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Deep watering a pumpkin/melon/squash on a hill?

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:16 am
by TheWaterbug
So everyone says we should be "deep watering" our melons and squashes to encourage deep root growth.

I planted my pumpkins about two weeks ago, and they're about 3-4 inches tall now. Each planting site is on a little hill of loose dirt about 1 foot tall above the ground, as seen here, just before planting:

Each hill is shaped like a volcano, with a little ~2"-deep crater at the top to prevent the water from just running down the sides, and a bit of a moat at the bottom where I stole some soil to build up the mound.

I have my automated drip system dripping right on top of the seedlings right now, just to make sure they get established.

At what point should I move the drip hose to the moat? I need the roots to already be deep enough to get to the bottom of the hill, otherwise they'll never see the water.

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 4:59 pm
by digitS'
Waterbug, what do you think of flooding your moats once with a hose?

The water would likely move up into the mounds adequately to reach the roots. Of course, the water would move down. Probably, within a day or 2, the plant roots would be down there at a greater depth because they are following the water. I doubt if your plants would be too small to generate the roots to reach the bottom-of-the-moat depth if given a couple days to do it. Still, you could watch for wilting and flood the moats again if necessary.

I haven't used drip irrigation so don't really know about moving the emitters. However, all the veggies you name are known to be able to develop a deep (beyond 24") root system.


Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:01 pm
by joed2323
I cant help you but i like how your garden is layed out. Real nice job with your garden....

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:33 pm
by TheWaterbug
digitS' wrote:Waterbug, what do you think of flooding your moats once with a hose?
Yes, that's one option, but I still have to come to some opinion on when I can do that. Once the plants have a diameter of a couple of feet I'm sure their roots will be long enough and/or the plants will have enough "reserve" to grow them deeper, but at their present 3" stage I'm sure they're too young.

But I don't want to wait too long and spoil them :)

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:41 pm
by jal_ut
[url=]Take a look at this,[/url] about the growth habit of melon roots. They apparently have an extensive shallow root system with some roots going deeper.

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:50 pm
by jal_ut
Each planting site is on a little hill of loose dirt about 1 foot tall above the ground, as seen here, just before planting:
OK, please tell me why you build a mound to plant them on? I have never used mounds of any type. If anything it is more likely to be a shallow dish where I have stepped on the ground after planting to firm the ground so the seed will be in good contact with the soil.

Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:18 pm
by TheWaterbug
jal_ut wrote:
Each planting site is on a little hill of loose dirt about 1 foot tall above the ground, as seen here, just before planting:
OK, please tell me why you build a mound to plant them on?
Because the seed packet says so!

But seriously, for the last two years my soil has been extremely compacted under the top 3-4 inches of soil, so I took the surrounding area and built up hills so that the plant would have at least 8-12 inches of soft dirt to root into.

Now that I'm in my 3rd year, and also that I have a tiller available to me all the time, I'm reconsidering the need. But for this year I already planted in hills, so I'm committed.

I should note that my volunteer pumpkins are not on hills, and the ones getting water and fertilizer are performing magnificently.

Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:17 am
by Tonio
WB, you must have taken that picture before the sun finally came in for us-though your prolly get more being more north inland?

Can't say I've grown much pumpkin, but agreed about the seed packets say " per hill" :o Just that you can't properly water a hill.

I'd say I'm with digit on this, and get the moat going deeply- and perhaps supplement the Caldera ( upper volcano) if needed.
That way the roots will reach down and out for better nutrient search ( they will anyway). Suppose its a flood type method, but the vining plants have massive root structure and you've got the room for it!! Wish I did :cry:

Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:57 am
by jal_ut
"Hill", has never meant a heap of dirt to me. It seems it refers to 4 or 5 seeds in one spot, then move over 5 feet and do it again, rather than planting every six inches to a foot in a row. Doing this the vines go out like spokes on a wheel.

I have planted both ways, rows and hills. (hills that are not hills) :)

I have seen where some say to actually build a hill for better drainage. What a waste. The squash vines may get up to 20 feet or more long and the roots go just as far underground. In fact the vine may root at the nodes too. Better drainage? Nonsense, unless you build a 40 foot square hill.

The fact remains that squash does really well on good fertile soil. Work some manure in before planting and plan to side dress them with some 16-16-16 every two weeks.

