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Archive for the ‘PumpkinFest’ Category

The Kraken, legendary sea monster introduced to us by the Norwegians, has nothing on Powell 1548.

The Kraken eats sailors, boats, and whales. Powell 1548 is eating my garden.

I need to catch you all up on the caging, the release, and the explosive growth of this pumpkin plant. It is awesome to behold. My excuse for not posting earlier? I plead Summer In Maine, when residents work feverishly to treat visitors to our spectacular state in the manner they deserve. A stream of guests to our Barn Loft apartment, the stream of visitors to Husband’s art gallery, the frequent art students that set up their easels in my garden – all demand and deserve attention and appreciation.  (If you want info on any of our businesses, contact me by commenting on this post.  We’ll talk.)  It is a busy time of year for us and all Mainers.

That’s the excuse. No more. Powell 1548 is going to require constant updating, because you cannot believe what we’re witnessing. It’s going to take 3 posts to do this. This post will show the growth of the vine, the next post will show the fertilization process, and the third catch-up post will show how The Chosen One is busting out all over, even though it’s August and not June.

Here we go: A few photos to show the growth of tendrils and the growing flower buds:

Bud_Plus_Tendril

FlowersForm_Close_Better

The tiny cage that was first erected around the vulnerable seedling had to be enlarged to accommodate the growing plant. MH the Grower moved the stakes and used a larger length of wire fencing.

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Three_Caged

The plant was fed liquid fish emulsion and bone meal. The bone meal came in a cleaned jar of Skippy, and apparently the fragrance could not be contained by a mere blue plastic lid. MacKenzie, the cupcake masquerading as a Labrador Retriever, was entranced:

MacWantsBoneMeal

Full disclosure: My cupcake is also a thief. Shortly after that photo was taken, she uncharacteristically tried to walk off with the jar of bone meal in her mouth. She dropped it on command, but she looked mighty disappointed. A Kraken has nothing over the power of those sad, sad eyes.

Powell 1548 was almost immediately banging on the chicken wire door. Daenerys Targaryen may be George R.R. Martin’s Mother of Dragons, and Breaker of Chains, but the Powell 1548 is the Mother of Vines and Breaker of Chicken Wire. MH the Grower released the Kraken, aka the mighty Atlantic Giant pumpkin plant.

Once the puny wire restraints were removed, Powell 1548 was fed with alfalfa tea:

AlfalfaTea

The plant started to set flowers, the tendrils reached, and the wall was breached:

Flowers_July18

Tendril_Reaches

LargeLeafOnWall_July 18

And off it goes, racing across the garden, roaring with power, intimidating all in its path. My poor kale. It doesn’t stand a chance:

Sprawling_July18

Correction: Not all are intimidated. Enter MH the Grower in the next post. He has the power to choose, and he had his eye on one particular blossom. Stay tuned….

 

WORDS FROM OTHERS:

“What a Kraken grasps it does not lose, be it a longship or leviathan.”

― George R.R. Martin, author, “A Feast for Crows”

 

 

APPRECIATING:

“As a garden fertilizer alfalfa meal is used to increase organic matter in the soil and makes an excellent fast and effective soil conditioner. The high amounts of carbohydrates and protein encourage beneficial soil microbes and earthworms that are responsible for quickly breaking down the nutrients and making them available for use by the plants… Alfalfa tea can be made from meal, pellets or hay, it can be used by spraying directly on the plant as a foliar spray or as a liquid fertilizer around the base of all types of vegetable plants. Alfalfa tea can be applied every 1-4 weeks or as often as needed throughout the growing season.”

http://www.bettervegetablegardening.com

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The seedling was a Pierpont, and its parent weighed-in at a whopping 1,196 pounds. And sometime within its first 24 hours in my garden, in the dark of night, a villain stole in, dug in the rich soft dirt, and killed the seedling. Pierpont is gone.

 

MH the Grower (formerly blogged about as Michael Horst) responded: “It is what it is.” And he gamely went back to the Pinkham Plantation nursery…

 

MH_Seedling_Greenhouse

 

…and selected one of the few remaining seedlings left. A Powell, this time. And one whose parent weighed 1,548. A more impressive lineage and perhaps the reward for perseverance.

 

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Another reward for this second attempt was that I was present to document The Planting in complete, possibly excruciating, detail. Let’s start with The Digging of the Hole:

 

MH_digsHole

 

Note the incredibly dark rich organic compost that will be the home of this lucky Powell 1548. (I like naming it that. Alpha + Numeric = the pumpkin version of an R2D2 or a C3PO.)

 

The hole was dressed with a fertilizer called Bio-Starter, an organic multi-component mix that includes mycorhizzae, a beneficial fungi. Those little white bits? Evidence of the addition of Bio-Starter. Let there be no doubt.

 

The Hole

 

Next, one modest tablespoon of Superthrive, mixed with a full gallon of water. Superthrive is a hormone-type plant growth stimulator. Trust that MH the Grower is not interested in cultivating an “Oh, isn’t that a cute little pumpkin!” No, he’s going for a Powell 1548 – an Atlantic Giant. A monster. This is, after all, an entry into the Pumpkinfest Weigh-Off in October, so there’s no messing around. Superthrive it is.

