Arizona Giant Pumpkin Growers

Ron Watkins Crowned Arizona's 2017 
Giant Pumpkin Champion

The competition was over as soon as Ron Watkins drove his trailer onto the parking lot at Harper's Landscape & Gardening Centre in Scottsdale. The sight of his giant pumpkin made all the hobbyists gathered realize they were looking at the 2017 AZGPG Spring Harvest Festival champion.

The weigh-off, organized at Harper's, provides Central Arizona growers a chance to have their giant vegetables weighed.  This years event, held on May 27, featured both giant pumpkins and Arizona's first giant squash.

Watkins winning entry weighed 479 pounds - just shy of the existing Arizona record. The plant was grown from a 1719 Martin 2014 seed. Ron's pumpkin had been an aggressive plant during the spring; and pre-event measurements gave hobbyists hope a new record would be set. However, Phoenix's high temperatures - especially during May - stressed the plant enough to make it weigh less than expected. Watkins' pumpkin missed setting a new record by the weight equivalent of one gallon of water.

Giant pumpkins, and squash, are normally grown from May until October in most parts of the United States. However, Central Arizona growers moved their growing season in order to overcome the Phoenix's high temperatures, which thwart the pumpkins ability to thrive. Valley growers start their pumpkins in late December to allow the plant to develop during the more temperate months leading up to the May weigh-off.

The AZGPG announced that next year's weigh-off will be held on Saturday, May 12. The move in dates will eliminate two weeks of the high temperatures, which have hurt growers efforts during the past three years. Growers are expected to start their new pumpkins early in December for the 2018 weigh-off.

Arizona Giant Pumpkin Growers Association (AZGPG) is a tax-exempt 501(C)3 nonprofit organization incorporated, in Arizona, to promote the hobby of gardening with a focus placed on the fun of competition and the production of obscenely large healthy vegetables — especially giant pumpkins. The AZGPG encourages, as well as recognizes, all giant fruits and vegetables on the international competition list

Giant Squash Record Established

There may be those who are unsure whether Dean Baker has a green thumb, but he has proven he can grow a "greenie".  Baker produced Arizona's first competitive giant squash --  with no trace of disqualifying orange color -- for the 3rd annual AZGPG Spring Harvest Festival on May 27, 2017.  His Arizona State Record entry weighed 313.5 pounds.  The fruit was grown from a 1421.5 Jutras 2014 seed.

Baker germinated his plant on Christmas Day 2016, then transplanted it into his patch on January 10, 2017.  Valley temperatures are at their lowest at this time, therefore the plants are placed inside a 12x20 high tunnel covered by greenhouse plastic.  A second 6x9 low tunnel, inside the outer tunnel, is covered by heavy frost cloth to help keep the plants from freezing.

Female flowers appeared in early March and the squash was pollinated on March 15 - providing Dean with 72 days to grow his giant. 

While some people may believe Baker is out of his gourd in fussing and pampering over his pumpkin -- he’s actually is trying to recreate the success he has seen in other parts of the United States. Last fall Dean visited weigh-offs in Colorado (Jared's), Massachusetts (Topsfield Fair), and Rhode Island (Frerichs Farm).

Baker relies on Ron Wallace, Scott Holub, and Joe Jutras for help in understanding what needs to be done to grow bigger fruits. Dean plans to continue to grow both giant pumpkins and squash in an effort to get both state records over 500 pounds.

Follow the Arizona Giant Pumpkin Growers on Facebook.  

The AZGPG is a community of giant pumpkin, and giant vegetable, growers helping each other succeed in our hobby.  Facebook presents us the opportunity to share what's going on with our giant fruits and vegetables.  

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