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Citrus Heights giant pumpkin sets new state record

But it's only good enough for second place as Minnesota mega-gourd breaks world record at championship weigh-off

This pumpkin set a new world record, weighing 2,749 pounds, from Minnesota. Winner Travis Gienger and his family pose with the massive gourd at Monday's Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

This pumpkin set a new world record, weighing 2,749 pounds, from Minnesota. Winner Travis Gienger and his family pose with the massive gourd at Monday's Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Photos courtesy Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off

The biggest California-grown pumpkin to ever weigh in at an official giant pumpkin contest came from the greater Sacramento area. But in a season of king-size pumpkins, this mammoth squash – 2,497 pounds – was only a runner-up. It took a world-record effort to beat it.

Representing Central Valley pumpkin hopefuls, Ron Root and Nick Kennedy of Citrus Heights hauled their gargantuan gourd to Half Moon Bay for Monday’s Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off.

They could have easily won Elk Grove’s Giant Pumpkin Contest, held Saturday and won by an Oregon-grown 1,941 pounder. (Russ Pugh took home to Eugene $7,000 from the Elk Grove contest.)

Instead, Root and Kennedy took their big boy to the Bay Area to see if maybe they had a record breaker.

They did. Shaped like a bean bag chair and the size of a couch, the striped Citrus Heights pumpkin set a California state record as the largest ever grown in the Golden State – quite a feat considering this was the 50th annual Half Moon Bay weigh-off to crown a pumpkin king.

For a while, the Citrus Heights pumpkin looked like an overall winner, but then officials hauled out the pumpkin that had traveled the farthest distance to the contest – an Atlantic Giant hybrid grown by Travis Gienger of Anoka, Minn.

A landscape business owner and instructor at Anoka Technical College, Gienger and his pumpkin team had driven almost non-stop from Minnesota to Half Moon Bay just in time for the weigh-off. He didn’t harvest his pumpkin until Saturday because these giants lose 5 pounds every day off the vine.

Ron Root and Nick Kennedy of Citrus Heights earned
a state record with their 2,497-pound pumpkin.

Gienger wasn’t a long shot; he was Half Moon Bay’s defending champion. Last year, he set a new America record with a 2,560-pound pumpkin that he also hauled cross country. But no one expected this result Monday (except for the folks tasked with lifting the pumpkin on the scale).

Gienger’s pumpkin weigh 2,749 pounds – a new world record and almost 200 pounds bigger than his 2022 American record setter. The old mark – 2,702 – was held by a pumpkin grown in Tuscany, Italy.

Watch Gienger’s reaction as his pumpkin is weighed, during live streaming of Monday’s weigh-off:

For its official photo, the winning pumpkin was adorned with a teddy bear wearing a Michael Jordan jersey – as the “greatest of all time” in the pumpkin department.

For his efforts, Gienger won $30,000 including a bonus for a new world record. As runners-up, Root and Kennedy earned $4,000 including a $1,000 bonus for the largest California-grown pumpkin.

For more on the championship pumpkin weigh-off:


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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