Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hope springs eternal...over 200 pounds!

Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!

Well, 72 hours since the last posted pictures of Hope, I'm pleased to announce that she's now past the two century mark going into August. I've continued the 30 minutes per day of watering and 1/2-1/3 strength ongoing fertilizing program every 3-4 days.

Have a great evening,

Monday, July 28, 2008

Over-the-top/OTT (From stem end to blossom end)


Circumference (Measured at its maximum point.)

How To Measure Your Giant Pumpkin Using
The Over-the-top (OTT) Method
Good evening, Growers!
Just to clarify, I snapped a few pictures this afternoon that demonstrate how to measure your giant pumpkin using the over-the-top method (OTT) in order to estimate its approximate weight.

The first dimension is the over-the-top measurement. Using a tape measure, measure the stem end to the blossom end. The tape should touch the ground on both sides, in an upside-down U.

The second dimension is the side-to-side measurement. This is, as the name suggests, the measurement perpendicular to the OTT measurement, from side to side of your pumpkin. Again, the tape should touch the ground on both sides of your pumpkin, in an upside-down U.

The third and final dimension is the circumference of your pumpkin, in its largest dimension. In the picture above, it is parallel to the ground, near the just above the blossom.

I recorded the following dimensions this afternoon: OTT, 59", plus side-to-side, 61", plus circumference 81 1/2", rounded up to 82"=202" total, which is about 184 pounds, according to Len Stellpflug's 2005 chart. This is only an estimate because the walls of the pumpkin could be quite thick, which would mean the estimate is light, or conversely, the pumpkin walls could be very thin, which would mean the estimate is heavy. Ultimately, the only way to definitively know is to weigh your pumpkin. I hope that this example has been helpful.

Have a great evening!



Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the cusp of greatness: Wendy in Laguna Niguel and Thor
Good afternoon, Growers!
Wendy in Laguna Niguel sent in these photos of her newly-named pumpkin, Thor.
Thor's just about to go over the critical volleyball-size mark, and then...who knows?
Thank you very much for your pictures, Wendy!
Good luck!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Self-Guided Patch Tour and Full Moon Party & Luau

Good afternoon, Growers!

The giant pumpkin growing event of the summer is fast approaching!

Date/Hours: Saturday, August 16, 2008 Self-Guided Patch Tour Hours: 11:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.Full Moon Party: 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. (Moonrise: 8:16 p.m.)

Price: None to see the patches, potluck contribution to attend the Full Moon Party & Luau. Wear your leis and bring your ukuleles!

RSVP: Call Stuart Shim, (949) 683-5932, and, there will be a potluck contribution for all attendees: a desert, an entree', a salad, soft drinks/beverages, cutlery, plates.

Patches on the tour:

(You will provide your own transportation to these patches.)

1) Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Road, Fullerton, CA 92831, please follow the signs, The Fullerton Arboretum has a large patch this season.

2) Blue Hills Nursery, 16440 East Whittier Boulevard, Whittier, CA 90603,

3) Michelle Lofthouse’s Patch, Monrovia-Address disclosed once RSVP is received. Michelle has graciously offered to host the Full Moon Party, at her home/patch in Monrovia, CA.

From the Farmer's Almanac:

Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac's name for August 16th's Full Moon:

• Full Sturgeon Moon - August The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze.

Since there are relatively few sturgeon in California, our tribe can refer to next month's moon as the Full Red Moon...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Encore update from Randy in Cupertino!

Good evening, Growers!
The strange mutations continue for Randy in Cupertino. Here's Randy's latest communique' from the patch of the strange:
"Hi Stuart,

This is just a weird plant. As you know, normally each node has a leaf, a flower, a tendril, a new shoot and frequently a root. The first female flower opened two days ago. I just noticed that in addition to these, there is an extra flower bud--male, and an extra leaf. The extra leaf is small, and emerges from the pumpkin stalk--right where it meets the pumpkin. It's about 6 inches tall and the leaf maybe 4 inches across. It looks like a little umbrella to shade the young fruit. Perhaps this is "normal" for all I know. It will be interesting to see how the pumpkin develops--if it does. Perhaps we're sitting on a Superfund site here! My 44 inch pumpkin of yesterday evening grew 3 1/2 inches overnight! 60 inches at 20 days is now a realistic goal. It's 47 1/2 inches now, with 3 1/2 days and 12 1/2 inches to go. It's in my mom's yard--she's going to kill me! She's out of the country for two and a half weeks (a week and a half to go) so she's in for a shock. But hey, she was at your seminar so she should have known what she was getting into...
Thank you very much, Randy! I look forward to your further discoveries. (I have taken the liberty of contacting the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, just in case.)

The growth continues...72 hours later!
Good evening, Pumpkinistas!
The relatively warm and sunny days have provided near ideal growing conditions. Here's the pumpkin, 72 hours later. I've trimmed a few leaves that looked like they were becoming covered in powdery mildew, but nothing too severe. In addition, I've been fertilizing at 1/2 strength, once every 3-5 days. Watering continues on a daily basis, 30 minutes at 6:00 a.m., through the soaker hose.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mutant flowers in Cupertino!
Good evening, Growers!
Randy in Cupertino is doing ground-breaking research in the area of mutant giant pumpkin vines grown from seeds obtained at workshops:
"Hi Stuart,
I went to your seminar at Yamagami's and got seeds from you. They've grown well, with one interesting feature (I'll call it a mutation): for one of the plants, the sepals in the male flowers are replaced by what are essentially leaves. These are old pictures before the first flowers opened, but they should illustrate things nicely. I've enclosed a couple photos showing this: first, a side by side comparison of normal and mutant buds (these are still immature buds). Second, a view showing several buds on the plant. There are no leaves in the photo--anything that appears as such is a "sepal".
I understand that such changes can happen due to changes at the genetic level (homeotic mutations), environmental factors and possibly viruses. For the genetic angle, one of the most famous examples in insects is one in fruit flies where the antennae are replaced by legs and feet. Luckily such mutations are rare in humans (or more likely, they're not carried to term). Anyway, thought you might be amused by this if you've never seen it. Strange seeds you're passing out! These pumpkins are sure slow to grow. My first female flower opened 15 days ago already, and the fruit only has a circumference of 41 inches.

Since I packed the seeds, I take full responsibility. Next time, I'll pack them farther away from the reactor.

Thank you very much for your update and pictures, Randy!

How to estimate the weight of a giant pumpkin

Good evening, Growers!

This question comes up every year. Is there a way to estimate the weight of a giant pumpkin based on its physical measurements? Yes there is. Mr. Len Stellpflug the creator of the weight estimating table for giant pumpkins, has given us his permission to use the latest version of his spreadsheet. It can be found at:

The most accurate method is called the Over The Top Method or OTT Method. Measurements are taken from stem end to blossom end (front to back), from side to side, and then the circumference at the pumpkin's widest point. These three measurements are then added up and compared to Len's weight estimating table.

You'll see that this is the 2005 version. Len retired from competitive vegetable cultivation, so the 2005 version is the latest.

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Linda Hales: Strategic Growing Advantage
Good evening, Growers!
I received these great images from my fellow UC Cooperative Extension Certified Master Gardener and veteran giant pumpkin grower, Linda Hales. Linda is growing her vines yards away from where the weigh-off will occur, on the grounds of The Centennial Heritage Museum in Santa Ana! Yes, this means Linda has reduced her transportation risks to pretty near zero. Plus, her pumpkin is already 91 pounds!

Thank you very much, Linda!

Three days later...
Good evening, Growers!

Here’s the Great Orange Hope, 72 hours later. I’ll be placing some shadecloth above the pumpkin soon to reduce cracking or splitting because of sun hardening of the pumpkin's skin/outer layer.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jen at Bluehills at 50 pounds!

Good evening, Pumpkinistas!
I received these great pictures from Jen at Bluehills Nursery! Great shape, and it looks like it has great potential. Jen's memorable season and more can be seen at
Well done, Jen and thank you for your pictures!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Grower Seeks Male Flowers

Good evening, Growers!

I received the following "personal" and the picture above:

"Grower with a vine full of female flowers seeks other growers with spare male flowers for a short-term relationship leading to reproduction. Female flowers enjoy regular watering, weekly fertilizer treatments, and hope male flowers do too!"

Please e-mail: and with a brief description of your male flowers. Thank you very much!

72 hours later...

Good evening, Pumpkinistas,

Well, so far, so good!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Good evening, Growers!

Here's the latest from Yamagami's Nursery in Cupertino:

"It’s been 8 weeks since our seedlings were planted. One little pumpkin has set on one vine and we have a female flower on the other vine that hopefully will have set by the time you are reading this. We are eagerly watching them start to swell. Their godfather, Alan Tagami, has named our pumpkins Brutus and Mighty Mabel. The vines themselves are growing by leaps and bounds. It’s been exciting to watch the pumpkins’ effort to take over that corner of the nursery."

For the latest happenings at Yamagami's, please visit their website at:
Now, a word from one of our valued
Patch Tour and Full Moon Party & Luau sponsors!

Good evening, Growers!

Jen at Blue Hills Nursery sent me their latest newsletter and her update at: Jen has a great photo of the amount her vine grew in a week in her latest photo gallery.

The anticipation of the upcoming Patch Tour and Full Moon Party & Luau on Saturday, August 16th, is palpable. So far about 15 of the faithful and curious have RSVPed.

Be there, aloha!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wendy and Stacey in Laguna Niguel Have Vine and Flowers!

Good evening, Growers!

When it rains, it pours! Here's an update from Wendy and Stacey in Laguna Niguel. If you visit their website: and click on the Family and Friends tab, you can see many more pictures in their gallery:

"Hello Stuart,

It was pure pleasure talking with you yesterday. Today I got the camera out and took new pictures of our Baby. I also spotted a 3rd pumpkin at the tip of the main vine. Many new pictures are posted on our website but I’ve included a few here to show you directly. Pictures of each pumpkin and an overall view of the pumpkin vine within the garden. We just giggle every time we get near the monstrous being in our yard. It’s delightful. Thank you for your encouraging words and instructions for us to follow. This is our first time with Giant Pumpkins. Last year we grew a Cinderella pumpkin vine and a regular pumpkin in our front yard. This is even more fun.

We’ll see you on Aug 16th!

Best regards,

Wendy and Stacey "

Thank you very much, Wendy and Stacey!

Debbie in Roseville's Giant Pumpkin Update!
Good evening, Growers!
From Debbie in Roseville, near Sacramento, I have this update:
"Dear Stuart,
At last, I know you've been very patient in waiting for the updated photos.....THEY'RE HERE!!! This is a blast, you have to do it next year....I'm so attached to them I want to sleep with them in the garden at night. They even smile and get excited to see me when I get home from work, I think they're happy little pumpkins. It's hard to believe how much they have grown in just 2 weeks. The first photo is junior....lost him a couple of weeks ago right about the time Betty, Fran, and Oscar arrived. Last week Betty was growing only 1" a day, she's back on track to 2" a day since the smoke cleared and let the sunshine through.....I'm guessing. And if you're wondering how I determine her weight....I measure her circumference and use a pumpkin chart. Enjoy the photos....and stay tuned! Debbie"
Many thanks, Debbie!

Safely on the pallet!

Good evening, Growers!

I am happy to report that I successfully placed the pallet under my lead pumpkin yesterday. By carefully moving the primary vine away from the side of the growing pumpkin, I was able to compensate for having less than a 90 degree angle between the shoulders of the pumpkin and the vine. The pumpkin has roughly doubled in size from 3 days ago.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Meanwhile back at the rancho...
Good evening, Growers!
I received this update and these images from Russ Price, part of the group project at Rancho Mission Viejo, in San Juan Capistrano:
"Hi Stuart,
We really appreciate you speaking to the pumpkin team members. Do you remember patch #6 with fried plants and lots of questions? Well things are looking up for us. The 1,200 sq. ft. patch was amended with 20 yds. of composted horse manure, 40 yds. of coarse sand, 500 lbs. of gypsum, 10 lbs. of Ironite, and other fertilizers. These were mixed in the upper 18" of the soil. Photos are of plant #3 (1362 G. Poirier) that was started April 20th and planted in the patch on April 28th. This pumpkin is the first on the main at 12' and pollinated on June 16th. The next 2 females aborted so we are stuck with this one. Using the Circumference Method for estimating weight this pumpkin weighs 163 lb. today. This pumpkin is 7' around and put on 20 pounds today. Plants #1 and #2 both have pumpkins the size of volleyballs on the mains. Our team is happy to be growing pumpkins and not leaves anymore! We will keep you posted.
We will be at the Patch Tour and Full Moon Party & Luau, August 16th.
Team Cabalaro Vaqueros"