Monday, May 31, 2010

A Slight Dilemma for Tim Lane in Santa Barbara!

Hello, Growers!

I received the following message from Tim Lane in Santa Barbara:

"Hi Stuart,

I think something went wrong with my pumpkins plants.

The stems to the first and second leaf are very long.

How far down do I plant them? I'm planning on only keeping one plant.


Tim Lane
Santa Barbara, Ca."

My response, (which was probably longer than it needed to be.)

Hi Tim!

Thanks very much for your pictures and message.

Indeed, I see that your seeds sprouted, and that for whatever reason, that they weren't given access to light right away. That's the usual reason that they get "leggy", or the stems elongate. It can happen very quickly, like overnight.

Not to fear. You'll simply transplant them deep enough that the soil is about 1" below the bottom of the leaves. This way, all of the stem that is now in the soil, will become part of the root system. This may mean 8"-10" deep.

Your plants look very healthy, so I wouldn't be too concerned. My suggestion, since I can see roots coming out of the coir pots, is to transplant your seedlings into your mound(s) or planting area soon... Like within 24-48 hours at the latest. You definitely do not want your roots to start circling inside of the coir pot. In fact, when you do transplant, try to gently break up or loosen up the fibers of the coir pot before you transplant it and the seedling into your mound. That way, you'll know the roots will be free to start establishing themselves into your mound.

I hope that this helps!

Good luck this season! You're off to a great start!


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Something Literary from Todd Slinde

Good evening, Growers!

This very timely poetic contribution from Todd Slinde comes when many growers have recently, or soon will, prepare their giant pumpkin patches and growing areas. It was inspired by Todd's experiences digging his hole last season and this past week. Thank you very much, Todd!


You may have education that comes out your ears

You may be a brave one with never any fears

You may have a job that provides lots of money

You may have many friends that think you are funny

You may be a politician because you want to rule

You may be a judge, meant to lock up every fool

You may have a sports car that you absolutely love

You may have a private plane that takes you above

You may have that gigantic mansion high up on a hill

You may be a daredevil and enjoy every thrill
Or… you may be a gardener and it is plants that you grow

You may have knowledge that you think that you know

You may be able to hybridize and develop something new

You may be good at propagating; it’s something that you do

You may know how to grow that picture perfect rose

Your flowers, more brilliant, of that I do suppose

You may grow an abundance of veggies and fine herbs

You think you have the greenest thumb and feel quite superb

So… your plants may grow bigger, with even more vigor

But at least I’ve earned a Ph.D.….. Yes, I’m a Pumpkin hole Digger!

Written By: Todd A. Slinde Ph. D.
Alex & Carmen in Montebello: Day 7

Good evening, Growers!

I have a brief update from Alex and Carmen in Montebello:

"In 7 days after last Saturday's workshop, we have plants. We will put them in the ground soon!"

Well done! Thank you very much for your update and picture!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jim Fredricks, San Diego, CA: So far, so good!

"Hi Stuart,
Just wanted to shoot you the first picture of my plant this year as of yesterday. The 991 Urena plant lives!!! LOL. Anyway, don't ever let small ugly, deformed seedlings depress you. My 991 seedling had one seed leaf when it came up, the other one was shrunken curled into nothing and it had a "club" root. Club roots are deformed root systems that don't develop normal at first. Let's just say she was an ugly duckling. This is a picture of her today, nice and normal looking. I was encouraged by other growers who told me Ron Wallace's 1502 world record a few years ago was a club root too.

Weather is cold and not so good for this time of year, so growth is moderate for now. Hope to pollinate by July 1st! I also had a change of plan, I will be growing totally organic for the first time in many years, including my insect and disease control. I will explain why later, but it is a good thing. Just more work!


Thanks! Jim's off to a great start! (The "Urena" referred to by Jim is Leonardo Urena, one of the famous growers in the Napa area, and mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article of the last few weeks.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

In The Mix: Alex and Carmen in Montebello, CA

Good afternoon!

I received this update from Alex and Carmen from Montebello yesterday morning. They make it look so easy!

"Hi Stuart,

We started the process of amending our soil today. Here are some pictures. The hole is about 3 1/2 feet deep. Have started three seedlings in peat pots today.

Alex and Carmen

Montebello, CA"
Day 1, Mound 1
The Ingredients, (not pictured: 39, 3 cubic foot bags of Gardner & Bloome Soil Building Compost)
Day 2, Mound 2
Rocky and Joanne Doke, the Gardeners of Mercy, Lifesavers, and Incalculable Help

The Impossible: Two Days, Two Mounds, and 120 Cubic Feet of Soil Amendments!

Good evening, Pumpkinistas!

I am extremely happy to report that the giant pumpkin vines that I'll be growing at the Great Park, as part of my activities as part of the UCCE Master Gardener program, now have a place to grow.

In truly incredible and magical fashion, two square holes, that measured 4' wide, and 5' deep, Saturday, are now completely filled in, replete with mounds about 20" tall.

The odyssey began Saturday afternoon with my arrival at the Great Park, where my elation at finding the two holes dug perfectly was tempered by my discovery that the soil from the holes, (that was to be mixed copious amounts of soil amendments generously donated by Kellogg Garden Products, pelleted sulfur, agricultural lime, and Gardner & Bloome organic fertilizer) was located approximately two football fields away from the holes! (I realized immediately that I need to clarify my instructions in the future.)

