We are going to start our 2021 diary with a little experimentation. We haven’t grown watermelon for a number of years and have decided that we would like to try a couple of plants this year. After doing some research online we have decided we would like to learn to graft watermelon. Some of the benefits of watermelon grafting would be disease resistance and plant vigor. This will be totally new for us and we do not really know how it will turn out. We may have to grow traditionally if we can’t master the grafting process. Apparently, one of the most important things to have after grafting is to have some sort of healing chamber for the newly grafted plants to go into. This healing chamber needs to be kept at and a very high relative humidity at first and then slowly reduced over the course of a week. The grafts need to be in the dark for the first two days and then slowly introduced to light a little longer each day.
The picture below shows our newly built healing chamber (24” X 28” inside dimensions) with the control box on the right.
The control box contains a SHT2000 temperature and humidity controller. It is wired in such a way so that one half of the outlet supplies power to the humidifier and the other half delivers power to the heater. It is very easy to make changes to the settings to either raise or lower the heat/ humidity inside the box. The red display is the temperature and the blue is the humidity.
We started some seeds January 15 just for practice. We decide to use bushel gourd as the rootstock mainly because it was available to us. Unfortunately, we had very poor germination of the bushel gourds and we were only able to get 3 seedlings started from that batch. Today, we decided to try the first practice grafts. There are a number of different grafting techniques, but we decided for this first try to go with the one cotyledon graft.
This is one of the bushel gourd seedlings. They were not the healthiest looking plants but it’s all we had.
Here is the same plant after the true leaves as well as one of the cotyledons were cut off on an angle down the stem.
Next, is the watermelon scion that was cut on the same angle to hopefully match the cut on the bushel gourd.
Next a grafting clip was put on the stem
The seedlings were put inside the healing chamber and covered to keep light out. The humidifier is just a small bottle cap humidifier that fits inside a water bottle. The heater is a germination mat under the wire rack. The black probe on the top right is connected to the SHT 2000 controller. It measures both the temperature and the humidity.
Today we were privileged to witness history being made. Canada’s first pumpkin over 2000 lbs was officially weighed at the Woodbridge Fair. Congratulations to Jim and Kelsey Bryson for growing a 2006.5 lb pumpkin.
Here they are getting it off the pallet.
On to the scale
New Canadian record 2006.5 lbs.
Jim said it measured around 1850 lbs., so it went very heavy. It was grown from the 2014.6 Patton.
Our pumpkin surprised us by going heavier than it measured. Here they are getting it ready to lift with the Judge Chris Lyons close by.
The official weight was 1726.5 lbs. That was about 250 lbs. heavier than the measurement, so we were very happy with that. This is the second year now that the 2118 Barron has gone heavy for us. Would like to try this seed again next year.
Our watermelon even went heavy for us. It was measuring 135 lbs on the tape but weighed 160.5 lbs. It was good for first place, but it was the only watermelon entry.
Thank you to the Woodbridge Fair committee and volunteers for putting on the weigh-off.
We decided we would take our 2200 (est) Geddes to the Port Elgin weigh-off. Loading day last Friday turned out to be a very harrowing experience. The picture below shows our first lift out of the patch. As you can see the bottom rope is too high up on the pumpkin. I didn’t realize it at the time and continued to lift the pumpkin off the ground. A few seconds later the pumpkin slips out of the sling and falls to the ground. This caused the rope to rip off the stem. As well, two hairline cracks formed at the stem and blossom end. We probed the cracks and couldn’t get the probe to go very far into the pumpkin, but we didn’t know at that time what the bottom looked like. At this point we lost all confidence in our lifting device and did not want to attempt another lift.
I called Doug Court to see if I could borrow his pumpkin lifter. On one of Doug’s busiest days of the year, he stopped what he was doing, jumped in his car and drove the lifter down to us. I told him we could have gone to pick it up. Doug says “I had to come it was a pumpkin emergency”. Thank you so much Doug, you are a true friend. With Doug’s help we examined the bottom (it was good) and got it on a pallet. It was up to the judge now to determine if it was sound or not.
Weigh-off day…The pumpkin made it to the scale. The judge determined that it was good to be weighed. The weight was 1747.5 lbs. and placed forth.
Congratulations to Jim and Kelsey Bryson for their 1st place 1775.5 lb pumpkin.
This year’s weigh-off was a little bit more like normal. At least the growers were able to stay on site for the entire day if they wanted to.
It was good to talk with a lot of the growers that we missed last year. Below is Fred Hain and Dorothy in the background. Fred was showing us his nice orange pumpkin that he grew from our 1699 seed from last year. It weighed 1299.5 lbs !!!!