 

WaterHormone

 

And in it goes, a robust healthy pumpkin seedling with its first set of true leaves, one of which is large and points in the direction that the main stem wants to grow.

 

MH_PlacesSeedling_Hole

 

And my dog MacKenzie watched from afar, content to be near all of us, happy that she’d found some shade, and not quite certain what all the fuss was about.

 

Plant_MacInBack

 

MH paid full attention to this leaf and its demonstration of intent. The seedling was planted with the leaf facing the greatest area of open space in the reserved portion of the garden. That vine will have nothing in its way for at least 20 feet. For the purpose of humor, I wish the seedling was facing west, but it isn’t. It’s facing north, and so I must say, “Go north, young seedling! Go north!”

 

Here’s a photo of the open area, the wide wilderness that the Powell 1548 will explore:

 

TheRange

 

Because this was a do-over, the decision was made to protect the seedling from nighttime marauders. I offered my stash of tomato cages, but that proved both ineffective and silly. MH decided that four stakes, a roll of chicken wire, a length of rope, and a recently unearthed brick would do the trick. Here’s the entire sequence:

 

StakesInstead

StakesInPlace

CircleWithWire

TieWithRope

 

And the result:

 

Caged

 

This photo is comforting to MH and myself, and we hope it is deeply disturbing to the assassins of the night, the ones that care not for infant pumpkins and care more for the grubs, worms, and other burrowing creatures they are certain reside deep in the compost. They will not get the chance to try again. The Powell 1548 is caged. For a day or two, at least. That baby’s gonna grow, and FAST.

 

Stand back, and stay tuned.

 

WORDS FROM OTHERS:

“It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.”

 

— George A. Custer, Cavalry Commander (1839 – 1876)

 

 

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And so it begins, another rollicking edition of the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta, and I am more than just a delighted spectator this year. I made a grand bargain with neighbor and friend Michael Horst: I’m giving him a sunny 20’ section of my garden and he’s giving me permission to blog about this enterprise to my heart’s content. And, whose heart wouldn’t be content to follow the progress of the growing of an Atlantic Giant pumpkin?!

 

This event involves the entire community. Adults and children volunteer to grow the pumpkins. The pumpkins are grown and then weighed, prize money is awarded, the pumpkins are deployed throughout the town, and artists decorate them with wild abandon and enthusiasm. Some people turn their giant pumpkins into boats fitted with outboard motors and race them in the harbor. (That’s the “Regatta” part of the event.) Businesses and non-profits support the event, sponsor the artists, organize parades, hire street musicians, arrange for giant slingshots to hurl pumpkins great distances, and set up giant cranes to drop pumpkins from great heights. It is a lively time.

 

Pumpkinfest takes place over Columbus Day weekend, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This past Sunday was “Seedling Sunday”, when 600 Atlantic Giant pumpkin seedlings were given away to Squashbucklers (formerly known as “Volunteer Growers”). The seedlings were distributed at Pinkham’s Plantation, a local nursery, and the Squashbucklers were also given growing instructions and five gallons of compost to give the tiny plants a healthy start.

 

Sponsors of the event were present, including the Maine Maritime Museum that arrived in this audacious ride:

LobsterCar_WithSign

 

LobsterCar_HeadOn

 

Other notables included representatives from the sponsoring Farnsworth Art Museum, the Boothbay Railway Village, and local media personalities.

 

The real draw for the Squashbucklers, though, was the lure of the seedlings and the expert guidance of the Pumpkin Posse, the volunteers who assist in every phase of this 6-month long event.

 

PumpkinPosse_Sign

 

Here is what greeted Michael as he entered the greenhouse:

 

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The seedlings are donated by the previous year’s growers, who are ferociously proud of their hefty pumpkins and the genetics that produced them. Each seedling is marked with the grower’s name and the weight of the pumpkin from which the seeds were harvested.

 

Much like a champion racehorse, you can select your seedling by its breeding and its trainer (grower). This seedling was grown by Powell, and came from a monster weighing 1,355 pounds.

Seedling-_Powell

 

My friend selected a “Gabourey” seedling, and a “Pierpont” seedling, which was grown by last year’s winner of both the Pumpkinfest weigh-off AND set a new record for the state of Maine at 1,727.5 pounds. Michael’s “Pierpont” seedling came from a pumpkin that weighed 1,196 pounds. An impressive bloodline, for sure.

 

Seedling_Pierpont

 

He was instructed by an expert about what to watch for in Vine Direction. The orientation of the fruit to the vine is critical. More on that later.

 

Mike_Expert_2

 

Michael prepared the planting site in my garden. It has been dug, de-rocked, and a half-yard of fluffy, gorgeous black organic compost is now in place. Soon either the Gabourey or the Pierpont seedling will be planted.

 

Stay tuned! This blog will carry photos and commentary on all aspects of this particular seedling’s moment in the sun.

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