Pumpkin Growing Tips
Pumpkin Care and Fertilizer Suggestions
Welcome to the exciting world of growing giant pumpkins! Growing giant pumpkins is a family fun event that for some has turned a hobby into an obsession. Some people grow for neighborhood “bragging” rights, others for competition. Depending on what category of grower you fall into, the one thing all growers have in common is we all started at the “beginner” level.
If you have purchased a pack of Wallace’s Whoppers and have never grown a giant pumpkin before, I would highly recommend purchasing Don Langevin’s How To Grow World Class Giant Pumpkins volumes Two and Three. These books are designed for beginners and go into detail on how to start a back yard giant pumpkin patch, along with the rudimentary skills you will need to grow a World Class Pumpkin. I would also suggest going to www.bigpumpkins.com. Bigpumpkins.com is the “definitive” message board for growers of all skill levels, looking for advice and camaraderie in the pumpkin world. You will find pumpkin growers to be the kindest, most generous people you have ever met, and most of them will gladly offer a patch tour, advice and tips on growing giant pumpkins.
Below are some suggestions to help you get started on giant pumpkin growing. Once again, beginner growing technique is cover in depth in World Class Pumpkins Two and Three. All product suggestions in bold are available at www.wallacewow.com
Location and soil test: Giant pumpkins like all day sun and a fertile well-drained soil. Competition growers can allocate as much as 1,000 sq. ft. for a single plant! If you are just starting out, have no fear you can grow a single plant in a 300 sq. ft. area and still grow a pumpkin up to 400 pounds or more! First thing you will need to do is to take a soil test from your garden area, and send it to your local soil-testing lab. Most tests are under $30 and are well worth the money. One of the things you need to do, if you do nothing else, is to take a soil test and adjust per the lab’s recommendations. Pumpkins like a soil pH of 6.5-7. WOW suggests Western Laboratories for all soil and plant tissue testing. Western Laboratories - Online
It is best to start your pumpkin patch the previous fall if possible. At this time you can add compost and organic matter to your soil, adjust your soil pH per the lab’s recommendations and also plant a cover crop of winter rye. This cover crop will “hold” all of your soil’s nutrients in place until it is ready to be tilled under in the spring.
The biggest mistake first time growers make is starting their seeds too early. If you do not plan to place a small green house over your pumpkin plant, there is no need to start your seeds until the first week of May and then place your plants outside in the middle of May. Outside planting instructions are listed on the back of your Wallace’s Whoppers Seed packet. If you plan on starting your seeds indoors, please see our video for seed starting at www.wallacewow.com.
The following are some fertilizing suggestions the Wallaces do when growing for competition. Some fertilizers are very basic in nature and others are “cutting” edge. You do NOT have to go “all-in” on all fertilizer suggestions. I suggest you educate yourself on all products recommended and see if they are right for you and what you are looking for out of your pumpkin patch. Some growers are high tech, and others only apply basic rudimentary gardening skills. Both methods have been found to be very successful. The biggest thing to remember is to have FUN! You will be amazed at just how fast your pumpkin will grow and the excitement it brings to you!
The following recommendations are only meant to be a “guide.” Before adding any fertilizers, you should have a tissue test done so you know exactly what to add to your plants. If your pumpkin is growing at a very fast pace, it may be necessary to back off on any fertilizer applications.
May: If you have sown a fall cover crop and your soil is 60 degrees or more, drench your soil with 1 ounce of Liquid Azos Blue per 1,000 sq. ft. along with 1 cup of WOW DS 80 Humic Acid per 100 gallons of water. The humic acid will add organic matter to your soil along with “waking up” your soil microbes. The liquid Azos Blue will help your cover crop “fix” atmospheric nitrogen and aid in mycorrhizal fungi colonization. I drench this mixture once in early May and then again around the third week of May. Over the last few years, I have chosen to keep my cover crop growing longer and till up areas in front of the growing pumpkin plant. Usually for late May, all my amendments will be added on top of the cover crop then tilled in. Depending on soil test results, my amendments will start with 20 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. of WOW Kelp Meal.
When starting seeds, add 6 ounces of WOW Pumpkin Pro per 1.5 cu. ft. of seed starting mix. When transplanting out into the patch, work into the soil ½ cup Pumpkin Pro per planting hole, also add 1 tablespoon of Powdered Azos to this mixture.
After seed germination and after planting in your patch water plants weekly with WOW Soluble Seaweed Powder combined with WOW Humic Acid. Seaweed can also be foliar applied through the season and is very effective. Humic Acid is more effective when soil drenched.
Also I am excited to be one of the first in the USA to sell the product Root. Root’s active ingredient * Formononetin is a naturally-occurring compound found in plant roots, which stimulates the natural growth of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae, enhancing the growth of plants! Bottom line: Formononetin is a food source for mycorrhizae. Seedlings should be drenched every week at 2 teaspoons per gallon of water. Established plants should be drenched every 2 weeks at 1 teaspoon of Root per gallon of water. I have studied Formononetin for years and am anxious to see the results!
June: Continue feeding plants with WOW Seaweed and Humic Acid. Use 2 tablespoons of Pumpkin Pro and place under each leaf rooting point when burying vines. When burying vines, I always add what I need to a small bowl and to that add a few tablespoons of powdered Azos. Research has shown that adding Azos provides an extra biological presence to the soil and this helps mycorrhizal fungi establish and grow. I also will be adding Root to my vine-burying mixture in 2015. Every 2 weeks drench the soil and plants with Azos Blue. Starting around the third week of June, foliar apply TKO Phosphite to the plants. This will add needed phosphorus and potassium along with the power of phosphite plant protection. Early in June would be the time to consider foliar applying Axiom Harpin Proteins. I applied Harpin Proteins last year to tomato plants and saw significant results compared to the ones without. I will apply Harpin Proteins to a few plants this year and will report on my findings at year-end. There is extensive reading on the web as it pertains to the ISR Induced Systemic Resistance plants get from Harpin Proteins.
July: Weekly additions of WOW Seaweed and Humic Acid. Continue to bury vines using a mixture of Pumpkin Pro and Powdered Azos. Every 2 weeks drench the plants and soil with Azos Blue and continue weekly with TKO Phosphite applications. Let’s not forget to sit back and have a cold beverage and enjoy all of your hard work!
August: This is my last soil and plant drench of Azos Blue. I will also continue to bury vines till plants have filled their allocated area with a mixture of Pumpkin Pro and powdered Azos. Weekly applications of WOW Seaweed and Humic Acid will continue to be applied. At this time depending on tissue test results, I will add 0-0-25 from Growth Products to TKO Phosphite. I would once again strongly recommend getting a tissue test done before adding any “specific” fertilizers.
September: The first thing you should do is add mouse bait around all of your pumpkins! Do not let a mouse ruin all of your hard work. Continue feeding with WOW Seaweed and Humic Acid. Depending of my growth rates and shape of the pumpkin, I will continue to keep my foot on the “throttle” till seasons end. TKO Phosphite and 0-0-25 is applied weekly till the third week of September.
At the end of the season, I immediately make notes on my calendar and update what I have done to be better prepared for next season. I urge everyone to enter one of the GPC (Great Pumpkin Commonwealth) weigh-offs. With or without a pumpkin you will make friends that will last a lifetime.
Here is one last WOW tip if you want to get ahead on next season. Prepare your garden during the month of September by adding compost and plant a cover crop of winter rye and hairy vetch mixed with 3 pounds per 750 sq. ft. of WOW Pumpkin Pro.