Thursday, March 30, 2006

Giant Pumpkin Growing Instructions

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

Just a couple of news items this morning. I gave a giant pumpkin presentation to the San Pedro Garden Club on Tuesday, March 28th, at Peck Park in San Pedro. This adds an additional 50 potential giant pumpkin growers in Southern California. It was a great group, engaged and curious with lots of good questions.

Finally, here are the 2006 revised instructions for growing giant pumpkins.

Giant Pumpkin Secret Growing Instructions & Tips

Selecting a planting site

1) Select a sunny place in your garden. Giant pumpkins thrive best in strong sunshine. The larger the area, the better (500-1,000 sq. ft.), but smaller areas have been successfully planted too. An area that receives 8-12+ hours of sunlight per day is ideal.

Preparing the soil and mound

1) The best pumpkins come from the best prepared soil. Dig a hole, 40”-48” deep, 3’-5’ in diameter, and mix the soil well with 6-8 bags (9-12 cubic feet) of soil amendments and/or other high organic content materials: well-aged steer or horse manure, compost, humus. More is better!
2) Put the mixed soil back in. You should have a mound, 2’-5’ in diameter, 16”-18” high at its center.
3) Allow 35’-50’ between individual mounds if you are planting more than one vine.

Germinating giant pumpkin seeds

1) Soak seeds overnight in warm water (8-12 hours.) This softens the pumpkin seed’s shell and accelerates germination. Start germinating seeds early May to mid May.
2) Plant seeds in a 4” minimum or larger peat pot, in a seed germinating mix, flat, 1”-1.5” deep.
3) Keep seeds moist and warm, 75-80 degrees F. range, is ideal.
4) Under these conditions, seeds should sprout in 4-7 days, sometimes even sooner!
5) After the seedling has developed 1-2 true leaves, it is ready to transplant into the mound.
6) Or, you may simply sow your seeds directly into the mound. Competitive giant pumpkin growers have successfully used both methods.

Transplanting seedlings

1) Plant the seedling, peat pot and all, in the center of the mound. Peat pot should be well below the top surface of the mound. Soil surface should be just below the bottom leaves. Transplanting in the late afternoon/early evening will help reduce dehydration, initial sun and wind damage. Water thoroughly.
2) Protect the seedling from winds, strong sunlight, insects and other potential damage by placing an open cardboard box around the seedling until it gets fully established, usually, 7-10 days.

Watering, fertilizing & general care

1) Pumpkins are 90% water. Soil should be kept moist. Water daily, to once every 4-5 days, depending on the weather and your soil conditions. Watering times should be consistent. Early mornings (5:00 a.m.-8:30 a.m.), late afternoons, and early evenings, in this order, are the best times to water.
2) Use an organic fertilizer every 5-10 days. Seaweed (kelp) and/or fish hydrolysate are some of the fertilizers currently being used by competitive giant pumpkin growers.
3) Mulch around the main stem with compost, straw, or well-aged manure, 3”-4” deep. Leave 9”-12” of clearance around the stem. Mulching will help regulate the soil temperature and retain moisture around the main stem and primary root system.
4) Place a wooden pallet underneath the pumpkin before it gets difficult to move (10-25 pounds) to keep the pumpkin’s bottom from rotting, and to facilitate lifting and transporting it later.
5) Shade the pumpkin once it reaches 24”-36” in diameter to help keep the pumpkin’s skin from hardening and cracking from the hot, mid-late summer/early fall sunshine.

The most important tips of all: have fun and good luck!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

2006 Season Planting Dates

Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!

Looking at the 2006 Almanac for Farmers & City Folk I see the following planting dates for above ground crops:

April 12-16, 19-20, 23-24, 28
May 2-3, 9-13, 16-17, 20-22, 25, 29-30
June 5-9

These dates are based upon the phases of the moon and when it will be the brightest. I'll be transplanting my seedlings in the May 16-17 time frame.

Have a great afternoon!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Giant Pumpkin Workshop Added!

Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!

Just a brief update to let you know that Orange County Farm Supply will be graciously hosting another giant pumpkin growing workshop!

May 20, 11:00 a.m. Orange County Farm Supply
1826 West Chapman Ave., Orange 92868

(714) 978-6500, free to the gardening public.
Reservations are requested, ask for Ron.

From Orange County Farm Supply, I'll be traveling to the Los Angeles County Arboretum for their 2:00 p.m. workshop and seedling transplanting on May 20th.

Hope to see you at one of them! As an added incentive, I'll have more 'pedigreed' seedlings to give away as prizes at both locations than I normally do this year. This means you may be able to skip germinating seeds and go directly to seedling tranplanting this season!

Have a great afternoon!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Walk Between the Raindrops!

Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!

Happy Spring! Yes, today's the first day of spring. Gardens and pumpkin patches throughout Southern California are being prepared.

I spread 40 pounds of gypsum on my garden Saturday morning. I was hoping for some rain yesterday, but I guess it'll happen tonight and early tomorrow morning.

How are you preparing your patch differently this year? I'm using a more scientific approach, the right pH, the proper nutrients, and plenty of organic matter.

Have a great afternoon!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Gypsum Application Tips!

