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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 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

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

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

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

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

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

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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