Soil Prep (page getting redone)

How to have the best soil

Great Soil = Great Results

Having the best soil condition you can get improves your chances significantly of having the biggest pumpkin you can.

While lots of people think there is a secret to growing giant pumpkins it comes down to basic gardening principles of providing the plant what it needs.

How Important is Soil to Giant Pumpkins

The soil is probably hands down the most .important factor in growing a giant pumpkin.  No matter what seed is grown, the location or any other factor, without good soil your pumpkin plant cannot reach its full potential.

Learn about Soil

To get a better understanding of how important soil is and how it works on a microscopic level I highly recommend reading the book Teaming with Microbes.

It has both the scientific background on how soil works and the impact it has, as well as a practical second half on how to improve your soil.

The Different Levels of Soil Prep

Beginners Level

Firstly you want to look at your soil, does it look dark and rich or pale and clay filled?

Does it smell earthy, have a lot of insect and bug activity within it?  Have other plants been grown nearby in this soil successfully?

Finding a good place to grow is your first step in having great results.

Intermediate Level

You’ll be wanting to test the soil pH level to find out what the acidity is, and amending when necessary.

pH testing is simple can be done yourself at home and is inexpensive. For giant pumpkins, a pH of 6.5 – 7 is recommended.

Advanced Level

Getting soils tests done is what every serious grower should be doing. Finding out the exact makeup of your soil allows you to amend it and get it to the right levels.

There is a cost involved and both getting the test done and using products to amend the soil, having a plan on how many tests you are going to get is a good idea.

pH Level Explained and How To Amend It

The pH level of the soil is a measure of how acidic or alkaline the soil is.  This is important as it directly affects the nutrient availability to the plant.

pH tests are included as part of a soil test done by a laboratory, but they can also be done at home yourself using a pH test kit.  I cover how you can do your own pH soil test at home in this video.

pH is measured on a scale ranging from 0 – 14, 7 is neutral pH, numbers less than 7 indicates acidity, numbers above 7 indicates alkalinity.  Different plants prefer different pH levels, having the correct level for whatever you are growing allows the plants to uptake all available nutrients in the most efficient manner.  But what happens if your pH level is wrong?  You are going to need to correct it.

High pH levels

There are usually two products that can be used to lower the pH level of your soil, Aluminum Sulphate and Sulphur.

Both of these products can be obtained from most garden centres.

Aluminium Sulphate is a faster acting product with results noticeable instantly as the aluminium produces acidity in the soil as it dissolves.

Sulphur, on the other hand, is a much slower method to reduce the pH level and can take some months to achieve the desired result.

Both options should be worked into the soil after application for best results and make sure to follow recommended application rates on the packaging as these can be easily over applied.

Low pH levels

Low pH can be a common problem in a lot of areas and the most common way of bringing the pH level up is to apply lime.

Lime can come in chip form or finer.  The finer the product the faster it will work.

Paying attention to the application rate is important.  To be most effective lime needs the contact with the soil, this provides the moisture lime needs to work properly.  Dry soil will make the lime have very little effect on the pH level.

A cheaper alternative to using lime is wood ash, this method will take longer and should be applied well before the season start.

How to do a soil test

I’ve covered how to do a soil test in these blog posts you can find here:

Soil Testing – Part one, Why soil test and what is in the kit
Soil Testing Part Two, Taking the soil test
Soil Testing Part Three, The Soil Test Results

Soil Temp

Waiting until all the frosts have gone is a good idea, while there might be unexpected cold nights if you have worked out your planting date from your competition date you should be OK.  For very cold places you will have to warm the soil up.  For us here in NZ that usually means some sort of greenhouse over the area.  In other parts of the world, this could include heating cables, heating lamps etc.

Keeping the soil at a temperature of around 22 degrees celcius will privide great growing conditions for your giant pumpkin seedling.

 

Reduce the amount of digging (possibly)

When you read up on this new organic way of gardening, a lot of books mention no tilling, which basically means no digging, or limit the amount of soil disturbance as much as you can.

The soil has a whole network of things going on, very fine pathways for all the organisms contained within it, built up over time, once you start digging, you damage all of this, taking the soil back to square one.  So while some people really believe in the no digging philosophy others say it has to be done, as it aerates the soil making it easier for the roots to travel and gather nutrients.

To get the best of both worlds digging really early and getting a lot of organic matter into the soil early on is a good option, it allows the soil to use the nutrients you have introduced and also rebuild the food soil web.

Organic Matter