write when so many things need to get done. Here’s the latest update.

WEATHER: How about this crazy weather? Hot, cold, hot. Go figure! That’s how it is this time of year. It actually hailed 6 inches last Saturday between Harry’s Roadhouse restaurant and Seton Village Drive on Old Las Vegas Highway-a very small section of land. Drove through it right after it happened-would not have want to been in that one. Luckily we didn’t get much hail at the farm-thank you universe! Just missed us. One friend of mine was not so lucky and all her veggies got wiped out. Now it is getting warm again.

HARVESTING: Still harvesting lettuces and spinach. In fact I picked almost all the spinach as it will bolt soon with the warmer weather and the lettuce will also bolt soon, so much of that is picked too. The old kale is done now. The new kale ready to go in. The rhubarb is fantastic with many stalks ready to pick. I feel a strawberry-rhubarb gallette coming soon!

PLANTING: The main garden is about half weeded-Ugh! But the beds are all cleaned up and ready for all the tomatoes that will be planted next Wednesday. Now I just have to finish weeding the pathways.

DRIP SYSTEMS: The drip systems are now up and running. I hate it when they act up. Sometimes it takes 2-3 days to get everything going and not leaking. Feels great when it’s done. I can’t believe it went as smoothly as it did this year.

GIANT PUMPKINS: My first giant pumpkin was planted today at my friend, Deborah’s house. Hope it does well out there! Still have 3 more to plant next week here in my garden plus I have some giant long gourds and 2 giant zucchini (marrows) to put in. I’ve had trouble the last 3 years with getting any of my giant pumpkins successfully grown. Hopefully one of the pumpkins will do well this year. I have a plan!

DEER!: We had some deer come and eat all the Orach (which is ok) and half of one of my grape plants (which is NOT ok). Ate the leaves and the flowers of what woulda been future grapes. I covered the rest up with row cover. Hopefully they will not explore and find the plants. There is not much in the main garden to eat so hopefully they will move on. Luckily they did not eat the garlic plants!

MORE PLANTING: The peppers and eggplants starts will be planted the first week of June and the seeds of other warm season crops will go in next week too.

Busy time of year! Phew!

 

No Giant Pumpkin This Year :(

Courtesy of pumpkin pic_history.org

Pumpkin picture courtesy of http://www.history.org

So disappointing. No giant pumpkin this year-not even a little one. I started with 3 plants. Two died of a wilt. I checked to make sure they didn’t have a squash vine borer in them-which they didn’t. I pulled both by the end of July. I just pulled my third and last giant pumpkin plant and sent it to the State Lab last week to see if they could diagnosis what disease it had. The leaves were weird – they were stiff and broke easily, the stems were weird with galls and the blossoms wouldn’t open or stayed small and dropped off—all of them. I didn’t even have one to pollinate. This is the first time since I started growing giant pumpkins that I’ve had this kind of trouble. Some years I’ve grown great pumpkins, some years not so great but I’ve always had at least one giant pumpkin. Not this year – nada and no annual pumpkin bash! What a bummer.

The results just came in from the State Lab. They had to send  it to an independent lab to confirm their diagnosis. They both came to the same conclusion-CURLY TOP VIRUS!! No. no. I know Curly Top Virus is transmitted to tomato plants via the beet leafhopper but didn’t know it could transmit this virus to giant pumpkin plants as well. And I even had it covered with row cover until July but I guess that wasn’t long enough as it only takes one leafhopper to infect plants. 😦

One last pumpkin goes in

giant pumpkins_050514

Barry Todd’s pumpkin, 556 Todd second from left. Photo taken May 6.

barrytoddToday I planted the 3rd and final giant pumpkin plant that has been growing steadily in the greenhouse. A pumpkin friend, Barry Todd, from Colorado gave me some pumpkin seeds a few years ago and I planted one of his last year and it was doing great when a rabbit or squirrel ate it down to the ground. So this year I wanted to plant another one of his seeds especially when I heard he was ill. He has been battling leukemia and is pretty sick but fighting on. This seed I planted is a cross between Cristy Harps’ 1725 giant pumpkin that broke the World Record in 2009 and another pumpkin Barry grew out a few years back that he is quite fond of-the Todd 50.  It is the 556 Todd. I was going to grow a giant bushel gourd where the pumpkin will go but I bumped the gourd to squeeze in Barry’s plant. I’m not sure if Barry is planting any pumpkins this year.

I met Barry a few years ago at the Old Colorado City Giant Pumpkin weigh-off and he was so nice to me and offered some pumpkin seeds for the following year. He was the Colorado State Champion for giant pumpkins with a 1308 lb pumpkin in 2010.We have been in touch since then regarding pumpkin growing and he has given me some great tips on how he grows em. I consider him one of my pumpkin mentors. I don’t know much about Barry except he is passionate about his pumpkin growing and his religion and I think it’s his faith that keeps him going. I wish you a full recovery Barry and hope this little plant breaks the NM state record. No matter what it does, I’m growing it in honor of you.

I still have one more plant in case one of the others get eaten or dies.

