GIANT PUMPKINS / SQUASHES GROWING
DIRECT ROOT FEEDING
Old text, but still useful
To the begin with, I want to apologize for my not so good English (which is self-learned). I hope that you will understand the most important things. If something sounds to you wrong, please let me know, and I will change it.
My name is Hristo, I live in Bulgaria, and want to share with all AG growers the technique that I use when growing Atlantic giant pumpkins, since I'm growing AG's (2003). I call that technique "Direct Root Feeding" (DRF). As you will see this technique is very simple, and because of that I believe, that maybe someone already use it, but I do not know of that, so...
DRF will be especially helpful to those grower who's AG plot(s) are not well prepared and the soil is imbalanced. That technique can be useful and to the so-called "heavy hitters". Especially if they want to experiment with different feeding programs, without the need to change their plot's soil composition!
My #1 hobby is to grow unusual (and tasty) edible (mostly edibles) plants, and especially fruits. My #2 hobby is to exchange seeds of such a plants with people from all over the world.
Till 2002 I didn't knew that the pumpkin/squash can reach 300+ kg. / 660+ lb. When I learned that that is possible, I was hooked (since I'm growing and many other plants, I can't tell that I'm addicted, but for sure it is real pleasure for me). For 2002 I did not found 'Atlantic Giant' variety seeds, but I trained with 'Big Moon'. For 2003 season I received some AG seeds with unknown background (now they are proven under 400 (lb.) :-)), but despite that they were good for me. Having AG seeds and knowing that my soil is unprepared and pretty imbalanced (for example: P2O2 - 3090 ppm; K2O - 2020 ppm; Fe - 2.12 ppm; don't know - Ca, Mg, S, B, CEC, %BS) I started to think - how can be combined the easy of the classical soil plant growing, and the advantages of the hydroponic growing. Because most cucurbits are very suitable for such a combination, I didn't thought much...
Here I want to thanks to the people who sent me AG seeds, and personally to Michel White who sent me proven seeds. Because of these seeds, now I can share my experience. Which is:
DRF step by step
Look the pictures and you will understand (sorry for their bad quality).
Placing the hydroponic container (the bottles shown on the photos are 10 l. / 2.2 gal.):
When it "takes" (if didn't "takes" - change the water/nutrients/hormones and wait till "takes"), start your feeding program. There is many recipes for making nutrient solution depending on the kind of the plant. But they all are only for hydroponic growing (only), and are not always suitable for combined (soil + hydroponic) growing. For example: in my soil the P and K levels are extremely high, and because of that I do not need these elements in my hydroponics. It is much better you to make the mixes depending on your soil composition and your aims.
Few rules (most of them learned the hard way):
This was/is my way of growing, but of course there can be many different ways (modifications), including the used system (different hydro/aeroponic systems).
Does it works for me?
Frankly speaking I did not achieved significant results. But this is because of me, not because the technique (there is no doubt about that that the hydroponic growing works). I do not followed the rules. I know what is hydroponic and how it works, but I have never been used it. I was, and I'm still not enough experienced, and I make mistakes. Till now I have grown successfully only 4 plants using combined feeding - 2 plants in 2003, and 2 plants in 2005 (2004 season was zero season for me).
During 2003 I have been placed 1 bottle (as on the photos above) per plant (and one secondary root per bottle). I maintained the hydroponics from July until the end of season. Because this was my first season I was very enthusiastic and I tended for the hydroponics (and not enough for the plants :-)). I changed the nutrient solution every 3-5 days, added H2O2 every other day. These operations I did properly, but... I used only spring water, which in my area is hard (high of carbonates); I never checked the pH; despite that I knewed that my soil P and K levels are extremely high, mostly I followed the late season formula - 1-2-1... ect. and ect.
The main observations and conclusions for the 2003 season:
During 2005 I have been placed 2 bottles (see photos above)
per plant (and one secondary root per bottle) (I do not include
another plant (713 Sherwood 04) wich was with bad genetic and
didn't produced fruit). Three of them "taked", but not
for long... I didn't cared for them enough - again used spring
water; changed the solutions once at 10 - 15 days; added H2O2
once at 5 - 10 days. Why?
Despite all careless, 2005 season became my the best season. For sure that is because the seeds - thanks Michel! Again, I'm very excited for the next season, and even prepared few patches, which I will use if I find the seeds that I'm looking for. After that excitement I'm begin to expect... bad season :-)
So, DRF works, but only if is properly used (follow the rules). (I think that it can't totally compensate poor soil and especially soil with low organic matter, even if is properly used. Of course maybe if you place 10 containers of 20 litres / 4.4 gal. each (or even more / bigger)... Share your experience!)
Advantages and disadvantages
Share your experience...
Useful Hydroponic Links
http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/ornamentals/floriculture/fertical.xls - An Excel Spreadsheet for Calculating Nutrient Solution Recipes
Guides / Tutorials / Researches...
http://www.hydroponicsonline.com/ - + forum, pictures...
http://www.hbci.com/~wenonah/link.htm#hydro - Hydroponic Salts, Photos of Mineral Deficient Plants
http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1151/ - Hydroponics for Home Gardeners
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/publications/hydroponics.html - Hydroponics as a Hobby
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