An don't forget about the Washakie County Giant Pumpkin weigh-off on October 1st, 2016 at the Worland Farmer's Market.
Well, here we are again! The pumpkins are planted, and we are carefully tending them and watching them grow. If you are looking for resources on growing your own giant, check out these blog posts from last year's giant adventure. Or you can just start at the bottom of this page and work your way back up.
You can keep up on the adventures of Jay's Giants on Facebook, and be sure to tag any pictures of your giants on Facebook or Instagram with #wyogiants.
An don't forget about the Washakie County Giant Pumpkin weigh-off on October 1st, 2016 at the Worland Farmer's Market.
Fall follows fame (sort of) for Worland giant pumpkins
To read this story in Agademics, complete with a photos, click here.
Time is running out for a couple of upstart giant pumpkins in Worland. Maximus and Gourdon (‘Gourd-on’) burst onto the scene last spring, the subject of Twitter tweets, YouTube videos and a grower’s blog at Big Pumpkins.com. They have their own Facebook page. Worland seems to be growing a patch of pumpkin fanatics.
Caitlin Youngquist, a University of Wyoming Extension educator, introduced the aptly named Maximus and Gourdon on her “Dr. Caitlin” website in March, and the pair just kept growing, literally. A soil scientist in Washakie County and the Big Horn Basin, Youngquist specializes in soil health, compost, organic waste management – and giant pumpkins. Her site covers hot topics to growers, such as pumpkins’ chemical makeup, male and female flowers, fungus and root relations and eating baby pumpkins – which she did, grilled, with salmon.
Washakie County grower Jay Richard nurtured Maximus and Gourdon from Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds, with Youngquist advising and shooting how-to videos on her cell phone. Like a proud papa, Richard posted photos and growth reports on Big Pumpkins.com. Both pumpkins have flat bottoms, he said, but Maximus developed a collapsed top. “It was a genetic mutation,” he said. “I was advised to just pull him, because he would never amount to anything.”
Though Maximus was supposed to be the star, Richard pinned new hopes on Gourdon. Both pumpkins lived for one thing – the big weigh-in at the Lungren Girls’ Farm Sept. 27. On the big day, pickup trucks and flatbed trailers hauling hefty pumpkins arrived at the Girls’ Farm section of South Flat Land and Livestock south of town. Maximus and Gourdon sprawled across their wooden pallets. A skid-steer forklift offloaded them beside other orange hopefuls.
“We found it was a good way to get people excited about growing giant pumpkins,” said Younquist, who had two, Maybelle and Missy, in the running. “It was an adrenaline rush,” said first-year grower Kevin Diede. “My pumpkin started off like a rocket ship, but it slowed down when I stopped singing to it. You can’t go out every night with the guitar.”
As kids wandered through the 12-acre, USA-shaped corn maze at the Lungren Girls’ Farm, the skid-steer lifted contenders onto the certified scale. Gourdon busted the county record at 596 lbs. The genetic mutant, Maximus, weighed in at a respectable 490.
With celebrity status cinched, the punk stars set out on tour. Richard took time from his auto detailing business to accompany his “kins” to four schools, the Kiwanis Club and the local nursing home. They even rode in the homecoming parade Oct. 2. The homecoming theme was Squash ’em.
“The end of the line is when they get carved,” said Richard. Gourdon was carved by Ryan Green, who Richard calls a “master,” in an exhibition Oct. 28 in front of Blair’s Grocery Store. Green prepared by making a model of Gourdon, using about a hundred photographs and a 3D printer.
Richard pulled the seed from the gutted vegetable to donate to the high school horticulture class and any would-be growers who join the contest in the spring. He already has 10 signed up.
Worland pumpkins will return to Lungren Girls’ Farm Oct. 30 for the 2nd Annual Pumpkin Gutting, a carving contest where the much-altered Gourdon will make its last public appearance.
Richard confided the ultimate demise of Maximus and Gourdon will be over the fence to feed goats. “You go into it with a guess and a by-golly,” he said. “I can’t wait to do it again next year.”
It was a good year for the Giants of Washakie County. Gourdon took home the "biggest" award and Maybelle was named the "prettiest". We hope you will consider growing a pumpkin next year too, and joining the fun.
Threats and promises are already being made for next years contest!
I was out of town for 10 days and came home to two giant pumpkin plants that were taking over the garden! I now have a very large pumpkin set on each vine, and lots of babies. I selected a couple of "spares" and pulled all the other little ones off the vine, but what a waste!
That got me thinking, why not eat them? They are small and soft and look a lot like a round summer squash. I tried a little experiment last night with pretty good results.
I chose several small, firm pumpkins.
Then I thinly sliced the pumpkins and prepared a sockeye salmon using fresh lemon and thyme.
Next, I marinated the pumpkin slices in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, seasoning salt, and a few spices before putting them on a hot grill (handle gently, as the pumpkin slices fall apart easily). I also sliced and marinated extra and put them in the fridge for later.
A winning combination!
It is early July and there are little baby pumpkins forming on the vine. That means it is time to pollinate!
