Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Did everyone's pumpkin plants make it through the latest cold snap here in Montana? I know the Dillon growers were quaking in their puddles! I think several people were caught by surprise. As a rule of thumb, if the weather report forecasts temps below 40 in Missoula or Hamilton, then we cover the sensitive plants in our garden.No matter what, there will always be an 8-11 degree difference in our temps at our house.
Another word of caution: Be sure to have your plastic or sheets or whatever you use to cover you plants with ready for the spontaneous hail storms of summer. Nothing can be more devastating to a pumpkin plant than hail. If you manage to quickly cover your plants you may be the only one with a plant left. We all sustained brutal hail 2 or 3 times last summer. Be prepared!

Pruning Blossoms and Pruning VinesI've sent out advice to those on our distribution list, but now is the time to be working out the when, why and how to prune both blossoms and vines. I've learned several new tips this week and wanted to pass on the information as many of you may be in the same boat or soon to be.
For clarification, a few definitions are in order.

Primary or Main Vine - the first and biggest vine growing off the central "stump" to the roots.
Secondary Vines - those vines sprouting off the main vine.
Tertiary Vines - those vines sprouting off the secondary vines.
(Note: these are direct transcripts, some typographical errors may occur)BLOSSOMS & PRUNING, or not.

Now this brings me back to Horticulture Science class and I will make it simple BUT you will have to follow me !!! When a plant is growing there is a Chemical Called AUXIN that builds up in the plant and focuses itself in the growing points OR Maristims which are the root tips and vine tips. it makes the vines grow in singular columns. Pumpkin plants have a good amount of Auxin keeping the main vine longer then the secondaries. as Pumpkins and Male flowers form there is a Chemical change in the plant. it is like a Teeter totter. Once the flowers form a chemical called Gibberelic acid forms and the pendulum swings from Auxin to Gibberelic Acid that is the point that the plant goes into MOTHER MODE. the MORE flowers the MORE Gibberelic acid. People have said that they saw a slowdown in plant growth when the pumpkins really started putting on weight well this is in large part that the pumpkins Chemistry is blocking the growth of the plant and not that the plant is not getting enough JUICE !!
One way to prove this is with Cuttings of plants that you are trying to root. Auxin is the controlling factor for root development so a cutting with flowers WILL NOT ROOT but pull off the flowers and it works great !!!
YES I have experimented with pulling off the flowers Male and Female and YES it makes a GIANT difference!! As it goes for your Question let any and all pumpkins and flowers set and Cull any you don't want when they get in the way !!!
I know this is a Pumpkin List but we don't usually talk about stuff like this but I thought it would shed light on some things !!! Take care all and have a great Season !! Kevin Smith Pumpkin Pirate !!!!

So Kevin,

If the Gibberelic Acid is a product of the plant "mothering", are you saying we should leave the flowers on? If we allow the plant to produce more flowers, it will speed up the pumpkin growth? I think this is a very good topic for the list –Gus
Gus, yes if you leave the flowers on it will keep the Gibberelic acid DOMINANT !! in the plant !! if you remove the Maristims -- (Growing point of a plant) Auxin will find another way out like in Tertiary or in the case of trees Suckers and Water sprouts !! you can only stop Auxin by producing Gibberelic or by killing the plant !!! But with Gibberelic acid you can only end it by just snipping the flowers off it works that fast so don't set a pumpkin then remove all the rest of the flowers trying to get more root growth you just may have problems !! Yes, I agree this is a good subject for the list and hopefully we can keep it going !!!

Hey Kevin, Please clarify something for me about your earlier flower topic. So you are saying leave the flowers on and you will get a bigger pumpkin. - David

David - What I am saying is this !!! To do this experiment right you need two or more plants. With your CHOSEN plant remove any and all female and male flowers till you get about two weeks from pollination then ONLY let females form. this step will allow the roots to grow to lengths you never thought of !! Believe me !!! now as you pollinate the females let every flower on the plant grow and even after you cull the extra pumpkins let all the males grow. It is an advantage to let as many females as you can to grow the first couple of weeks just to make sure the chemical change will be in full effect and then cull them when they get out of the way !!!
Gibberelic acid works like this ... it is in full effect when the flowers and pumpkins are there and the second you cut off all the flowers it is gone a real cause and response system !!! So you have to have another plant for Male flowers to really make this work. Hope this clarified things !!!!

