Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Matt in Moreno Valley's seedlings

Good evening, Growers!
These images are from Alex in Montebello's nephew, Matt in Moreno Valley. It looks like he's off to an excellent start!
If you have some images of your seedlings or vine(s), please send them to me and you'll see them here.
Have a great evening,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Soaker Hose and Timer Installation 101

Hello, Pumpkinistas!

I've had a few questions about installing a simple automatic watering system. (Since my seedlings are still pretty small, I've been hand-watering using a watering can.) So, I thought I'd take advantage of the cool weather to install my watering system this morning.

I used a soaker hose wound around the mound, connected to a standard garden hose that's connected to a 4, AA-battery-operated/powered watering timer. (Since the timer uses very little electricity, one set of 4, AA batteries easily last the season.) To hold the soaker hose in place, I bent 3, 8"-10" lengths of clothes hanger wire into U-shapes, and pushed them over the soaker hose, and into the mound where necessary. After the hoses and timer were tightly connected, I placed a mulch over the mound and soaker hose to keep water evaporation to a minimum, the weeds down, and to moderate the soil temperature.

From start to finish, it took about 20 minutes. Of course, the first time I installed the system, it took about one hour. Just make sure that you have the soaker hose, garden hose, timer, and batteries before you start the installation. If you'll need to use the hose bib for another hose, don't forget a Y-hose splitter.

Once the seedlings are a few more days old, I'll water for 15 minutes/day at 6:00 a.m., and then increase it to 30 minutes/day, once the seedlings start vining or if the weather starts warming up.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Great Morning at Walter Andersen Nursery in Poway!
Good afternoon, Growers!
Twenty-five or so new potential growers braved the cool weather and light rain to attend this morning's workshop at Walter Andersen Nursery, in Poway, California. This is the first time I've spoken at Walter Andersen, and it was a very fun and productive experience. The attendees were very enthusiastic, and the dozen or so, pedigree seedlings, together with some soil amendments donated by Kellogg Garden Products, that were given away as door prizes, may have been a factor in that enthusiasm.
The last two workshops of the season will be Saturday, June 7th, 11:00 a.m., at Orange County Farm Supply, 1826 West Chapman Avenue, Orange, CA, 92868, and Sunday, June 8th, 1:00 p.m., at Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Road, Fullerton, CA, 92831.
Yes, special giant pumpkin seedlings will be given away as prizes at both workshops! (Stop by if you think you might need a back-up seedling and you're feeling lucky.)
The cool weather is helping this week's transplanted seedlings adapt to their new surroundings.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Successful Transplanting!
Hello, Pumpkinistas!
I have transplanted my seedlings.
The conditions earlier this evening, were pretty near perfect: 70 degrees F., overcast, a light breeze. Since the next couple of days will be cooler than today, the seedlings will hopefully have plenty of time to adapt to their new environment.
Please note the use of the transluscent plastic mini-greenhouse secured by a couple of U-shaped holding devices made from a bent clothes hanger. I don't know if it's even necessary, given the cooling trend.
I'll remove it in 3-7 days or as soon as I think the seedlings have established themselves in their new surroundings.
If you have any pictures of your newly transplanted seedlings, send them in!
Have a great evening!
Alex and Carmen in Montebello's Seedlings
Good evening, Growers!
This image of some very healthy-looking seedlings were sent in by Alex and Carmen in Montebello! He's planning to transplant them tonight under the full moon!
Thanks for sending in the picture, Alex!

An afternoon at Rancho Mission Viejo!

Good evening, Growers!

From time to time, unique opportunities present themselves because of a convergence of circumstances and serendipity. One of these opportunities occurred last Friday afternoon and evening. I was invited to present a workshop at Rancho Mission Viejo for the headquarters management, staff, interested family and friends. As you can see by the images, most of the staff will be involved in this company-wide fun activity. There are six growing areas/patches/teams of 6-7 people. Water is being provided to each, 1,200 square foot patch, and the entire area has been fenced in. (Yes, that is a small beach created to provide a comfortable place to relax after an afternoon of vine tending. The gate was made by Sam and he's pictured with Russ Price and his daughter.)

Richard Broming, Senior Vice President, made the introductions, cooked the hamburgers and hot dogs, and Gloria, Richard's wife, coordinated the workshop, the barbecue afterwards, and even made a last-minute ice run for the thirsty workshop attendees. (Gloria made a pre-emptive strike by attending the workshop at Laguna Hills Nursery earlier this season...)

It was a very fun afternoon, and I am looking forward to seeing some monsters in the fall!
I'll be visiting Rancho Mission Viejo periodically, and I'll post pictures of their progress!

Monday, May 12, 2008

How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin: Instructions & Tips

Good evening, Growers!
It's getting very close to that time. Yes, with the May 20th full moon planting date next Tuesday, I have begun germinating the seeds for my vine. I also thought that this might be a good opportunity to publish the instructions on how to grow a giant pumpkin:
How to Grow a Giant Pumpkin: Instructions & Tips

I) 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.

II) 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.

III) 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 late April to early-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.

IV) 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.

V) Watering, fertilizing & general care
1) Pumpkins are 90% water. Soil should be kept moist. Water daily, to once every 2-5 days, depending on your weather and 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.
For more information and ongoing growing tips, please visit:
If you have a giant pumpkin growing emergency, question, or discovery, please e-mail:
Stuart Shim Copyright 2008 (All rights reserved, all inaccuracies denied.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Three County Workshop Tour Week-end!
Good afternoon, Growers!
It's been quite a week-end. Yesterday morning, the tour continued at Island View Nursery, in Carpenteria, followed by the maiden workshop of Elegant Gardens Nursery, in Moorpark, just below the Reagan Presidential Library. Lisa Cullen, host of the 'Garden Gossip' radio show dropped by at Island View Nursery's workshop, and shared some of her own experiences with watering her vine last season.
This morning, Batavia Garden, in Orange, a long-time Pumpkinmania sponsor and supporter supplied the veteran and first-time attendees with cookies, coffee, and additional door-prizes!
Speaking of prizes, the remaining 2008 workshops will all feature 'pedigreed' giant pumpkin seedlings, hand-germinated, nurtured, and monitored by my father-in-law, Rixin Ge and me.
Have a great evening!