STARTING THE GIANT PUMPKIN SEEDLING
by Ray Waterman
The first 9-10 days of the giant pumpkin plant's development requires
special attention to insure a good start of a properly grown seedling. An
understanding, by the grower, of the development and growth of the pumpkin
seedling (and the entire plant & fruit) is necessary in an effort to
eliminate any variables and set goals. This is most often gain by experience as
in the case of the consistent competitor, although a first time grower can
conquer these "variables" and show very well.
SEED SELECTION - it is imperative to select a variety with the
genetic potential capable of producing a specimen sizeable for the competition
you wish to enter. My suggestion for "World Class" competition is the
Atlantic Giant. Select only full, mature, viable seed.
TARGETING SEED PLANTING - to set a seed planting date, one must
review the plant's stages of growth, day length and the date of the competition
(harvest). An understanding of local weather patterns may also be an
influential factor for determining when to plant the seed or better to say,
when to mature the seedling to the three (3) leaf stage for transplanting.
Let's say there are three stages of the plants development to consider when
targeting the seed planting date:
1. Seedling stage - seed planting to 3 leaf stage (9-10 days).
2. Plant growth stage - 3 leaf to fruit set date (60-70 days).
3. Fruiting stage - fruit set to harvest date (last 70-80+ days - fruit
To capsulate the all this targeting by example, we will say that the target
date for competition is October 12. Count back 70-80+ days to the fruit set
date of July 24 to August 3. Then count back 60-70 days to the planting date of
May 15-25 and 9-10 back to the seed planting date (May 5-10). In reverse - 9-10
days to 3 leaf, +60-70 days to fruit set and +70-80 days to harvest (total days
seed to harvest 130-150). Too often growers start too early!
PLANTING MEDIUM - it is most advantageous to use a light medium. The
giant pumpking seed is one of the largest of the vegetable seeds, as it it is
the larget vegetable plant fruit. The seed hasmuch organic matter and will take
a great amount of moisturetherefore have the potential to damp off (rot). This single factor is the reason for much seed failure when planting
giant pumpkin seed. Use a mix similar to this:
1/3 peat moss (add fungicide to mix)
A 9-10 day old seedling has few nutrient requirements but a small amount a
water soluable fertilizer won't hurt.
PEAT POT - use 4 inch peat pots. Plant the peat pot and all when
planting the seedling (this reduces root damage). Poke holes in the peat pot in
several places at or near the bottom if no hole. The pot will hold an excessive
amount of moisture if this not done. Fill the peat pot with the dry soil mix.
Keep settling to a minimum.
FUNGICIDE - seed and potting mixture treatment are very important.
This procedure will help control damping off, but alone without proper room
temperature. moisture, and bottom heat, etc. may not be effective. Dampen the
seed, then apply dry powder fungicide. Coat to the point of good coverage. When
adding to the potting soil mix follow recommendations on the label; or just add
a small amount.
PLANTING THE SEED - moisten the pot and medium. Initial moisture is
essential to the seed, therefore moisten well the first time. The pot itself
will take on much moisture (it's actually peat - sponge), this time it should
be saturated. From then on let the moisture decrease, not to show through the
peat pot after watering. Plant the seed 1/2 inch below the surface with the rooting end down, crown end up.
BOTTOM HEAT - is necessary for 4-5 days to give the seed enough heat
to germinate. When the main root is 1 inch long STOP BOTTOM HEATING (it will
destroy roots greater than 1 inch long). Suggest you use a plastic plant flat
without holes. Jugs of warm water may be the most economical way to add heat.
Remember to water individual pots and keep proper moisture.
ROOM TEMPERATURE - a temperature of 75-85 degrees F. is necessary.
Most ideal being 85 degrees. Please understand a higher temperature has more
moisture holding capacity.
VENTILATION - air movement is necessary to help control fungus growth
and supply fresh air components to the seedling. Keep in mind that the ideal
conditions for seedling growth are are also ideal for fungus growth.
LIGHTING - use "artificial lighting". Flourescent tubes 2-3
inches above the potting mixture surface and maintained at 2-3 inches above
seedling stage will result in a sturdy not spindly (light starved) plant. It is
not necessary to use a "Grow Lite", as a regular "Cool
White" flourescent tube is just fine. Full light (24 hr.) will provide the
seedling with the quantity of light required. The quality of the light is
maintained by the closeness of the bulb to the plant.
LIGHTING - continue to check regularly. Be careful not to over water.
PLANTING THE SEEDLING - It is not necessary to temper or acclimate
the seedling over a period of time. It is important to plant on or near the
target date, when the seedling is at the early 3 leaf stage. Planting should be
under a hot-tent or miniature greenhouse.
Good luck in this next growing season.
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Article courtesy of Ray Waterman
Last Updated: Fri Sep 06 10:30:00PM CST 1996