As you may notice there are both female and male flowers on pumpkin and squash plants. The first 8 flowers on a pumpkin plant are usually male flowers. The female flowers will then appear about a week later and can be recognized by the small pumpkin at their base. The female flowers will only bloom for a few hours early in the morning and produce rich nectar that is attractive to pollinators. Unlike tomatoes, beans and peas, pumpkins cannot self pollinate.
Honeybees, Bumblebees, and Squash Bees are the most important species for pollinating pumpkins and squash. The Squash Bee is a solitary bee especially well suited to the job and entirely dependent on the pollen of species in the Cucurbitaceae family. The females build their nests in undisturbed soil and the next generation will emerge as adults the following summer. Here are some beautiful photos of Squash Bees emerging from their nests and visiting flowers.
Since every day counts when you are trying to win the local giant pumpkin contest, you would be wise to provide a little assistance with pollination. The main benefit of hand-pollinating is getting an abundant and early fruit set so that you have the edge on the competition and plenty of pumpkins from which to choose a winner. While many members of the Cucurbitaceae family will cross pollinate, the results of such activity will only become evident in the following generation. While this is important if you plan to save seeds for planting next year, there is no need to worry that planting your zucchinis and pie pumpkins too close together will lead to a strange new hybrid.
According to Joe Ailts of the Saint Croix Grower's Association, there is no evidence that the size or genetics of the pollen donor will have any influence on the current generation of pumpkins. You can read the full interview here, it is quite interesting.
So lets see how it's done...
Step 1: Identify the female flower to be pollinated. Keep a close eye on it and make sure you don't miss your opportunity. Each female flower will only open for a few hours in the morning. If you want to save the seeds it is important to prevent cross-pollination. You can either get the pollination done early before the bees come out (remember, Squash Bees are early risers) or cover the flower the night before so that the bees can't get in.
Joe Ailts recommends pollinating as many pumpkins as you can. Once they reach about volleyball size you can thin to the 1 or 2 best looking and fastest growing pumpkins. Joel Holland suggests that the plants have 100-150 leaves before pumpkins are set. Jay Richard stresses the importance of getting slack in the vine so that that as the pumpkin grows it does not break off. He lays the vine over a barrel or bucket and then when the pumpkin is set he can adjust the vine as needed.
The first photo was taken in the afternoon, and the blossom opened the following morning.
Step 2: Collect a few mature male flowers and carefully remove the petals. If you are concerned that you will not have mature male flowers at the right time, or want to bring in some pollen from another grower, male flowers can be stored in the fridge for a few days. Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers, they are quite sweet!
Step 3: Pollinate. Gently dab the pollen from the males onto the pistil of the female flower. If you want to limit the pollen source so you can save the seeds, be sure to close up the flower after pollinating (the one in the photo is secured with a rubber band).
Time to sit back and watch it grow!
Pumpkins and other squash will put down additional roots at each leaf axial as they grow. This allows them to absorb more nutrients and water from the soil. In the video below, our favorite pumpkin farmer shows us how its done! Watch as Jay mixes up some compost, chelated iron, kelp meal, and mycorrhizal fungi to bury the main vine. What is all this fancy stuff you might wonder?
The term mycorrhiza (plural: mycorrhizae) refers to a mutualistic association between fungi (myco) and plant roots (rhiza). There are 7 different kinds of mycorrhizae and 80-90% of all plants on the planet benefit from some type of mycorrhizal association.
As the "macrosymbiont" the plant benefits because the fungal mycelium greatly extend the reach of the roots and enhance the plants ability to access water and nutrients in the soil. A plant that can absorb more water and nutrients from the soil will be bigger, healthier, and more resistant to drought and other stress. Through the process of photosynthesis plants convert carbon dioxide from the air, and water from the soil, into sugars. The plant then uses these sugars as an energy and carbon source for growth. As the "microsymbiont" the mycorrhizal fungi benefit because they get to use these sugars produced by the plant for their own growth - a free lunch, so to speak.
When Jay added mycorrizae to his soil at transplanting, and later when he buried the vine, he was hoping to gain some of the many benefits of mycorrhizal associations.
Inoculating soils with mycorrizae may be beneficial in some situations, but certainly not all. Healthy soil already has a thriving mycorrhiza population and you may not see a significant benefit by adding more. However, there may be benefits of inoculation for soil that has been depleated or heavily disturbed like mine soils or fill dirt, or steril potting medium. Giant pumpkins need all the help they can get when it comes to getting enough nutrients and water. In my opinion, mycorrhizae inoculation for giant pumpkins falls into the "probably won't hurt and it might help" category. The only way to know for sure? Try an experiment! Plant a few plants with some commercially available mycorrhizae products and a few without and see if there is a difference. Be sure to take some pictures and let me know what you find out!
For further reading on the topic, you might enjoy this article from the Master Gardener magazine and fact sheet from The Ohio State University.
Stay tuned for an article on chelated iron and why it is so important!
Here are a few important things to keep in mind as you are starting your giant pumpkins from seed.
A presentation from our very own Jay Richard.
A presentation courtesy of the Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth.