Friday, July 31, 2009

Jim Fredricks, San Diego: 550 Pounds and Growing!

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

Here's the latest in the race for the biggest and the baddest pumpkin in the patch from Jim Fredricks in San Diego:


Just an update on the patch for you. The fruit is now at day 46 and estimated at 550 lbs. The weather has cooled to the low 80's, I hope it goes back up to the 90 degree mark, she grows better in warmth. She is doing around 16 lbs a day now. She is really filling out sideways. I think it will be a nice looking fruit! Hope she hangs together and keeps growing slow and steady on the decline. I also included a picture of my stump, hard to tell in the photo, but it is really big. I also put a baseball by the fruit for size comparison.


Jim, it's big everywhere, not just the stump! Great job!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Photo provided by Rowan Jacobsen
Fruitless Fall: Book Review and Author Interview

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

The July-September 2009 issue of California Agriculture magazine's article on native bee pollinators piqued my interest to learn more about bees in general. Consequently, I read Frutiless Fall, and wrote a book review and author interview for the Orange County UCCE Certified Master Gardeners' monthly newsletter which will appear sometime in the next couple of months. I wasn't aware of this but, Pennsylvania commercial pumpkin farmers, and growers of squash, cucumbers, and other cucurbits rely heavily on honey bees for crop pollination.

Here's an edited version for you:

Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis, by Rowan Jacobsen, Bloomsbury USA, NY, 2008. Book review and author interview by Stuart Shim

A personal interest in beekeeping led Vermont author Rowan Jacobsen to write a timely and fascinating account of honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony collapse disorder (CCD) and its potential causes and effects on global agriculture and food production in 2008. Of particular interest, is his account of the importance of bee pollinators and the 2 billion dollar annual California almond crop, which also is the largest single market for out-of-state beekeepers, and represents 82 percent of world production. In fact, notes Jacobsen, providing pollination services to fruit, nut, and vegetable growers, has displaced honey production as the largest source of revenue for North American commercial beekeepers.

Jacobsen begins with a historical overview of honey, the honey bees and their behavior, followed by the identification of the first signs, then the potential causes and effects of CCD. Jacobsen gives an entertaining, fast-paced, educational and even-handed treatment of CCD.

I enjoyed and found useful the beekeeping, growing pollinator garden resources, including plant lists, in the appendices. Practical application of Jacobsen’s information and research is a highlight for potential readers of Fruitless Fall. For more information on Fruitless Fall and Rowan Jacobsen, please visit:

The author graciously responded to some questions about Fruitless Fall and his own beekeeping experiences on July 30th 2009:

SS: What was your favorite experience during the writing and research of Fruitless Fall, and why?

RJ: I’d have to say picking up my bees from Kirk Webster and driving back to my home (about two hours away) with them buzzing in the back of my station wagon. The hive entrances were sealed so they couldn’t get out, but the whole car was humming and, it felt very much like I was part of the hive.

SS: Do you have any plans for any additional agricultural or entomology-themed books? If so, what are you writing about?

RJ: In a way, yes. My new book touches on aquaculture, which is farming the sea. It’s about the importance of shellfish to our past and future. It comes out next month. You can learn more here:

SS: Have you come across any additional information or research that would allow you to arrive at more definitive reasons for the cause or causes of CCD since writing Fruitless Fall?

RJ: The paperback edition of my book comes out this week and includes some updates. There are no definitive conclusions yet, but nosema cerana has risen to the top of the most-wanted list. It seems to be the major killer in Europe, Australia, and Japan, where things are getting worse. Also, some new information has come to light that is very damning for imidacloprid. Here’s a good summary: The EPA is now doing a new review of imidacloprid-with results due in 2014!

SS: How are your bees doing?

RJ: My bees did great during the summer and fall that I had them. Then, one snowy November evening, a bear came and tore apart the hives and ate them. I'll be getting more, but only after I’ve got the electric fence in place!

SS: Thank you very much for your kind cooperation and assistance!

RJ: My pleasure, Stuart.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009



Big Tim in situ
Big Tim
The Taylors: 200% Bigger in 2009!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
Here's the latest from Wendy and Stacey Taylor:
"Hello Stuart,

Here’s our update. We have 3 giant pumpkins at this moment. Big Tim is estimated at above 100lbs today, Semele at 28lbs and Palene at 37lbs. These are all on the same plant #2. Big Tim on the primary vine and the others on secondary within 18ft of the seeded plant roots. Plant #1 had a pumpkin Simba that got to 23lbs and then withered away. It was a sad day to see a potential leave us. Unfortunately, we had culled all others from that plant so we will have to wait for the next blossom to take.

Notice the picture of Simba with the ring around the blossom. This was our first sign that something was unusual and there may be a problem. Next was the weight dropped on the next measure. Days later, we cut into her and found each segment within seemed to have developed well. I guess one of her segments didn’t get pollinated.

We are very happy with our results this year. Our second year has brought new lessons and also many more rewards. With Thor at 43.5lbs last year, we are more than double our weight results and triple in pumpkins.

More later,


Truly, it's been a bountiful giant pumpkin growing season for the Taylors!

Monday, July 27, 2009

To Prune or Not to Prune?
by Jack LaRue

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
This very timely article from the July 2009 issue of the Pollinator Press, the official newsletter of the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers ( I am a long-time member, and highly recommend joining this organization, particularly if you reside in the Pacific Northwest. Fortunately, they also accept out-of-state and international members too.

To Prune Or Not To Prune?

By Jack LaRue

Should I prune my pumpkin plants?
Why should I prune my plants?
What should I prune?
How should I prune?
When do I start / stop pruning?
Should I terminate the secondary vines?
Should I terminate the main vine?
How large shall I let the plant get?

Recently I attended a seminar on how to grow giant pumpkins. One of the speakers mentioned that he does not
prune his plants. This caught me by surprise. I wonder how many growers are not pruning their plants. His statement
reminded me of a question that Dick Wallace asked me a few years ago. Dick asked me if I wanted to grow
giant pumpkins or salad? An un-pruned pumpkin plant can grow a huge salad and okay giant pumpkins. I do not
want to grow okay giant pumpkins. I want to grow really big giant pumpkins. So what do you want to grow?
Why should we prune our plants? A plant that is not pruned soon turns into a tangled mess of leaves and vines.
The plant will compete with itself for light, food and water. A tangled plant is also much harder to maintain. The
answer is simple. Unless you want to grow salad you want the plant to concentrate most of its energy on growing
a giant pumpkin.
To prevent the plant from becoming a tangled mess it is a widely accepted practice to prune all of the tertiary
vines. Some growers will prune every other secondary vine as well. The benefit to pruning every other secondary
is less vine burying and a more open plant. An open plant is easier to maintain. An open plant also has better air
circulation which helps prevent and reduce the spread of disease. The draw back to pruning every other secondary
is less leaf surface and the lack of male flowers needed for pollination.
How should I prune? I use a pair of scissors and a bucket of bleach water or a bottle of alcohol. No not for
drinking, for disinfecting the scissors when I move to a different plant. Some growers will have a pair of scissors
or knife for each of their plants. Again this practice is to help prevent the spread of disease from one plant to another.
I like to prune early in the morning and let the plants heal for 10-12 hours before I bury vines. I compare a
cut on the plant to a cut on your finger. If you cut your finger you want to let it heal or produce a scab before you
start working in the soil. The same conditions apply to your plants. The soil is full of pathogens waiting for a port
of entry into your plant. Do not open the door for them!
The choice of pruning patterns is up to the grower. There are many patterns to choose from - only the growers
creativity is the limiting factor. To my knowledge there is no one pattern that works better than any of the others.
Growers need to plan ahead and prune their plants to fit the allotted space. The important factor here is manage the
plant and not to let it get out of control.
When should I start / stop pruning? I like to start pruning my giant pumpkin plans shortly after the main vine is
on the ground. When I stop pruning depends on the size of the plant and the time of the year. If the season is cool
and the plant is small I will let it grow until late in the season. Yes, I have been guilty of growing salad! If the
plant is large with a fruit set on the main vine out 15 feet or better, it is time to start terminating vines.
Should I terminate the secondary vines? Yes! When is up to you. The length of the secondary vines can be determined
by space or time. I usually let the secondary vines run at least ten feet before I terminate them.
Should I terminate the main vine? Again up to you. I never terminate the main vine. I may have all of the secondary
vines terminated but leave the main vine or the vine with the fruit set on it grow as long as it can. I want
the plant to concentrate all of its energy on the vine with the fruit. If that is the only vine still growing it makes
sense that the plant will send its energy to that vine.
How large should I let the plant get? At least 400 square feet or as large as the season will allow. What I mean
is get the plant as large as you can before fruit set. After fruit set you need to answer Dick’s question do you want
to grow salad or pumpkins?
Many thanks to Jack LaRue and Jim Sherwood!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ray Villafane's Pumpkin Carving Demonstration in August Cancelled!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
Thank you very much to all of the growers who selflessly volunteered their pumpkins for Ray Villafane's pumpkin carving demonstration in Anaheim, CA at the end of next month. Unfortunately, the show organizers decided not to have a pumpkin carving demonstration. So, you get to save your pumpkins for another purpose.
Thank you very much again!

Kellogg Garden Products' Ontario, CA Rebels:
The South Will Rise Again!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
The Southern California Rebels, of Kellogg Garden Products' Ontario, CA sent in these photos of their vine and giant pumpkin, Linus this morning.
The very warm temperatures we've been experiencing in Southern California have create a necessity to shade the pumpkins as you can see above.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Empress and Her Empire!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
Lorraine Studdert sent in this great picture of her vine and companion planting of radishes. Although it's only necessary to plant 5-6 radishes in order to repel insects, this way, Lorraine will have plenty of fresh vegetables by thinning out her patch!
So far, it looks like it's working. I don't see any insect damage on her vine!

Catherine S.: The Birds and The Bees
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

I received these pictures of Catherine S.' vine yesterday afternoon, together with a series of questions regarding pollination. Fortunately, the recent posting about California native bees and other insect pollinators was very timely.

Have a great morning, and keep those vines watered!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Too large to fit!

Yamagami's Nursery: A Fruitful Reign!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
I received these up-to-the-minute images and dispatch from Poli, the 2009 Giant Pumpkin Water Wench, of Yamagami's Nursery, this morning. There is peace and growth in the kingdom, and they will soon surpass last year's record:
"Hi Stuart,

I know you keep an eye on us and subscribe to our e-newsletter; however, this week's e-newsletter has a picture of our vine that is a week old. So, I thought I'd share the most recent pictures of King Arthur and a few of the knights of the Round Table.

We are very happy with our vine this year and the biggest fruit is almost as big as Mighty Mabel, our bid last year for giant pumpkin.

Thanks for all your advice and support.


Polipumehana Aki
Yamagami's Nursery"
Indeed! Giant pumpkin growing skills do develop over time!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mardena Waller in Santa Barbara: Coming on Strong!

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

Who says that you can't plant pumpkins in June and still get great results?

Here are some pictures of Mardena Waller's vine in Santa Barbara and a relevant question:
Our giant pumpkin is coming on strong (see attached photos). We planted it in mid-June. The stalk rises about 1 foot above ground. There is a little rhubarb patch nearby. Recalling the talk you gave in Santa Barbara earlier this year, you described how it would be necessary to select 1 or 2 young pumpkins for giant grooming and to lop off the rest. Are we at that stage yet? Any advice you have regarding selection and lopping would be appreciated.
Generally, you want to allow 1-2 pumpkins to grow larger in size than a basketball before culling other pumpkins or pinching flowers. The reason is that in some cases, a female flower may have received enough pollen to set fruit, but not enough pollen to fully mature. So, once a pumpkin achieves this minimum size, it should fully mature, which may mean 80, 800, maybe 1,800 pounds under the right conditions. Also, since the 1 or 2 pumpkins remaining are utilizing a lot of the resources of the plant, even though there may be many flowers still blooming and even other pumpkins setting, they normally will not mature. So, it's not eve necessary to cull pumpkins or pinch flowers.

Jim Fredricks in San Diego: Hot! Hot! Hot!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
Jim Fredricks in San Diego sent in these pictures and comments of his pumpkin. The juggernaut continues:


