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…

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!

2013 Pumpkin Bash Pics

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Here are some of the pics from this year’s Pumpkin Bash. Everyone enjoyed the camaraderie, sipping apple cider and bashing the pumpkin ‘Honey Boo Booo’—named because it was so small-only 176 lbs (which is teeny for a giant pumpkin). Who needs therapy when you can do this?!

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!

How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin

Ron Wallace set a new 2013 Giant Pumpkin World Record with this 2009 lb pumpkin!

Ron Wallace set a new 2013 Giant Pumpkin World Record with this 2009 lb pumpkin!

Yesterday I taught a class on How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin and told them I would put the full color version in a pdf format on-line for them to use. I discussed all the basic information on growing a giant pumpkin from picking a seed to hand pollination to determining the direction the vine will grow to positioning the baby pumpkin as it grows to harvesting it and much more. Here is the handout for those interested:  GROWING GIANT PUMPKINS with PICS

Here is a photo showing how to determine what direction the pumpkin plant will grow so you can be sure it grows in the direction you want (like not into a fence or wall)!

pumpkin vine direction

Below is a drawing showing how a giant pumpkin vine will naturally grow into a ‘Christmas Tree’ pattern with the longest secondary vines closest to the beginning of where the plant comes out of the ground (called the stump) and how they grow shorter and shorter as they grow towards the end of the main vine.

Pumpkin Christmas tree pattern