Kevin, Okay, if I have one plant, then do I set a few flowers (as my plant will probably not have a lot flowers as I started behind you folks) and then pull off all the males to keep the plant going? Have I got this right? - Lynne

Lynne - If you have one plant Just grow it !!! you don't have enough plants to play around with !! I have 33 plants at my disposal so I can play around in your case don't touch a thing! just let the flowers form and cull the females you don't want! - Kevin

PRUNING VINES(Note: these are direct transcripts, some typographical errors may occur)
You may want to cut the main vine off after the point of where your pumpkin is set, I would cut it off at 8 feet after the pumpkin, (alot of your top growers do this and I tend to favor it myself) this will force the remaining energy into your growing pumpkins rather than growing leaves and vines.

I would leave the third main vine in place. You may want to terminate the end of the vine and any secondaries. A full-grown vine that is already in place will not put a burden on the other two and may contribute slightly to your root system. It will probably not help the pumpkins on the other vines, but if terminated, it will not be a drain either.
- pumkinguy

It has been a great season here in the NW. However, my plant only gave me one fruit this year, and as fate has it, i have had to cut the main vine about 3 inches past the only fruit. (It would have pulled away from the vine) So my question is... how much do you think I have hurt the potential growth of this fruit?? I mean, doesn't most of the uptake of nutrients come from before the fruit? Has anyone had this experience before?? Chris, Seattle

I only allow the main to grow past the pumpkin approx 6 ft and allow secondaries to grow 4 ft long and then I terminate all growth. So thats only 50 sq ft in front of the pumpkin so I really think that tthe plant behind the pumpkin supports the fruit. I had two over 1000 last year and currently this year, measurement wise, I have beaten my pb. Drew

Do you keep all the secondaries on the plant at 4 ft or just the ones in front of the pumpkin ? (“in front of the pumpkin” means after the pumpkin, not between the pumpkin and the stump)
Just the ones in the front of the pumpkin -Drew

There was a post where Papez said that he had only 50 square feet of vine after his pumpkin on the main vine. Was anything mentioned about how far out on the vine from the base of the plant the pumpkin was? The vine was terminated 6 feet after the pumpkin. How far out was the pumpkin? This is far different from what Emmons reported that she does. She keeps her main vine going and actually lets it wrap around the rest of the plant.
15 ft out.
There are many theories on this pumpkin growing business. What works for you may not necessarily be what works for others. We are all growing pumpkins in different areas of the country, different temps, rain, night-time temps. different micro-climates, etc. So there are many variables.
From what I remember (my emails to Andrew P) his main vine is out about 16 feet + before he sets the pumpkin (to me it seems he likes to get the primary vine agressively growing before he has female flowers showing up), he then terminates the main vine about 6 or so feet after the pumpkin. Andrews theory is that most of the 'juice' for the pumpkin comes from the vine before the pumpkin and not after it. I tend to agree, but to each his own.
Now Emmons may let her vine grow and grow, but does she cut off all secondaries after the pumpkin (the ones growing on the primary vine). Also, you need to remember that what works for her (in her climate, area, seed stock, etc.) may not work for you.
Either method should work, and nothing has really been proven yet (in a controlled lab situation which would be just about impossible)..... the majority of AG growers are true amateur growers so the theories are vast.

Can someone assist with explaining how to prune the vines if I should be pruning.

