The October issue of Smithsonian magazine has a fantastic feature article on competitive vegetable growing and its history. I highly recommend taking 20 minutes to read it and flip through the additional photos - you will not believe the size of some of these vegetables!
Competitive vegetable growing has exploded as a hobby in recent years. From 1903-1976, a 403 lb. pumpkin held the world record. In the last 45 years, that record has more than quadrupled; the current world record holder is a whopping 1810.5 lbs, grown by Chris Stevens of Wisconsin in 2010. Experts predict that the elusive one-ton pumpkin will be grown by 2014...and we thought Lara's pumpkin was big!
After I finished working in some of our gardens last week, I went into our office to update our blog. I worked for about a half hour before I realized that a visitor had joined our staff in the office for the afternoon. Although I'm normally pretty brutal about killing cabbage loopers, I decided that this particular caterpillar had a difficult enough journey, so I released him into a yard nearby.
We had an interesting problem at our nursery in Claremont a few weeks back. I'd sheet mulched the nursery with free wood chips from a local tree service and cardboard from Pomona College. It's a cost effective method for removing grass and keeping the area attractive, but it provides an ideal habit for Earwigs. Normally we don't worry about earwigs in our gardens because they leave mature plants alone and eat aphids and other pests. In the nursery, however, they were absolutely decimating the young plants, whose succulent growth they prefer. I'd leave at night with everything looking fine and the next morning there would be little more than a piece of stem poking out of the soil.
While sustainable food advocates debate whether organic agriculture can feed the world, it's worth pausing to remember the subtle benefits of growing your fruits and vegetables chemical-free. Organic watermelons, in my experience, have not tended to explode.
Maintaining gardens in the heat of the summer can occasionally be rough, but my vegetable farming nightmares pale in comparison to those of Liu Mingsuo:
The flying pips, shattered shells and wet shrapnel still haunt farmer Liu Mingsuo after an effort to chemically boost his fruit crop went spectacularly wrong.
As watermelon season in Southern California approaches, we're arming our servicepeople with the tools to encourage explosive watermelon growth without turning these summertime favorites into munitions.
Michael Pollan appeared on NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" program, where he answered questions about topics as varied as Earl Butz, Twinkies, about Japanese toilets. Definitely worth checking out.