Congratulations to the Pumpkinfest committee and all the volunteers for putting this all together for us. It must have been very challenging at times.
Woodbridge is next.. Everyone... keep your ropes low.
Looks like we will be getting another batch of storms that are quickly coming across the lake. We are under a tornado watch. As a precaution we covered the pumpkins with blankets and had to lash them down with ropes to keep them in place. There is a risk that our shelters may be damaged in the windstorm and we wanted a bit of protection from the flailing structures.
Stay safe everyone!
The pumpkins are now heading into the home stretch. The storm last Tuesday caused a bit of damage to the plants from the hail and wind, but it could have been a lot worse. We now have a lot of holes in the leaves but overall the plants have recovered and the pumpkins are still growing.
We have been giving a lot of tours of our pumpkin patch again this year. Friends, neighbours and total strangers. Growing close to the road draws a lot of attention and you would think that could be a bad thing, but we have never had any problems over the years. Giving a tour and answering questions to someone who has never seen a big pumpkin before has to be my favorite part of this hobby. I’m not sure what it is about giant pumpkins that make people smile but it definitely does.
The 2118 Barron continues to grow at a decent pace. It averaged 17 lbs. per day this past week.
It is now sitting at 1384 lbs. It’s a wheel shape that is leaning.
The 2200 Geddes has slowed to 8 lb. gains per day this past week. It measures 423” OTT or 1630 lbs. That is now the largest OTT measurement we have ever had in out patch. The long range forecast looks good for day/night temperatures. We are hoping it will put on a few more lbs.
We had a storm go through last night, fortunately the plants made it through undamaged. This past week was another very hot week. This week it looks like we will be returning to seasonal temperatures. We have a bit of powdery mildew starting that we are trying to stop. We still have a few aphids left, but they don’t seem to be spreading very fast.
Today was measuring day. The 2118 Barron is slowing down. It grew an estimated 168 lbs. in the last 7 days. Now estimating 1114 lbs.
The 2200 Geddes grew almost the same. It put on 166lbs in 7 days. Now estimating 1459 lbs. 405” OTT.
The heat is on and it looks like this stretch of brutally hot humid weather will continue well into this week. We have increased the amount of water given to the plants. Each pumpkin plant is now getting well over 100 gallons a day. We lost our biggest tomato this week on the 6.68 Court. It split open on the bottom and started to rot. Lost a couple of others to BER.
We were scouting through the plants this week and discovered we have an aphid infestation starting. So far it is just on the outer edge of both plants (east side). Aphids have a number of natural enemies, but as pumpkin growers we mess that up by spraying for the cucumber beetle and squash vine borer. We have been spraying an insecticide regularly and that has also killed off the beneficial insects that eat aphids. Chemical control is never 100% effective, so any surviving aphids repopulate the plants within a matter of days.
Below is a picture of the back side of one of our infested pumpkin leaves. The aphids are the greenish/yellow dots. Some are bigger than the others because they are at various stages of their life younger/older. The little white flecks you see are the exoskeleton (dead skin) of the aphids. They molt about 4 times in their life cycle and leave the white telltale signs behind. The brownish ones in the lower left corner are the dead ones that must have died the last time we sprayed. They move very little because they have their needle like mouth part stuck into the leaf sucking out the sap. We are not sure of the species but it looks very similar to the aphids that were on our soybeans this year. Possibly the green peach aphid.
This next picture is another view of a different part of the leaf. You can see the same greenish dots (aphids) as well as the white exoskeleton and the brown dead ones. But this picture also shows a beneficial insect. You see those worm like things that are slightly orange. That is a aphid midge. They feed on aphids so that is a good insect to have. There are a number of beneficial insects that feed on aphids like lady beetles, earwigs, small spiders, lacewing etc.
The next 2 pictures were taken looking through a 25X handheld lens. The pictures are a little out of focus.
But you can see the big ones and the little ones as well as the dead skin cast- offs. We might try an insecticidal soap spray on them.
The 2200 Geddes is starting to slow down. The OTT today was 387” for an estimated weight of 1293 lbs. That is a gain of 192 lbs. in the last 7 days.
The 2118 Barron measures 346 OTT for an estimated weight of 946 lbs. That is a gain of 226 lbs. in the last 7 days.
This past week has really been a roller-coaster ride of temperatures. Sweltering hot for the first part of the week, and then turning to fall like conditions yesterday. We covered the fruit with thick blankets for the first time this year trying to keep some of the heat in the pumpkins overnight. It got down to 9°C last night.