Just an update. Man it has been hot lately!!!! My fruit is on day 36 now, here are some pictures for your enjoyment. She continues to grow slow and steady, still gaining around 19 to 20 lbs a day. She hasn't ever hit a high weight gain, but she has been consistent. If she can keep up this for awhile longer, we won't have a record fruit, but a good fruit! :) Only time will tell. Atleast she isn't an ugly pumpkin! ;)
P.S. As of this morning, 7/21/2009, my fruit is around 390 lbs,., 387 to be exact. I think 700 lbs. is a good goal for the way the fruit is growing if it grows out a long time, and then, hopefully she weighs heavy!:)"
I think that at the rate of 19-20 pounds a day, we may have a new Pumpkinmania record! Thank you very much for your pictures and update!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Team Linus: On The Move!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
I received this great photo chronicle from Andrew Godfrey of Kellogg Garden Products' Ontario giant pumpkin cultivation effort, Team Linus.
I was informed that the pumpkin pictured above of July 13th, is about the size of a basketball and that the next step will be the crucial and often precarious pallett placement operation.
More pictures will follow!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lockeford North Stars: It takes a village and a fire hose!
Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!
Have you noticed that the quality, quantity of the images and content is greatly improved this season? I have. Here's a prime example. I just received these outstanding photos and update from Kellogg Garden Products' Lockeford, CA giant pumpkin growing team and vine from Todd Slinde. Here's what's happening:
The entire Northern California (North Stars) team was at our Lockeford facility this week. High on the agenda was to check out the giant pumpkin progress. Attached are a couple of pictures.The pumpkin is doing great! Thank you for all your advice and expertise! You'll notice it is watered by a fire hose.
Take care,
Todd Slinde PhD"

The fire hose is pure genius!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mike McLain: Round Two!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
These images of July 12, 2009, and update are from Mike McLain, one of the managers at Kellogg Garden Products in Northern Nevada. After an early canine-related setback, he has the following to report:
"Dear Stuart,
I have included photos of my second go-round at planting pumpkins. The first one was discovered by my dogs and they love fish bone meal (which this 4'x4'x4' hole probably had 22# and they found it!! This time I got a temporary fence around it and it is doing wonderful.
Thanks for all your information on starting and growing giant pumpkins.
Mike McLain"
Persistence is the key to success! Very strong looking plants, sturdy stems, and very green leaves. I think that this just might be the beginning of a new Nevada state record!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pumpkin Pollination Resources

Good morning, Pumpkinstas!
The most recent issue of California Agriculture (July-September 2009) magazine, has a fascinating article titled "Native bees are a rich natural resource in urban California gardens". This article is invaluable for giant pumpkin growers who are curious about bee pollination, and how to attract native bees.
The article also includes some additonal resources that I think you will find very helpful:
North American Pollinator Protection Campaign:
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:
Happy researching!

Rex Lamb's Vines!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
The Orange Revolution continues apace! I received these pictures of Rex Lamb's vines this morning. Rex is a territory manager for Kellogg Garden Products in the Sacramento-Modesto, CA area, and a first-year grower. As you can see, his plant has escaped any powdery mildew and insect damage so far this season.

Martha Treadway Visits the Orange County Fair and the Santa Ana Zoo!
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
It's fair time! Martha Treadway has been a very busy educator and pumpkin grower! Martha sent in these pictures from the Orange County Fair, happening now, and the Santa Ana Zoo:

"Hi Stuart,

One of these pictures shows the entries for the Giant Pumpkin contest at the OC Fair. It was for 'Big Mac' pumpkins. I guess these must have been from last year's crop and kept 'safe'. The Fair is also giving away free seeds!

The other picture is a vine that is growing at the Santa Ana Zoo! I wish I could say that I planted it, but it was the Master Gardeners. However, I will take credit for talking to the Zoo Manager, Kent Yamaguchi, since last fall and encouraging this venture. Anyone visiting the Santa Zoo will be able to see it in the Crean Family Farm near the train station. Pumpkinmania is spreading!"
A big thank you to Martha for helping the cause!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Eric Vossbrink: 50 pounds!

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

My apologies to Eric Vossbrink in San Diego! Eric had e-mailed me July 2nd with his update, and I missed it!


The pumpkin is starting to ripen this week. It’s creamy orange and has excellent shape. My estimate is that it about 50-60# right now and may peak at 100# maybe a little smaller. The rest of the garden is thriving however and insects are keeping the place a buzz with activity.

Seen here:"

Thanks for your patience, Eric!

Gary Tovey: Balancing Act
Good morning, Pumpkinistas!
The Orange Revolution continues! These pictures of a very clever and innovative way of planting and watering giant pumpkin vines were sent in by Gary Tovey. Note the path/configuration of Gary's soaker hoses. Judging by how green and healthy his plants are, it seems to be working very well.
"Hi Stuart,
Here's a few shots from our pumpkin patch. We have a pumpkin mound at each end with 2 plants in each. They seem to be doing well so far. We'll be thinning down to one plant in each mound shortly. We got a really late start, hopefully there's enough sunny days left in the season to grow something big.We've got some corn and tomatoes going too, we'll have to wait and see how everyone gets along.