So, I began moving the soil back to the holes, mixing it with some of the 40, 3 cubic foot bags of Gardner & Bloome Soil Building Compost, sulfur, lime, and organic fertilizer, and filling up the first hole. It was a truly artisan process to mix up just the right amount of each ingredient and it took more than a few tries to get the process right. Luckily, the weather was cooperating with cool winds and temperatures. As the sun began to set, Mound One was complete! I replaced the orange plastic safety cones, ecstatic that I could still walk, and began mental preparations for Mound Two.

Day Two dawned with me able to get out slowly out of bed. Dressing was a bit of a challenge, since my clothing seemed to have put on an incredible amount of weight overnight. After the morning's workshop at Batavia Garden, including a brief aside about the challenges and final triumph of Mound One, I set out to conquer Mound Two.

I was just putting on the final touches on Mound One, when a white Suburban, driven by Rocky and Joanne Doke, part of the morning's workshop attendees and gardeners of mercy pulled up! I could hardly suppress my tears of joy and thought I might be hallucinating when they began unloading a wheelbarrow and shovels! I think there was some involuntary tearing anyway...

We quickly began the process of filling in the second hole, pausing now and then to chat, document our collective mound-building effprts, and keep hydrated. Before we knew it, we were taking victory pictures, and cleaning up! My gratitude for the Dokes' generous help and sacrifice is indescribable.

Miracles and magical things do happen. (Without them, I would still be working on Mound Two!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Photo courtesy of Alex and Carmen Morales

In Orange, Orange County, California!

Good evening, Pumpkinistas!

It's always great to be back in Orange County, CA, where I was born, grew up, and still live. This week-end I had the pleasure of presenting at two nurseries that have been part of Pumpkinmania! and the giant pumpkin growing workshops since their beginning, yesterday morning at Orange County Farm Supply, at the invitation of Chris Roy and Ron Goss, and this morning at Batavia Garden, at the invitation of Ron Hamada, very ably assisted by Keiko Kakiuchi, and the Hamada brothers. As always, I had a great time, and it's always a plus to speak to a receptive and friendly home crowd! Long time growers, Alex and Carmen Morales, and Rey and Addie Ceja were in attendance. It was great to see so many familiar and supportive faces.

Thank you all very much for making this week-end so very special.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some of 500 giant pumpkin seedlings that were given away on Saturday, May 16, 2010!

Dr. Joe Sabol (right), giant pumpkin germinating wizard, gives selection tips to an early workshop arrival.
It was Chick Day at Farm Supply Company!

Some of the great door prizes that were given away by Farm Supply Company!

Some rough-looking, hard-riding, polka-dot wearing, desperadoes managed to attend the workshop!

Workshop attendees carefully select their giant pumpkin seedlings for the 2010 season!

Last thoughts before leaving San Luis Obispo!

I was accosted by a clerk at Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center for...taking pictures!
Interesting take on retailing, limit publicity!

Consequently, I've limited the number of images of their store.

The class clowns are in the front row!

In the 805: San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria!

Good afternoon!

Back from a whirlwind week-end in the 805 area code! Lauren, Michelle and I started our epic, first-time, overnight road trip Friday, May 14th departing from South Orange County at 4:30 p.m.. Traffic on the 405 north to the 101 north was pretty challenging. It took us roughly 5 hours to reach Ventura. Fortunately, after a diaper change and dinner, the remainder of the drive was quick. We arrived in Morro Bay about 11:30 p.m..

We had breakfast at Kitty's Diner Saturday morning, and then we drove back to Farm Supply Company, in San Luis Obispo, for the first workshop of the week-end. The Farm Supply Company workshop was highlighted by bumping into Dr. Joe Sabol, giant pumpkin seed germinator supreme, who was dropping off the last giant pumpkin seedlings before officiating a wedding. In addition, I got to meet some of Dr. Sabol's team, which included two additional PhDs! How's that for educational/intellectual firepower! Cara Crye and Jandy Johnson did an excellent job with this year's workshop. Look how happy their workshop attendees were! The Farm Supply Company workshop attendees happily selected their seedlings after the door prize drawing. We enjoyed looking around The Farm Supply Company's chick display and taking pictures of Michelle sitting in a saddle and then we headed south to Carpinteria.

Sunday morning, we headed into Santa Barbara for breakfast at Esau's Cafe' and then drove to Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center. After the workshop at SBHIC, we drove back to Carpinteria, and had just enough time to catch a quick lunch at The Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club, Luckily, we saw some players warming up, and Michelle saw real horses up close for the first time.

It's always great to visit Island View Nursery for any reason, and yesterday was no exception. Katie Sorensen's staff did a wonderful job with the workshop set-up as usual, and the nursery looked great. It did get a bit chilly in the afternoon, which limited attendance some. Still, the attendees that braved the cool weather received some giant pumpkin seedlings and a great tip for dealing with gophers: The Blackhole Rodent trap! One of the veteran workshop attendees (and grower) said that he had trapped 258 gophers to date, and no longer has a problem with them! (Naturally, this rodent trap has been listed on the Giant Pumpkin Growing Resources at the bottom of this website.) The afternoon was topped off by a surprise visit from Chris and Lisa Cullen of the "Garden Gossip" radio show and the owners of Montecito Landscape,, celebrating 40 years in business this year!

This week-end I'll be in Orange, CA, so close to home for a change! Hope to see you at either Orange County Farm Supply, 1826 W. Chapman Avenue, (714) 978-6500,, at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, or 10:00 a.m. on Sunday at Batavia Garden, 1730 North Batavia Street, (714) 637-2360. For more details, please visit the March 18, 2010 posting on this website or visit the on-line calendar at and search for events happening May 22nd and May 23rd !

See you soon!