Giant Pumpkins are in!

pumpkin hotels

My giant pumpkins are in! Last week I managed to get them in the ground. They are being shaded from our intense heat and wind right now in these new low tunnels or ‘giant pumpkin hotels’ as I prefer to call them. This is the newest rendition of the low tunnels for them and I’ve had many designs. All I did is take one of my tomato cages which is made of concrete reinforcement wire and opened it up and put shade cloth over it (while they acclimate). I attached the shade cloth with clothes line pins and held the ends down with rocks. They are staked in the ground so the wind does not pull them up and inside each one is a pumpkin that is also covered with light weight row cover in case a squirrel comes in. As soon as they outgrow the ‘hotel’, I will take them off. They are about 5′ wide by 6′ long and if needed I can put row cover over the cage replacing the shade cloth for more light.

In the background is a strawberry patch I’m revamping but decided to wait before transplanting the ones growing out of their raised bed because they are June bearing strawberries so I want to harvest first. Then afterwards I will complete the move. Also shown are some of my tomatoes in their wall of waters. Some of them are now outgrowing the wall of waters so I am starting to take those off.

It is always amazing to me how desolate the garden looks when I first plant and how lush it will be later.  Nature’s miracle…oh ya and a LOT of HARD WORK!

Giant Pumpkins are UP!

giant pumpkins_050514Here is my final lineup for my giant pumpkins for 2014

HOW TO READ THE LINEUP BELOW:
The first number is how many lbs the pumpkin parent was, the next is the name of the grower, then the date it was grown, after that is it’s genealogy below it (it’s grandparents). It’s important to see who they were because they could have been bigger than the plant the seed came from. The genealogy can go back several generations further.

556 TODD 2011
-comes from: male: 1725 Harp 10/female: 50 Todd

856 Hoffman 2010
-comes from: male: 1544 Revier 09/ female: 1180 Pukos 09

1104 Wallace 2012
-comes from male: 1409.5 Miller/female: 1789 Wallace

1579 Wallace 2012
-comes from: male: 1381/female: 1789 Wallace

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Here is the germination pics. They were planted on April 14th.

Here is my germination process: You need to start them inside the house where it is WARM. An unheated greenhouse or hoophouse will not work very well.

1. I first filed the edges lightly avoiding the tip until I see a little color change on the edge. Do not file too much.

2. I then soaked them for 12 hours in warm water with a few drops of seaweed emulsion.

3. I take a 4 or 5 inch peat pot and cut it in half on the sides only (not the bottom of it) and re-tape it so I can remove the plant more easily later if I need to plant up or if I can plant outside.

4. I planted them into 5 inch peat pots this year (I got the 5 inchers from Lowes here in town) with a good seed starting mix. (Some people put them on damp paper towels in plastic bags on heat mats until the root germinates but I prefer to direct seed them in the pots.

4. I then put them on a seed heating mat and cranked up the heat to 90-95°F. This is important as giant pumpkin seeds germinate faster when the heat is this high. So move other plants off this mat if they can’t handle the heat. If you don’t have a thermostat on your heating mat, you will need one to control the temperature.

5. Check them twice a day and keep moist until they germinate. Sometimes one of the first leaves that germinate (called cotyledon leaves) will push up with the seed shell still attached as in the picture above. I waited a day and gently pulled it off without damaging the leaf.

6. Once they germinate,  you can turn down the heat to about 80° F. They like heat-no they love heat.

7 . I water with a weak solution of seaweed, fish emulsion and microbe brew from Fox Farms (it has mycorrhizal in it to help produce more roots) every week in between their normal watering.

FOR MORE INFO ON HOW TO GROW GIANT PUMPKINS GO GROWING GIANT PUMPKINS

 

Fresh Pumpkin Recipes

pumpkin interior

Now that the 5th Annual Pumpkin Bash is over, what can we do with our fresh pumpkin pieces? Here are some ideas.

pumpkin steak cooked

One recipe I love is ‘Pumpkin Steaks’. You can find the recipe here: https://giantveggiegardener.com/2012/11/05/pumpkin-steaks/

pumpkin soup2

Here are 3 great pumpkin soup recipes you can find here: https://giantveggiegardener.com/2010/11/21/3-great-pumpkin-soup-recipes/

512px-Pumpkin_Pie_from_a_*real*_pumpkin,_November_2007

Of course no pumpkin recipes would be complete without a pumpkin pie recipe but this one is for FRESH pumpkin:

FRESH PUMPKIN PIE

1 unbaked pie shell
2 c. freshly prepared pumpkin
1  can evaporated milk
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg or allspice
1/8 tsp. cloves
2 eggs, beaten slightly

To prepare fresh pumpkins:
Use small to medium size pumpkins OR really giant ones like I do! Cut pumpkin into quarters or big pieces. Whatever will fit on a cookie sheet. Leave rind on. Put a little oil on cut edges to keep from drying out. Place cut edge down on foiled lined cookie sheet. I put foil loosely on top to keep edges from burning.  Bake at 350° for about 30 min-to over an hour depending on thickness. Pierce frequently with fork to check for tenderness after at least 30 minutes. When fork pierces meat easily, remove from oven. Cool first and then scoop out meat and drain in colander for about 30 minutes to release extra liquid. Then use wand, blender or food processor to puree. Use fresh or freeze in Ziploc freezer bags for later use. I like to freeze in 2 cup increments which is exactly what the recipe calls for!

To prepare fresh frozen pumpkin meat:
By now, if you are like me, you have some pumpkin you prepared as above and froze it. All I do is defrost it and if still a little watery, let it drain a few minutes then follow directions below.

Pumpkin Pie Filling: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the 2 cups of fresh pumpkin with rest of the ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 45 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. If edges of crust start to turn too brown or burn, make a ring out of foil and put on edges of the pie crust.