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Will another one-ton giant pumpkin tip the scales?

This is one of Ron Root's mega pumpkins,  displayed at the Heirloom Expo in 2012.
Root, of Citrus Heights, won the world title in 2010. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)
Countdown is on for weigh-ins at Elk Grove, Half Moon Bay contests

It's giant pumpkin time! See these mammoths of the gourd world compete in two major Northern California contests.

Of course, it's the farmers and backyard gardeners who do all the sweating, transporting and lifting these back-busters into place. The pumpkins just have to sit there and look plump.

First up is the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival. Weigh-in starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at Elk Grove Park. Walk-up registration ($10) is open from 7 to 9 a.m.

Last year's big winner traveled cross country for the $7 a pound prize money. Josiah Brandt of Wisconsin won $14,665 for his 2,095-pound champion pumpkin.

Celebrating all things pumpkin, the Elk Grove festival is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6 and 7. Admission is free, but parking is $10. Elk Grove Park is located at 9950 Elk Grove Florin Rd, Elk Grove.

On Monday, Oct. 8, comes the big daddy of giant pumpkin contests -- the 45th annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay.

Starting at 7 a.m. Monday, giant pumpkins from throughout the country will tip the scale for top honors and $7 a pound plus a chance at a $30,000 bonus for a world record. Joel Holland, a retired Washington firefighter, set an American record with last year's winner, which weighed in at 2,363 pounds.

The weigh-in runs from 7 to 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 8, on Half Moon Bay's historic Main Street. Details:

Sacramento-area pumpkins have had success at the world championships, too. Citrus Heights' Ron Root won the 2010 world crown at Half Moon Bay with a 1,535-pound specimen.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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