The 2016 Pumpkin Season is Here!

Happy Spring, pumpkin friends!

Last year was a successful year for me, growing a 1185-pounder my third year of growing. I experienced a lot of adversity last year, most notably a hail storm in the beginning of August that destroyed my whole plant. I am ready for whatever comes at me this year, and I continue to gain more knowledge and experience as the years go by.

My 1185-pound pumpkin on display at the Deerfield Fair. It’s the one all the way on the right.

My 1185-pound pumpkin on display at the Deerfield Fair. It’s the one all the way on the right.

After last year’s growing season, Dale and I started to get the pumpkin patch ready for 2016. I wanted to get some manure and compost in the patch, and I also wanted to plant a cover crop. Unfortunately, “bad luck” and stupidity slowed us down quick when we overloaded our trailer with manure and broke its axle. By overload, I mean we fit about 3 tons of manure in a trailer that could only carry 1. The axle broke in the middle of nowhere, and we couldn’t even unhook the trailer from the truck because it was too heavy to lift it off the trailer hitch. We lucked out when an 80-year-old man drove by in his truck and asked if we needed help. He went home and came back on his ATV with a hydraulic jack and an extra shovel so we could start moving the manure from the trailer into the truck bed. We later learned he was a 3-time cancer survivor, and he believes that the best medicine for him is to help other people.

We overloaded the trailer with cow manure and broke the axle!
This is what I would call a shitty situation. Literally.

As we were shoveling manure, I showed our new friend the newspaper article about one of our pumpkins. He laughed and said, “That’s Peanut, right!?” That just made my day. For those of you who don’t know Peanut, she is the pumpkin we grew at the Bangor Community Garden last year and turned into a motor boat at the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest and Regatta. We talked to our friend some more, and he told us some great life stories. The truest thing he said was, “The best way to learn is to make mistakes.” Aint that the truth!

Peanut the motor boat!

Peanut the motor boat!

We used our friend’s hydraulic jack to lift the trailer off the hitch, and we drove the truck home to unload the first load of manure and to pick up some new trailer tires (when the axle broke, the tires caved inwards and rubbed against the metal wheel wells).

Dale had to go to work, so I drove back to the trailer with two other friends to transfer more of the cow manure into the truck. We were out most of the night, getting rained on and making several trips to load up and drop off the manure. Poor Dale had to spend the whole next day lugging the trailer back home. We still have yet to fix the trailer (life is busy!), but we were able to get the manure in the pumpkin patch before winter really started. Since we were late getting all the manure down, we were also late planting the winter rye which means it hasn’t germinated until now. Better late than never.

 Something new for me this year is that I’m taking part in a Master Gardener class. This is run by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Every Tuesday we meet for three hours to get lectures on all aspects of gardening. We are also required to put in 40 hours of volunteer time this year in projects that will benefit the community. I’m excited to get experience in non-pumpkin stuff, but I’m also excited to apply new concepts towards my pumpkin patch. One thing we talked about two weeks ago was the concept of no-tilling and how it may be more beneficial than tilling your garden every year. This past week we dissected male and female flower. I will try to elaborate more on what I’ve learned in future posts.

Dissecting flowers in our Master Gardener class.

Dissecting flowers in our Master Gardener class.

I will be getting my soil tested soon, and I’ll also be trying to decide which seeds I’m going to plant this year. I feel so lucky with all the seeds I’ve gotten this year between MePGO’s silent auction and friends on Facebook. I have tons of seeds with 2000+ pound genetics, including some “offspring” of the 2323 Meier. I also got a collection of seeds from Ron Wallace which I feel grateful for.

I think my biggest obstacle this year is going to be pest management. I could make my life a lot easier by using Seven, but I am still against using it. I spent hours a day killing cucumber beetles by hand last year. This year I’m going to do a few new things:

  1. I’m going to try using row covers in the beginning of the season to keep the bugs off my leaves.
  2. I’m going to plant cucumbers and squash near the pumpkin so the cucumber beetles are drawn to them instead of the pumpkin (pumpkin isn’t their #1 food choice).
  3. I bought some yellow cucumber beetle traps that I will place near the cucumber/squash as well.
  4. I’m going to buy a high powered handheld vacuum so I can suck those buggers right up!

I will do my best to post updates once the season starts for real. I’m hoping to beat my personal best this year, and even better I’d love to hit 1500 pounds! Here’s to a good growing season for all!