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

Putting the advice and information to work from last Saturday's meeting, I bought 1, 50-pound bag of agricultural gypsum yesterday from Laguna Hills Nursery. It set me back all of $8.99, and it should be enough for 500 to 1,000 square feet of garden. I plan to take advantage of this week-end's rain, and try to spread it this afternoon. My soil analysis indicated that my soil is high in sodium, which explains the stunted vine syndrome I had last season! The purpose of the gypsum is to help break up the Huntington Beach clay soil, and allow water to flow easier through the soil, thereby flushing sodium/salts away. So, for example, although I have relatively rich and fertile soil, drainage is not as good as it could be. The suggested time of application is 6-8 weeks prior to planting, so now is a good time. Very important is that you simply place it on the very surface of your soil. It's not necessary to work it in since the rain should do it for me.

If you're interested in obtaining your own soil analysis, I used International Ag Labs, 800 W. Lake Avenue, P.O. Box 788, Fairmont, MN 56031,, (507) 235-6909. For a soil analysis, including a test for microbial soil activity/soil index, the price is $47. For just a soil analysis, the price is $25. You'll want to request a Field Data Sheet, and soil sample bag from them at You'll then send in your soil sample and completed Field Data Sheet. In 10-14 days, you'll have your soil analysis.

I think you'll be very interested in the results!

Try to stay dry this week-end!


Monday, March 13, 2006

2006 California Giant Pumpkin Growers Meeting, Elk Grove, CA

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

After a whirlwind drive from Orange County to Sacramento, and back, fighting rain and potential snow, I am happy to report that Lauren and I are safely back from the 2006 California Giant Pumpkin Growers meeting in Elk Grove, CA, which was held this past Saturday.

This was the first time for me to attend, and it was extremely interesting and educational. I'll be sure to let you know next season when it's held and perhaps we can all caravan up to attend. This year, I wanted to get a feel for what goes on at a giant pumpkin growers meeting.

There was a presentation by Don Horneck, PhD, on improving soil conditions for growing giant pumpkins, seed raffles, seed swap, and seed auction. It lasted from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with lunch included, all for $18 per person. There were about 200 attendees including Pete Glasier, the only Hall of Fame grower from California. It was a real treat to meet some of the people I've read about for years. The most exciting part of the meeting was the seed auction. Winning bids ranged from $45 to $200 for an individual seed! It was amazing to watch.

Regarding Dr. Horneck's presentation, it can be summarized as follows:

1) Know your soil's pH and % of dissolved salts through a soil test.
2) High organic matter acts as a buffer for nitrogen, phosphorous and calcium.
3) Calcium applied directly to your pumpkin, either in a chelate or commercial foliar spray will help the condition and quality of your fruit.

Thank you very much to all of the growers who e-mailed me your encouraging messages last week! It's been a few months since my last communication, so it's gratifying to know that growers continue to be interested in growing The Big One.

This season I'm planning to rarely e-mail everyone when new information is posted on this blog (Smith Barney has a byzantine outgoing e-mail policy.) So, I suggest checking it every 10-14 days between now and the beginning of October, and then every 2-3 days after that, just in case there's a big change or news before the weigh-off October 22nd!

Now that it's drying off a bit, it will make for much easier seedling transplanting in May if you prepare your mound and patch now, when the soil is soft and easier to dig...

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!
After a long hiatus, I am back with a new blog, and some interesting and exciting updates!
I am very pleased to present this season's workshop schedule. I've added two new venues this year which means a more competitive weigh-off in the fall: The Huntington Library and the Los Angeles County Arboretum. In fact, the LA Arboretum will be growing a vine this season which will be planted May 20th, as part of the workshop presentation!
In addition, this year's Pumpkinmania! Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and Contest will be held at a new location. The new location is the Centennial Heritage Museum, , 3101 West Harvard Street, Santa Ana, CA 92704. This year's weigh-off is scheduled for Sunday, October 22, 2006. The thinking behind Sunday versus Saturday as in the past is lighter traffic for growers and attendees.
The Centennial Heritage Museum has a very interesting connection to Kellogg Garden Products, our major prize sponsor. The founder of Kellogg Garden Products, H. Clay Kellogg's original home is located on the grounds of the Centennial Heritage Museum...
Here's this year's schedule:
Extreme Gardening: How to Grow a 500 Pound Giant Pumpkin 2006 Workshop Schedule


April 8, 9:30 a.m. Fullerton Arboretum, Junior Gardeners Program, 1900 Associated Road, Fullerton 92831, (714) 278-4794

April 22, 10:00 a.m. Cedros Gardens, 330 South Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach 92075
(858) 792-8640

April 23, 10:00 a.m. Batavia Garden Nursery, 1730 North Batavia Street, Orange 92865
(714) 637-2360

May 2, 6:30 p.m. Laguna Hills Nursery, 25290 Jeronimo Road, Lake Forest 92630
(949) 830-5653

May 6, 9:30 a.m. Fullerton Arboretum, Young Gardeners Program, 1900 Associated Road, Fullerton 92831 (714) 278-4794

May 13, 10:30 a.m. The Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino 91108 (626) 405-2104

May 20, 2:00 p.m. The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 301 North Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia 91107 (626) 821-4624

As always, for additional information, please contact Stuart Shim, (949) 683-5932, e-mail: