Monsters in the Backyard

Friday, June 5, 2009

We are growing monsters in the backyard.

This is a first for us -- in fact this year represents a year of many firsts for us -- as our garden plantings literally tripled from last year. A combination of raised beds and other planting areas made for a lot of extra room -- and we're making good use of it.

For example, last year I grew a variety of watermelon called the Sweet Diane. But this year? Thanks to the extra room? We are growing THREE varieties of watermelon, one variety of cantaloupe and yet another melon called "muskmellon."

What's a muskmellon you ask? I have no idea. Never had a muskmellon. At least, I don't think I've ever had a muskmellon. Perhaps they're like Snozberries? And, if you don't know what a Snozberry is, I'm sorry -- you're beyond hope.

Another new entry in the Back 40 Garden of Bill & Venus Bird is (drum roll please): Pumpkins. Not just any pumpkin mind you. Oh yeah, we're growing those as well.

But.....We're also growing something kind of "special."

It's big.

Courtesy of South Natomas gardener Nels Christenson, I give you: GIANT PUMPKINS. Not just any old pumpkin mind you. But seeds that are specifically designed to produce pumpkins the size of a VW Bug. Or, at least that's what I'm told. I'm not really sure to be honest. I mean, I've never grown a Giant Pumpkin before. Have you?

Nels obtained the seeds last summer while attending a class on -- surprise -- growing Giant Pumpkins. The class, offered through the Consumnes Community Service District, not only offered tips on growing giant pumpkins (according to Nels), but also resulted in the collection of some mighty interesting pumpkin seed.

This isn't your ordinary Halloween pumpkin seed. Not hardly. The two varieties that Nels acquired are called Wallace, and another variety that may be local to the Elk Grove area: Urena-Glasier.

How special is this seed? The photo to your immediate right should give you a pretty good indication. There are two pumpkin starters that germinated from seed. The first, purchased from Lockhart Seed in Stockton, is a variety called the "Hallow-Queen." But to the left of the Hallow-Queen is the Giant Pumpkin known as Wallace.

Can you see the difference between the two? Amazing eh?

I had intended to research both varieties of Giant Pumpkin Seed before writing this blog posting, but that's just a tad difficult. Type in the words "Urena" and "Glasier" and even the reliable GOOGLE has a brain fart. Try typing in the terms "Urena" and "Glasier" and "pumpkin" and Google returns with the message of "No Habla Ingles."

I knew that couldn't be true.

To put it short and sweet, finding information about these varieties isn't easy. However, I did run across a website called Pumpkin Nook during my quest for answers, and that took me to a special page called the 1100 Club.

It was there where I discovered the names of Elk Grove pumpkin growers Leonardo Urena and Pete Glasier. Both are record holding GIANT pumpkin growers (Urena clocked in with a 1200 lb. giant in 2005, while Glasier contributed an equally impressive 1195 lb. monster).

By putting two and two together, I can only surmise that somehow Nels got his hands on seed from those record pumpkin growing efforts. It's just a guess, of course, but it's the best guess I can make.

The Wallace, however, appears to have a completely different parentage. Google shoots back with a picture of a kilt-wearing Mel Gibson when you query "Wallace." It's not the Wallace I was looking for to be honest, but I came to learn that it is the "pollinator" I will need for growing Giant Pumpkins.

Further research shows me, what I am probably growing in the Back 40, is, in some way, related to the Dills Atlantic Giant, which is billed as the "World's Largest Pumpkin Variety" (just ask them).

This MONSTER variety, as the website claims, "is the grand-daddy of all giant pumpkins. The present day record, for this variety is an amazing 1689 lbs (767.7 kg) and it is common for the variety to produce 400- 500 pound (180-230 kg) fruit consistently. Used mainly for fall fairs and International pumpkin competitions that are becoming increasingly more popular around the world. Also perfect for huge jack o'lanterns and fall displays!"

I'm still not sure why I'm growing Monsters in the backyard yet, but it's true that I'm one of the few backyard gardeners in the Sacramento area to actually have the required room. So why not give it a shot? Why not do my best to grow the biggest pumpkin I've ever seen in my lifetime?

Just one question?

How am I going to get it out of the backyard?


Carri Stokes said...

Growing pumpkins on crack eh? You're right, you are the only ones with room. And if I'm not mistaken, a muskmellon is just a cantaloupe? At least that's what my non-gardening Oregon born husband says. I can not for the life of me get him to call it cantaloupe! Did I tell you my tomato plants got SCREWED with our recent storm? I am sad :(

Roya Rose said...

most of the "cantaloupes" sold here in CA are actually muskmelons.

My "big" question here is "why"?
I grow food to eat and to decorate....not so much just to get big.
To each his own, i suppose.

Christine said...

Hi Bill. I think you are lucky to have the room to grow a giant pumpkin and why shouldn't you? I wish you luck. Keep us posted and maybe I'll see your entry at the Elk Grove competition in the fall. I helped with the weigh-in one year and the answer to your question -- how will you get it out of the backyard -- is very carefully. It was amusing to see how tenderly those farmers are toward their potential prize winners. But the winners receive more than just bragging rights so you just may be embarking an a lucrative endeavor!

Nels said...

I believe the winner receives something like $6.00 per pound.

Bill Bird said...

You get a percentage then Nels!

But I doubt I'll grow anything THAT big. Unless, my battleship sized leaf-cutter bee pays some special attention to it. When you see this bee coming -- you run in the other direction.