Monday, March 31, 2008

Photo by Carolyn Villa-Scott

Banners greeted the soon-to-become Pumpkinistas!

People arrived early to meet and ask San Francisco garden radio host Bob Tanem questions. That's Bob's hand on the left, and a close-up

of his wife, Bev's head, in the middle.

Before the workshop

After the workshop
A Great Day at Yamagami's Nursery!

Good evening, Growers!

I thought I'd send a long some of the images of yesterday's workshops at Yamagami's Nursery in Cupertino. It was a lot of fun, and I hopefully planted the seeds for a new crop of giant pumpkin growers. The management and staff at Yamagami's did a great job! I may even be back to be a judge at their weigh-off October 11th!

Fun was had by all!

Have a great evening!


Charlie Keutmann, owner of The Garden Company in Santa Cruz
announces the winners of the drawing!

Saturday, March 29, 2008 in Santa Cruz and San Jose
The truly devoted braved the wet and cool weather to attend workshops last Saturday in Santa Cruz at The Garden Company and Almaden Valley Nursery in San Jose. Those that attended were rewarded with excellent odds at the door-prize drawings and plenty of opportunity to have their questions answered.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Update from Michelle Lofthouse in Monrovia!
Good evening, Growers!
I've had a few requests from curious growers about Michelle Lofthouse, winner of last year's weigh-off, and how she prepares her patch. So, without further ado, here's Michelle's patch dispatch from this afternoon:
"Hi Stuart!
It was great hearing from you as well. I think the Patch Tour and Full Moon Party sounds great! Let me know if you would be interested in using Autumnleaf Farm as the place where the eats are!I apologize for not being more computer savy but I wasn't sure how to email pics, etc. to your blog so if it's ok I'll send along my patch update and photos right here....So far this season I've been able to add roughly 12 yards of composted horse manure to the 26X48 foot patch area. I have just enough room here to grow two giant pumpkin plants giving each one just over 600 sq feet of growing space. There are two horses on the property and I make all of my compost from their manure. It was aged over a period of months before it was added to the patch. Because of the high amount of salts in horse manure I added 23 bags of Gypsum before tilling in the compost. Gypsum also has a high calcium content which benefits the pumpkin with stronger walls.Right now a cover crop consisting of Peaceful Valley's "Organic Soil Builder", Austrian Winter Peas and Annual Rye Grass Seed is just emerging. After about a month of growing the cover crop I will till that in as green manure and then cover the entire patch with plastic to 'solar fumigate' the top few inches of the soil which helps to eliminate harmfull pathogens. This has made a huge difference in the health of the plants. A few seasons ago I had a problem with Mosaic Virus which is very difficult to get rid of and after using this method I haven't seen any evidence of it since. Here are some pictures of my good friend, Tony, operating my new tractor with a rototiller on the back that has three speeds. I had used a 5hp Craftsman rear-tine tiller up until now and that was quite a chore in an area this size. Also pictured are the bags of gypsum waiting to be spread. Incidentally I placed two telescoping sprinklers about 15 feet apart to water the cover crop. I will probably put these back after the final till and use them for my principal watering source. They not only water but provide overhead cooling for the plants for when the temperatures get into the nineties and above."
So there you have it!
More on details on The Patch Tour and Full Moon Party later. But, please save the date: Saturday, August 16th!
Have a great evening,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The 2008 Mound and Patch Preparations are Finished!
Good evening, Growers!
I am very pleased to announce that my patch and mound preparation were completed this early evening AND I am alive to tell you about it!
As I emphasize in the workshops, the biggest pumpkins come from the best prepared soils and mounds. This season, I made a special effort to document the steps that I took to prepare my growing area. As you can see, I used roughly 16 cubic feet of various soil amendments, gypsum, steer manure, and 2 Advils for this year's effort. I also tried to keep hydrated. Even with the late winter rains that have kept the normally very heavy clay soil of Huntington Beach relatively soft, it was a strenuous couple of hours as always.
That's the reason I'm so happy in the final picture. The heavy lifting is done for the season and I know that it will be another year before I do this again!

I look forward to hearing from you and how your mound and patch preparations are progressing!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ecobuild America coming to Anaheim!
Good afternoon, Growers!
In the spirit of World Water Day, I thought you might find this upcoming event of interest. It's called EcobuildAmerica and it also includes Science & Technology for Architecture, Engineering and Construction. It will be held May 21-22, at the Anaheim Convention Center.
If you go to the show website and use HSEOC for the promotion code, admission, normally $25.00 will be free for exhibits and the keynote speeches.
The show organizers were kind enough to issue media credentials to me because of this website, so I told them that I'd help people learn about the show.
It sounds very interesting and will cover green building, sustainable design, renewable energy, construction technology and building information modeling.
I try to visit as many trade shows that I can because I always learn something useful, and I can often identify trends occurring across seemingly unrelated industries and interests.
I hope you're having a pleasant week-end!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008
World Water Day!

Good afternoon, Growers!

Yes, tomorrow is World Water Day. I thought it would be a good idea to review some very basic tips to save water as they relate to giant pumpkin and general vegetable cultivation:

  • Use a soaker hose. It directs the water exactly where it's needed, reduces water loss by evaporation, and many of them are made from recycled tires. I normally create a spiral around my mound, just like the first picture above. Then, as the season progresses, I expand the spiral so it covers more area as the vine and the vine's roots grow out.

  • Water in the early morning. This allows water to be fully absorbed by the vine by the early/late afternoon when the sun's the hottest and the stress on the vine is the greatest. I normally set my timer for 6:00 a.m. to water for 30-45 minutes, depending on the weather, and the requirements of the vine.

  • Mulch around your vine. This will reduce water evaporation, moderate the soil temperature, and also reduce weeds. A mulch depth of 3"-4" should be plenty, and remember to leave 6"-9" clearance around the vine where it comes out of the ground/mound to prevent mold, fungus, or rotting.
Hope that these tips will help you reduce your water usage and still grow a monster this season!
Have a great week-end!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

At the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show, February 29-March 2, 2008
Good evening, Pumpkinistas!
The journey to growing the biggest pumpkin has many side streets and meandering paths. It's been fascinating for me to discover the many overlapping areas between giant vegetable cultivation and other botanical and horticultural pursuits!
Case in point, I visited the 63rd Santa Barbara International Orchid Show and Cymbidium World Congress a couple of weeks ago, and it was very interesting. In fact, one of the newest things I learned about is that there are genetically-related tests for identifying plant diseases for both orchids and cucurbits! Yes, a company called Agdia, has developed definitive tests for identifying various pumpkin ills! Now, a giant pumpkin grower can know what disease attacked or is attacking their vine. Essentially, leaf material is macerated/liquefied, and a test strip is dipped into the mixture. In a short while, bands will appear on the test strip, and the disease is determined. It seems much more accurate than simply looking at pictures of diseases in a book.
I haven't tried Agdia's test strips yet, but I plan to. If you have any information on disease identification of pumpkins, please let me know.
Have a great evening!