And I also Had a male open for the first time yesterday, but my females didnt open do I just wait for both a new male and the female to open the same day? - Chad

Prune all vines or better yet pinch off all budding vines coming off secondary vines (it's easier and takes less time than carrying around arm fulls of tertiary vines and wondering what to do with them). Prune or pinch as soon as they come out. Theory: Main and secondary (vines coming off main) vines feed the pumpkin, tertiary (vines coming off secondaries) take away from full potential growth and make a tangled mess.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Below I've pasted a teriffic note from Beth to the hort.net distribution list (everything you ever wanted to read about raising Giants, all come to your inbox), concerning where you can research answers to your pumpkin questions. here 'tis:

Time for one of my occasional friendly reminders. Especially for
the new folks to the list, and to some of the not-so-new folks who perhaps
forget what a great resource Chris and Duncan maintain for us...http://www.hort.net/lists//pumpkins/search.cgi

The list archives are a phenomenal research tool. Yes, it takes just a
little bit of digging around and a little bit of time, but all these
subjects are covered, and pretty much all subjects have really good, solid
input from true heavy hitters. A lot of the HH's understandably burn out
answering the same questions over and over ('can I split the vines and put
in a little milk??', 'pointy end of the seed up or down??', etc.) and move
on, but thank heavens they were active on the list for a while, and their
contributions are still available for reference.

So you want to know how to prep seeds for planting? What about colchicine?
milk? yellow spots on leaves? (get ready for this - yellow spots on leaves
is such a common sympton of many, many problems - it's a little bit like,
'Mom, my tummy hurts!', and doesn't not have a single answer. But I'm sure
Bob Troy once posted a reference to some research site with images of
different variations that may help you i.d. your plant's yellow spots - go
search!). Soon you will have questions about pollination and pruning, then
culling extra fruits, relieving stem stress, shading fruits, and on and on.
All this info is out there in the archives!!

Go to the link at the tope, type in your search terms and see what you can
find. One hint about the search: you can't just type consecutive words
like in Google. You need to use all-caps connectors like AND, OR, etc.

Good luck all - And keep me posted! Kim

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Interested in receiving an Excel spreadsheet that allows you to track the progress of your pumpkin patch/plant/and each pumpkins growth? I have several different formats and would be happy to share. Send me an email and I'll reply with the attachments.
Tracking the growth of individual pumpkins is not only amazing - everyday - but it also gives you a base line for comparing your progress next year. Bottom line, our biggest competition is ourselves. Every year our main goal is to out-do the best plant or pumpkin from years past. We all strive for yet another PB (Personal Best, as they call in the giant pumpkin trade). But, a little friendly rivalry with a neighbor, relative, in-law, or co-worker always sweetens the incentive.
Track your progress with simple or customized calendar/tables. Email if you'd like your own: mtgiants@bigsky.net

The Questions are starting to roll in as you folks are getting your pumpkin patches established...

QUESTION: I prepared my punkin patch and have a question? Would it be OK to place my six seedlings in my NOW 13 x16 patch with Black plastic on the ground around the say 36-40 ' circles with the seedling in the middle of each circle? I cut this patch out of a hay field and don't want to roto till the whole thing if I don't have to. I weed wacked it, raked thn mowed, then raked and ran out of steam. I have access to a roto tillar but cutting into a rocky , boney hay field is tough work. I was going to rototill just six circles for each plant and let them sprawl all over the black plastic. But something tells me that might harm the vine???or the fruit??? Look forward to your reply , Stever
ANSWER: It'd be good to find them some more space, but that isn't always possible.Typically the vines, or runners, sprawl all over and at every leaf axial it will put down roots to help anchor the vine and feed it as well. The easier it is to put down roots the better for the plant. But, I know folks who let them run through fields too, so whatever you want to put into it. I would not suggest the black plastic tho'. It's good early on to help warm the soil, but I just pulled up my plastic this past weekend and time to let 'em run! One thing that would help the vines if you don't want to prep the whole
area, is to pile a shovel-full of soil or compost or old manure on to the vines as they run - especially at the leaf axial. This will help with the establishment of new and more roots. Sound like you're off to a good start!
QUESTION: How far does the first pumpkin need to be away from the base? - Mike.
ANSWER: As far as how far out on the vine...
There are recommendations and documentation that some of the true monsters were set about 10-12 feet from the main stump. I don't think I've ever had one out that far! Most of mine have been 6-8 feet, I'd say. I don't think I'd have the patience to fore-go the earlier blossoms closer to the stump in order to wait for the vine and a blossom to develop further out. My 2 cents. :)