The problem with little hills of loose dirt, as you put it, They dry out very quickly. Now I see you are wondering how to water them without destroying the hill and exposing the roots. I just gave you the answer above. Next year?

Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:06 am
by jal_ut
OK, here is a quote from another forum:

"When a pkt's instructions say to plant "in hills" this does not necessarily mean that one has to mound up soil. It's a reference to a planting pattern rather than "altitude." When I refer to a hill of squash, for instance, I simply mean that I planted a couple seeds together in one place, rather than in a row. Occasionally I'll plant several hills, scattered throughout a section of the garden, though I find rows to be more efficient use of space. Some of my "hills" are actually depressions, where I can dump some water at the base of my plants, and not have it run away."

Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:50 pm
by dtlove129
Waterbug, I did the same thing only my hills aren't big hills but more of a mound of dirt. I do see what everyone else is saying though because I use drip and after a while the water just runs off the hill. I figured if I ran it for 15 minutes (the drips on these are putting out 6 gallons/hr) that I'm getting plenty of water in/on the hill and the water that is running off the hills are still soaking in out there. I mean my pumpkins and squashes and cukes look great. I have put up 12 quarts of pickles already. Given away probably 3 5 gallon buckets of zucchini and eaten a bucket ourselves. I have 5 "hills" of spaghetti squash with probably 3 plants to a hill and I think I have seen 20 spaghetti squash already that were the size of small footballs and bigger. Pumpkin vines are running like crazy, but my plant is just now making male blooms.

Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:51 pm
by dtlove129
Oh next year though I probably won't do the hills after reading all this.

Posted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 7:10 pm
by TheWaterbug
I've read many sites on "how to grow pumpkins" that specifically reference mounding up a hill of about a foot high and 2-3 feet in diameter. Then again these people probably spend more time building websites than growing pumpkins ;)

The ostensible reason is usually to preserve the heat of the day longer, but I don't have that problem in Los Angeles.

Given the advice of my betters here :D, the discussion above, and the experience of my volunteers this year, I probably also will forego the hilling next year. Or I might try a controlled experiment and hill only some of them. It depends on how lazy I get.

For this year I'll probably move the drippers to the moat in a few weeks' time, perhaps when they start vining a bit.

Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 8:08 am
by TheWaterbug
TheWaterbug wrote:For this year I'll probably move the drippers to the moat in a few weeks' time, perhaps when they start vining a bit.
Well, I never got around to moving the drippers, and now the vines have overgrown the patch so much that I can't find the drippers, the main stems, or even the hills any more.

I can't even walk through the patch to look for fruit.

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:03 pm
by jal_ut
Try digging a hole about 2 feet deep and putting a foot of compost or old manure (not fresh) in the hole then fill with soil and step on it well to firm the ground them plant your pumpkin. Not on a hill, just level ground. Put 3 or 4 seeds spaced about six inches like in a circle. They do respond well to fertilizer.

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:09 pm
by jal_ut
I can't even walk through the patch to look for fruit.
Yep, know what you mean. Those squash take over. I said to my son that I would never plant a double row of squash again, because I can't get into it to harvest. His reply was, "Ya, plant a single row and leave 12 feet on each side."

I guess he was having the same problem. I was looking at my summer squash. I planted in hills of 4 plants to a hill and they made vines that are about 4 feet long even if they are supposed to be bush type. The total area covered by a hill of these guys is about 8 x 8.

Squash are awesome.

Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2012 1:30 pm
by Gary350
I have done many years of experements trying to grow good melons in TN. I finally learned root growth is the trick. I put 6" of sand on the soil and 3" of peat moss on the soil too. I till it well to mix it well. Then I plant the melon seeds. Roots grow fast and long if the roots are stunted the plants will be too. Plants need full sun if you want ripe melons. Keep the melons dry or they will rot on the soil. I have been setting the melons up on cement blocks to keep them off the humid wet Tennessee soil.

Arizona soil is like potting soil I can did a hole 2 feet deep with my hand, no shovel is needed. I planted water melon and cantalope before I left last week. The automatic water system will keep them growing until I return in 3 more weeks. Soil there is dry so there won't me any water melon rot problems with melons setting on the soil.