Pumpkin disaster

pumpkin plant eaten

Well I started about 5 giant pumpkin plants this spring and am now down to one. Last night a squirrel (or rabbit) did my biggest plant in by chewing through the stem and killed it. Finito. Done. No hope for that one. And it was amazing because it had 2 layers of row cover on it and some shade cloth over the row cover but something must have gotten underneath all that. This is too bad as I started it in mid April in the house and felt it had the greatest possibility to produce a GIANT giant pumpkin. Now I’m down to only one plant (the back up) which is actually the seed from my 2010 NM State Record but it was started a little later as 3 other of my seeds didn’t germinate at all. I’m actually going to plant 2 more seeds directly in the ground now to see if I can get a backup to my back up. The soil is certainly warm enough but I’m not sure I will have enough time now to grow a really big one unless it is some super seed that takes off!

Giant Pumpkins


Closeup of pumpkin in back of car

This year I haven’t posted much about my giant pumpkins but I do have some growing. My biggest is named ‘Orange Crush’ because it’s coloring is more orange than any other that I’ve grown before (most have been salmon colored). It is also the bumpiest one I’ve ever grown-not the prettiest-but pretty doesn’t count in giant pumpkin contests-weight does. Gnarly dude! It’s weight measured approximately 289 lbs yesterday and averaging 8.6 lbs a day and should hit 300 lbs tomorrow. It’s seed came from the NM state winner that I grew last year. It is behind last year’s record setter but ahead of the previous year’s winner I grew, so I don’t know what to make of it. Will it get bigger than last year or not? Only time will tell. Still have this month and a week of October for it to grow. A lot will depend on the weather-if it gets cold all of them will slow down to a crawl but if it stays warm and doesn’t freeze at night, it has a chance.

My second biggest is ‘Hugo’ which is flat and oval shaped and on a different plant.  Rather beautiful, smooth skinned but doesn’t weigh as much coming in at 182 lbs averaging 5 lbs a day so far. I will leave it to see how big it will get.

I also have three smaller ones-2 on one plant and one on a fourth. I weighed them all and decided to take one that weighed 153 lbs  (shown above-I love the glow) and another one that was 100 lbs to the State fair today. I cull some of them to take to the fair but of course leave the biggest ones to keep growing for the contest in Colorado.

I also took my two biggest zucchini (so far) to the fair as they don’t give ribbons for them at the national contests. One was 38.5 lbs and the other was 33 lbs.  Last year’s record I set came in at 62 lbs. at the Colorado weigh off. I still have more zucchini growing that I hope will get bigger than last year.


Giant Pumpkin, ‘MAX’ hits 421lbs-same weight as last year’s Kong!

My main pumpkin, MAX reached 421 lbs yesterday! I still have a few warm days of September before the big GPC (Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth) weigh-off on October 15th in Colorado Springs, CO. Hopefully it will keep packing on the pounds although it has slowed to a crawl as it gets colder at night. I brought out a blanket to help keep it warm at night. Sounds crazy but if you think about it, the pumpkin is a really large mass and if you let it get cold, it takes a long time in the day to warm up before it starts growing again-sorta like our glass blowing furnace! It looks like it will beat my last year’s NM State record, Kong if the tape measurements are true. They say orange pumpkins weigh lighter than salmon ones with the same measurements so I still want more weight to ensure a new record. Just hoping this glorious weather holds up and we have no freezes till after the weigh-off. GROW NAGUA, GROW!!

GIANT PUMPKIN/WINTER SQUASH-How to Tell Which Direction a Vining Squash Will Grow

Have you ever planted winter squash and it grew in a direction you didn’t want? Here is a good tip for how to tell which direction a vining winter squash (versus a bush variety) will grow. I will use my giant pumpkin as an example but any winter squash that is a vining squash will act the same.

Let’s say you plant some vining winter squash next to a wall or on the edge of a garden bed and you need it grow away from the wall not into it or into your squash bed not out of it (good luck on that one!) When the plant puts out the first two leaves as I have described in previous posts, these are called the cotyledon leaves (baby leaves) and don’t look like any of the other leaves it will grow afterward. All leaves after the cotyledon leaves are called true leaves.

put mark on side of pot opposite of first true leaf

Sooo pay attention to that FIRST TRUE LEAF.  The plant will GROW IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION FROM THE FIRST TRUE LEAF. If I’m growing them inside for a head start, it is easy to mark the container as you will not remember which one was the first leaf (trust me!) when the second one appears. I just take a marker and mark the opposite side of the pot so I know when I transplant it into the ground which direction I orientate it. If I grow directly into the soil, after the first true leaf appears, I gently dig up a big amount around it and gently lift it and the dirt so as not to disturb the new roots and rotate it in the direction I want it to grow. For those who are growing their winter or summer squash seed in the ground, it is too early. Wait till May 15th (our first frost free date) to plant directly into the ground when the soil and weather are hopefully warmer.

Growing Giant Pumpkins From Seed (Or What Did I Get Myself Into)

Article first published by me as Growing Giant Pumpkins From Seed (Or What Did I Get Myself Into) on Blogcritics.

growing giant pumpkins

Giant Pumpkin growing season is once again upon us. Why grow giant pumpkins? Why not? Hey if every veggie gardener grew a giant pumpkin, the world would not be hungry! World famine banished!

