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Tiger King is Halloween royalty

North America's biggest pumpkin in 2020 has quite a ride

Giant pumpkin and its grower
That's a winner! The 2,350-pound Tiger King pumpkin was grown by Travis Gienger of Anoka, Minn. (Photos courtesy of Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off)

This Tiger King conquered Halloween – both in California and Minnesota. Make that all of North America. His tale is inspiration for giant pumpkin growers everywhere.

At a whopping 2,350 pounds, the biggest pumpkin grown this year in North America won the recent Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay. It was the second biggest pumpkin ever to win the contest.

On Halloween day Saturday, Tiger King will roll down the streets (aboard a semi-truck) in the 100th annual Halloween Parade in Anoka, Minn., near where it was grown. Anoka bills itself as the “Halloween Capital of the World.”

A first-time contestant in any pumpkin weigh-off, Travis Gienger, 40, grew the gigantic striped pumpkin in Minnesota, then hauled it to Half Moon Bay for the annual weigh-off. At the suggestion of his brother, he nicknamed it “Tiger King” (after the Netflix documentary) because of his prized pumpkin’s distinctive stripes.

Tiger King rode to the scales along with a stuffed tiger mascot.

Gienger may be new to Half Moon Bay, but he’s been a serious pumpkin grower since high school. Tiger King grew from a single seed (for which Gienger paid $80) that was harvested from a 1,501-pound pumpkin.

Originally, Gienger intended to send his pumpkin to the New York Botanical Garden to be carved for a Halloween display. But that event was canceled by the pandemic.

Instead, the grower brought his Tiger King to California.

“We brought (Tiger King) from the Halloween Capital of the World, to the Pumpkin Capital of the World,” he said.

Gienger didn’t weigh Tiger King until the official contest. He was surprised as anyone by the pumpkin’s weight. Measuring 19-1/2 feet in diameter, the massive pumpkin rode to the scale with a stuffed tiger mascot.

The trip was worth it. At $7 per pound, Gienger’s prize money added up to $16,450.

After the weigh-in, Gienger loaded up Tiger King and headed back home to celebrate a very happy Halloween.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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