Soil Prep (page getting redone)

How to have the best soil

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.

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.

 

How important is soil?

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.

 

The Different Levels of Soil Prep

 

Beginners Level

Firstly you want to look at your soil, is it dark and rich? Does it smell earthy?  Is it full of bugs and worms?

Have other plants been grown here successfully?

If you can answer yes to these questions you are off to a good start.

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.

Keep in mind the cost of the soil test and amendments when planning your growing season.

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 and inexpensive and can help you get the pH balance just right.  For giant pumpkins, a pH of 6.5 – 7 is recommended.

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 is measured on a scale ranging from 0 – 14, 7 is neutral pH, numbers less than 7 indicates acidity, numbers above 7 indicates alkalinity.

 

 

 

How important is soil?

As with anything grown in the ground the better the condition of the soil, the better it is to provide nutrients to the plants.

One teaspoon of soil can have over 1 million microbes and bacteria all contained within it.  It is a huge living mass that has the ability of helping you and your giant pumpkins out immensely.

Knowing what is in your soil

To really know how good your soil is, you really need to get a soil test done, while this is a common occurrence in other parts of the world, only the most dedicated growers here would get to that point. The two reason why you might not go to these lengths is the cost of getting it done and the analysis of the results. You can check out my soil testing I did HEREHERE and HERE.

Even if you did pay the money for the test fixing the soil to the correct limits could take even more money and more importantly time.

What to look out for instead

Before tests on soils could be taken out, most gardeners would know if other plants were growing well in the soil nearby it doesn’t take a scientist to figure that out.

Check the soil, dig some of it up, are their worms?  Other bugs you can see with the naked eye?  if so, that is a good sign, it means that the food soil web must be working there is life in your soil, and will probably be good for your plants.

PH Level

The PH level is the acidity of the soil, and having this at the correct level is important for growing anything, including giant pumpkins.  It is easy to test, and you are aiming for a PH of around 6.5 – 7.

I’ve covered PH testing in a video I made last year, which can be seen HERE.

If your results aren’t good you can take measures to correct the PH levels, the normal ways are using sulphur to lower the PH level, and lime will increase the PH level. These two fixes might take up to a year to correct and they may cause damage to the food soil web.

Learning more about the food soil web and what you can do will give you a better idea of how to fix this more naturally.

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 might need wait until the ground is a lot warmer to help reduce shock  to the 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 he 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.

Compost, compost, compost

Compost is the best thing to add to your pumpkin patch a good mixture of green material and brown material is the way to go.  Once all this has been combined, the microbes go to work and break it down.  If you have made compost before you will know how hot it can get, the heat is the microbes and bacteria working at breaking it down.  You can have a good compost within a short period.

Spreading it all over your patch is where the plant is eventually going to get a lot of nutrients from, it’s easy and allows the soil to work properly and not strip out nutrients by using man made fertilisers like in the past.

You can use mulch but it is just bigger pieces which will take longer to break down and release the nutrients.

Manure

Manure can divide opinions depending on who you are talking to.  It can either bring in potential unwanted diseases or more commonly it is a good way to bring in a lot of seeds from weeds that will compete for nutrients with your plant.

But manure is more good than bad, but making sure it is well matured before applying is key to getting all the benefits from it.  Mixing it in and letting it have time to age will help your patch reach it’s full potential.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of how important soil is in the whole growing scheme.  There is a lot to learn about soil and a lot to read if you want to put the time into it.  It is what makes the best giant pumpkin growers in the world produce what they produce.