For all those nuts who grow giant pumpkins, now is the time to start your engines (I mean seedlings) indoors, that is unless you live in Hawaii in which case you probably already have a new one started several months ago!

To start seedlings you must first get your hands on some giant pumpkin seeds- the usual variety being Atlantic Giant Pumpkin. You can buy some from Amazon or you might get some from someone who grows these monsters. Many of us are willing to give away our seeds. Did I say us? Yes it’s true I am one of these nuts. When I first saw the film, “Lord of the Gourds”, there were giant pumpkin growers in the film who babied their giant pumpkins by playing them music, naming them, feeding them high octane food, hugging them, and even putting blankets on them when the weather turned cold. I saw this and I said, “What a bunch of nuts” and the next year I became one of them. Well almost. I don’t play them music.

So after you score some seeds, you need to dedicate the next 6 months to growing these monsters. They become your mistress. So if you have a family, better put them in therapy now for their abandonment issues they will develop and resentment issues over vacations they won’t be able to go on. Who wants to go on vacation anyways? Gas is too high this year. Still interested? Ok, then the next step is to plant them inside your house, pointy side down in seed starting soil in a four-inch peat pot. Then place them on a plant-heating mat (the one you need to buy) under that grow light box you just built and wait for them to germinate. What grow light box you say? The one you’re going to build for these monsters. Are you with me so far? Good. Welcome to giant pumpkin mania…

Giant pumpkin ‘Kong’ hits 228+ lbs!

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Here is a mini slide show of ‘Kong’, my biggest giant pumpkin right now. There is an apple on it for perspective. Kong is 35 days old and 228 lbs as of tonight. It’s been putting on between 12-17 lbs a day. I said a day! 17 lbs is the best weight gain in a single day I have ever had with a giant pumpkin. I know others have greater gains but we have harsher conditions and shorter growing season here. Kong is starting to get longer and bumpier. I like its looks! I love going out after work and measuring them every evening. You can actually see a difference from day to day. It is mind blowing!

‘Harpie’, my other big pumpkin, is beautiful, being perfectly round and not gnarly like Kong. It is at 100 lbs and its weight gain varies from 4-10 lbs a day. I will post pictures of it later.

It has been around 47 degrees during this past week so I have to put a blanket on both of the pumpkins over their row cover so they don’t loose so much heat at night. The pros say to blanket them when the temperature gets below 60 degrees at night. That way they don’t have to wait to warm up in the morning to continue growing. The row cover is to provide shade during the day (think like a light weight covering) so their skins don’t get hard. It is easier for them to grow when their skin is soft.

This is my pumpkin mantra, “Grow Naguas, grow” (grow pumpkins, grow). I say it everynight when leaving the pumpkin patch!

My 895 Grande pumpkin, Kong hits 105 lbs!

My 895 Grande pumpkin whom I’ve now named ‘Kong’ (as in King)  is 24 days old and has put on 15 lbs a day for the last 2 days! Kong is  long and oval shaped and just hit 105 today. My 925 N. Harp whom I’ve named ‘Harpie’ is 58 lbs and is perfectly round  and beautiful, but the plant doesn’t have that many leaves while the Grande plant has an enormous amount of leaves. I’m excited about the Grande pumpkin, Kong. 6 or 7 weeks to weigh-off. Grow nagua, grow..

Bri’s Giant Pumpkin Patch in

baby pumpkin plant under low tunnel with shade cloth open

They’re in! The giant pumpkin plants are finally planted in Bri’s Pumpkin Patch. I rototilled the extra composted horse manure in and finished the low tunnels and put them in place Saturday in record breaking 99 degree heat here in Santa Fe. Brutal.

949.5 N.Harp 09 baby pumpkin plant

Sunday I planted my four baby giant pumpkin plants-949.5 N.Harp 09, 817.9 Schieder 09, 1166 Mohr 09, 895 Grande 08.  I planted them at a 45 degree angle in the direction they will vine and up to the cots (baby leaves) so their stems will be protected from snapping off in wind. They are just starting to lay down so I built up the soil under them to support them. I placed them in the direction to grow out of the tunnels (remember to look at the second true leaf and that is the direction they will grow).  I was worried that even with row cover over the top of the low tunnels, it would still be too hot for the baby giant pumpkin plants so I covered them with additional row cover. I had them in the windowsill but not outside to really harden off so I was afraid they would be really tender to the intense heat. I watered with Super thrive and seaweed fertilizer to help with the shock.

In addition, I went out and got some shade cloth to put over the row cover and to shade the ends. That should help with the temperatures expected to be in the mid to high 90’s the rest of the week. It ended up with much lower temperatures on Sunday- 86 degrees because a storm moved in all day and cooled things off and dumped some nice rain that night. Perfect planting weather!  Not too hot. Nice lightning storm too.

4 low tunnels with pumpkins

I checked them last night after a 96 degree day and they are doing well what with all the extra protection. I still have to get in the drip system for the pumpkin plants but that should be easy the way I designed the patch. I also want to put a path around the patch to discourage people from walking through the patch and compacting the soil.

I also planted the last of the eggplants-Thai yellow egg and the winter squashes-Chiogga d’ Marina and Galeux de Eyesines seeds. Finally, I only have to get the corn in…almost there.