Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 Extreme Gardening World Tour

Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!

As I mentioned previously, this year's workshop schedule is greatly abbreviated so I can focus growing a giant pumpkin for Michelle.

That said, I've scheduled two workshops for mid-May in San Luis Obispo and Carpinteria. As always, there will be lots of fun, laughter, and surprises, so I hope you will make plans to attend!

As any new workshops are scheduled, the details will be posted here as early as possible.

Here are this year's workshop details:

Saturday, May 14, 10:00 a.m.-Farm Supply Company, 224 Tank Farm Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406, (805) 543-3751 
Sunday, May 15, 11:00 a.m.-Island View Nursery, 3376 Foothill Road, Carpinteria, CA, 93013, (805) 684-0324

See you!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011 Santa Barbara International Orchid Show

Good afternoon, Pumpkinistas!

I had a chance to drive up the 101 last week-end to see this year's Santa Barbara International Orchid Show. This year's theme was Route 66. So, the various displays had a road or automobile touring theme to them. As always, it was an opportunity to see some of the finest and beautiful orchid displays in North America, in one of the most spectacular settings on the West Coast, the Earl Warren Showgrounds just off the 101 and the Las Positas exit! The weather was mild, sunny, and very pleasant both days of the show too!

Susan G. Warren, Author

Review of "Backyard Giants" by Susan G. Warren

Good afternoon, Growers!

While planning my strategy for 2011, I read "Backyard Giants" by Susan Warren,, Bloomsbury USA, New York, 10010, First U.S. Edition 2007. It's a very entertaining and fascinating account of the 2005 season of the Rhode Island father-son giant pumpkin growing team, Dick and Ron Wallace. You'll recall that in 2005, Ron Wallace grew the first giant pumpkin to weigh more than 1,500 pounds, 1,502 to be precise. The 2005 giant pumpkin growing season was fraught with sabotage, freak weather and growing conditions, high anxiety, dashed hopes, and finally, triumph.

Here's the biography of the author from her website: "Susan Warren is Deputy Bureau Chief for The Wall Street Journal in Dallas, Texas. She writes and edits news and feature stories related to oil and gas, discount retailers and airlines. The Journal also gives her freedom to pursue stories about other things she finds interesting for its famed "middle column" feature on its front page. She has written on such wide-ranging topics as people who buy Silly Putty by the pound, the dangers of frying turkeys in boiling oil, and the spring ritual of dewberry picking in the South. Backyard Giants grew out of Ms. Warren's October 2005 story about the trials of growing giant pumpkins."

Her background is ideal to bring the story and high drama of the Wallaces' 2005 season to life. In addition, Ms. Warren conveys very crucial and critical giant pumpkin growing advice from two world-class growers. Essentially, vine burying saved their season. (I will make the extra effort to bury my vines this season.)

In addition, a very pleasant and surprising sub-plot is Warren's account of Jack La Rue's 2005 season, the hall-of-fame grower in Yelm, WA that was part of a giant pumpkin growing workshop a few years back!

I was able to borrow a copy from the Orange County Public Library system. It's also widely available on-line and from the Pumpkinmania on-line store.

Happy reading, and have fun! 

Sunday, March 06, 2011

This year's venue was the pavilion in Elk Grove Park, Elk Grove, CA

Growers line up early!

The anticipation for the seed swap was palpable

Four thousand seed packets were collected and distributed to hopeful growers!

Brant Bordsen, California Giant Pumpkin Record Holder, 1,645.5 pounds, 2010

2011 California Giant Pumpkin Growers Forum

Good evening, Pumpkinistas!

One of the most interesting events for any West Coast giant pumpkin grower is the California Giant Pumpkin Growers Forum held every year in Elk Grove, CA, just south of Sacramento. This year's forum was held Saturday, March 5th, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.. The featured speaker was Brant Bordsen, an attorney from Marysville, CA, who holds the current California record, of 1,645.5 pounds, set last fall. This is the first time that I can recall that an officer of the court presented at the forum. As you can imagine, the counsel's presentation was quite detailed, very well organized, and surprisingly, funny. The most interesting point that he revealed is that he started germinating his seed on May 2, 2010. So, it seems reasonable that Southern California growers can germinate their seeds during the first part of May as well. Mr. Bordsen's presentation was followed by a seed auction, then lunch, and finally, the grower favorite, seed swap. After the seeds had been distributed to the forum attendees, the event ended.

In many ways, this event signals the start of the season for many California growers!

Friday, March 04, 2011

(Photo courtesy of Crown Bees)

Getting prepared for the season:
Pollinating with Mason Bees

Good morning, Pumpkinistas!

After a long winter hiatus, I am happy to post for the first time in 2011! There are a couple of things that I'd like write about.

Many growers have voiced their concerns about the lack of fruiting of their giant pumpkin vines in the past. That is, they grow a beautiful green vine, flowers appear, and then: Nada, nichts, nothing. Or, at the most, a small golf ball sized fruit, that then withers and dies away. One possible cause for these conditions is lack of pollinators or an inadequate pollination in the latter case.

So, I have a potential solution: Mason bees. Yes, you can purchase some Mason bees, store them in your refrigerator until the weather is regularly 55 degrees and then place them outside to emerge and begin pollination. They work longer hours than traditional European bees, and more efficient pollinators as well due to certain physiological traits.

I have just purchased some bees and the requisite house and cardboard tubes from Dave, at:, and so far, everything looks great. He still has some bees available for this season (many other suppliers have sold all of their inventories, I checked) so if you would like to add a measure of certainty to this year's growing efforts, order your bees now!

Finally, after the indescribable agony of growing a giant pumpkin the size of a "large onion" last season at the Great Park, wanting to have a monster to show my daughter Michelle this year, and to escape the curse of 500 pounds, my giant pumpkin workshop schedule this year will be sharply curtailed. I will only be speaking at a few venues in Southern California this season. Any workshops that get scheduled will be posted here, of course.

Good luck this season!