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Backyard Giants : The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever
Every year, the race to grow the biggest pumpkin in the world draws a rowdy crowd of obsessive gardeners to county fairs and weigh-offs across the country. The competition is furious; there's sabotage and treachery and the heartbreak of root rot, and many a weigh-off ends in tears. This year, more than just the grand prize is at stake. The Holy Grail is within reach: the world's first fifteenhundred-pound pumpkin. And Ron and Dick Wallace think they have what it takes to get it. Backyard Giants follows a tumultuous season in the life of a close-knit tribe of competitors as they chase down the ultimate pumpkin prize. In the grueling and gut-wrenching quest for truly colossal fruit, vacations are postponed, marriages are strained, and savings accounts are emptied. Backyards are converted into leafy laboratories of biogenetics and toxic chemicals-to say nothing of pumpkin sex. Riding shotgun with Ron and his father Dick, Wall Street Journal editor Susan Warren brings to life a winning and unforgettable crew of pumpkin lunatics: the newbie who shocked everyone by growing the big one last year; the pro-bono slime scientist; the groundhog assassin; and the safety trainer who risked electrocuting himself to save his patch. Funny, sharp, and engaging, Backyard Giants is a romp through a charming corner of American life, as quirky and enchanting as the big pumpkins themselves.
The pursuit of the Great Pumpkin among Rhode Island gardeners becomes the passion of Texas-based Wall Street Journal bureau chief Warren in this gently ironic, thoroughly engaging work. Growing the world's heaviest pumpkin (the record tops around 1,500 pounds) has become an international sport, requiring full-time planning and cultivation, and amply rewarded in prizes at fairs and in TV appearances. Warren focuses on a group of winners among the Rhode Island club of growers, led by father and son duo Dick and Ron Wallace, who live south of Providence. She follows their fastidious planning over the 2006 growing season, from early tilling of a new patch of land (they burned out the old patch by pouring in too many supplements and fertilizers) to careful selection of seeds from previous monster prizewinners via online auctions, then germinating seedlings in an incubation chamber; this is followed by a strict planting, culling, watering and fertilizing schedule. While wives feel neglected, the men obsessively care for their pumpkin patches, coaxing the behemoths to amass 30 pounds a day at peak growth, and fending off destroyers such as deer, foaming stump slime and cracks in the shell. Each of these growers shares tales of heartbreak, but Warren peaks the anticipation with the big fall weigh-ins, lending a humorous, poignant touch to this hearty gardener's tale. (Sept.)
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Bloomsbury Publishing USA
September 02, 2007
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