Our 2200 Geddes is in the foreground. It has really been a great plant to grow. No issues so far with anything. The leaves are short but we think that is an environmental variation as opposed to a genetic variation. The plant adapted to its environment. A plant with tall leaves wouldn’t survive very long in our area because it is so windy. We are surrounded by commercial windmills. You can see them on the horizon.
We took the time today to measure both plants because they sort of out grew our original space allotment. We were surprised to find that the Geddes measured out to a little over 1200 square feet and the Barron was just under 1100 square feet. The Geddes is 39 feet wide across the back of the plant.
The 2200 Geddes is now measuring 365” OTT about 1100 lbs. It gained 222 lbs. in the last 7 days.
The 2118 Barron grew 235 lbs. in the last 7 days and is measuring 720 lbs. It is 8 days younger, but it will need a nice September for it to catch up to the Geddes.
Next is a look at our two overwintered cabbage plants. They put out a lot of flower/seed stalks. We had to tie the stalks up because they wanted to flop over.
We think our bees did a good job pollinating the flowers because there are lots of pods forming. Hopefully, we get some seed from them.
Since our last entry the south 255 Mitchell watermelon plant has completely shut down. In a desperate attempt to save the north 255 Mitchell we have been treating the stump. We drenched the stump area with 3% hydrogen peroxide several times and followed up with sulfur powder. The foaming and fluid leak has stopped. At least for now. Some sections of this plant has died, but the remaining vines actually look healthy. The growth has slowed but at least it is still growing.
It measures 92lbs today
The 2118 Barron started out very slow but around day 27 it finally started to increase the daily gains.
It’s at day 36 today and measures 276” OTT.
The 2200 Geddes has been growing very well for us. It measures 337” OTT today. This one is actually ahead of last year’s measurements on the same calendar day.
This is our low tech method of applying our fertilizer. We put whatever we want for one plant into the pail. The fertilizer venturi injector will suck it out of the pail as the water is pumped through the system. We can direct to different areas of the patch with the valves on the left.
Our 6.68 Court tomato is still ok. It measures 16 ½” circumference and has been growing at a steady pace of ½” per day for the last 6 days.
Sorry to hear you lost your melons. Hope you have big ones next year to make up for it!
Sometimes this hobby can be very humbling. Just when you think you have something going on the right track the wheels fall off. Well, the wheels fell off our watermelon wagon. Everything seemed to be going well. The plants grew very fast at the start of the season. The fruit was pollinated early and growing at a very steady pace until growth suddenly slowed near the end of July. We checked the stump of both plants and found that they were foaming and leaking fluid. It was a failure of the grafts. Looking back, we should have protected the stump area with some type of cover. That might have helped to keep them dry. All the rain we had in July we feel was a big contributing factor to the failure. We learned a lot this year. Hopefully, we will try them again next year. We believe it is worth taking the risk to grow grafted plants, to get the increased vigor. We just need to figure out how to get the grafts to make it all the way through the season.
The south 255 Mitchell was the worst. It has eroded about halfway through the stump.
The north 255 is not far behind. It was leaking foam and juice from the dark area.
Both plants have vines that look like the picture below. They are losing their connection to the roots and shriveling up.
Final measurements: South plant has a fruit just over 100 lbs. and the north plant has one at 80 lbs.
We had a storm roll through here last Saturday evening with violent winds and heavy rain (2”). We just finished cleaning up all the downed branches from our trees. Fortunately, we didn’t have much damage to the plants. The wind blew down a lot of the plastic fencing we had surrounding the plants because the rain softened the soil and the stakes became easy to push over.
This is a look at our 2 pumpkin plants. We have shelters over both fruit now.
The 2118 Barron is 23 days old today and it is not growing at a very fast pace. It’s only at 162” OTT and growing about 18Lb per day the last 2 days. It has a very nice shape and colour but it needs to start growing soon.
Our 2200 Geddes started out fairly slow for us but at day 25 it started to finally grow at a decent pace. It is at day 31 today and has put on 216lbs in the last 6 days. The OTT today was 262”.
The watermelon continue to grow at a very steady pace. The North 255 on the left is estimating 66 lbs.’ and the South 255 is at 91lbs.
We have been watching a flower on one of our tomato plants. The picture below was taken 5 days ago when the flower was 5 days old. It was a very weird looking thing. It looks like 4 stems have fused together into a sort of ribbon looking vine. It looks like there are 4 tomatoes fused together although 2 are smaller than the others.