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Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 4, 2007

ISBN-10: 1596912782 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596912782
  • ASIN: B001P3OMU0
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,347,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It's not only Charles Schulz's Linus who waits every year for a Great Pumpkin to come along. All over the country, from Rhode Island to California, Ohio to Washington, legions of men (and not a few women) eagerly anticipate great pumpkins of their own—literally. Audacious, obsessive gardeners, they have dreamed and planned, watered and weeded, pruned and fertilized, coddled and agonized over a bumper crop of pumpkins, hoping to nurture one worthy of "world's largest" honors. To do that, it will have to weigh in at close to 1,500 pounds and approximate a Volkswagen Beetle in girth. Accompanying father-and-son pumpkin growers and competitors Dick and Ron Wallace throughout a roller-coaster season, Warren experiences it all, from foaming slime to marauding mice. As bank accounts dwindle and ulcers blossom, Warren's hilarious yet enlightening exposé reveals why and how these passionate, peculiar, and painstaking pumpkin growers are willing to put it all on the line for one big—one very big—payoff. Haggas, Carol

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Customer Reviews

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Throughout the book we look on as they pick, chose, change their minds, wonder and worry.
Douglas E. Welch
In "Backyard Giants," Ms. Warren takes us on a journey through the passionate and far-from-gentle world of competitive pumpkin growing.
Juliana Smith
This book offered a lot of interesting information-who knew pumpkins could grow up to 40 lbs.
Spice

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Douglas E. Welch on September 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
There are some that say gardening contains all the drama of human life -- happiness and sadness, triumph and defeat, jealousy, hatred, life and death. Of course, there are some elements of gardening that contain all this and more. Such is the world of those hearty gardeners who attempt to grow the biggest pumpkin in the world.

I received a review copy of Backyard Giants a few weeks ago, thinking that I might try it after finishing some other weightier business tomes. I wasn't sure what to expect from the title, but soon found myself immersed in a world I only vaguely knew. Sure, I had seen growers on television and in magazines, touting their humungous, over-grown "pumpkins", but I had never realized what goes on behind the scenes -- in the garden and in the clubhouses of gardening clubs -- across the country.

Author Susan Warren hooked me from the first chapter as she introduces Ron and Dick Wallace, giant pumpkin growers from Rhode Island, the focus of the book. I immediately felt like I knew these men and were overhearing their conversations instead of reading them on the page. Warren puts the reader right their beside them as they create a new pumpkin patch, chose their seedlings and start another, summer-long, attempt at a world record pumpkin. Along the way we get to know their fellow growers, both local, national and, in the case of one Canadian grower, international.

Throughout the book we look on as they pick, chose, change their minds, wonder and worry. Were they doing everything they can? Were they doing too much? Too little? Growing giants is a worrisome task and can lead to strained marriages and sleepless nights. We feel each triumph and each defeat as weather, wildlife and worry take their toll on both the gardeners and their charges.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Juliana Smith on October 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Who says gardening is a gentle hobby? In "Backyard Giants," Ms. Warren takes us on a journey through the passionate and far-from-gentle world of competitive pumpkin growing. With a masterful eye for the telling detail and a narrative voice that sweeps the reader into this unusual world from the very first page, this is delightful and eye-opening read -- especially for those who've never wielded pruning shears or pored through garden catalogues at night.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By LDJ on September 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
...about the thrills and perils of gardening--in this case behemoth gourds. But absolutely enthralling for anyone who gardens, from dabblers with pots of herbs on window sills to master gardeners with acres of land to cultivate.
The talented author spins a saga covering a year in the life of obsessive gardeners, and paints colorful and intriguing portraits of folks across the country who are addicted to growing gargantuan pumpkins!
Funny, insightful and chock full of useful horticultural techniques and information.
I frequently laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole thing yet was occasionally moved by the dedication of those pursuing this extraordinary hobby. Quite an amazing book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By stormrat on February 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I had a great time reading this book. I too grow pumpkins and had a hard time setting this book down. Easy to read and gives a real behind the scenes on this sport, showing that growers have lives outside of pumpkin growing as well. If you want to grow a giant pumpkin yourself this book won't give you much for information on that topic. It is meant for more the humanity side of things.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Miller on September 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I didn't know much about giant pumpkin growing going into this book, but am now fascinated. I probably won't start growing myself, but I highly recommend Backyard Giants. Yes, it's about pumpkins, but it's also about the people who voluntarily slave over them. Great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Spice on June 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! I laughed, I cried, I cheered (well, not really-I was on a plane and didn't want to create a ruckus, but in my mind I was standing up and cheering!). This book offered a lot of interesting information-who knew pumpkins could grow up to 40 lbs. A DAY??-while following the attempts of various growers to reach the ultimate goal in giant pumpkin growing, a 1500 lb. pumpkin. Easy reading, informative, and a good conversation starter when you need to make small talk.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Rogers on October 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This should be a must read for new growers considering trying their hand at growing giant pumpkins at the competitive level. There's no shortcuts and even if you do everything right, there's no sure bet you will have a pumpkin to show at the end of the season. Such is the case with many of the veteran growers who are profiled in this book. But the glory that comes with a ribbon winning giant keeps them pushing on past the disappointments.

I enjoyed getting a more personal view of the famous growers you will see on the top list of winners and in the books by Don Langevin.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ellison on January 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps one of the best books I have ever read. Big on adjectives and better for it the story follows Ron (son) and Dick (dad) Wallace as they aspire to grow the biggest pumpkin of all-time. Tells of the previous year when their hoped-for pumpkin rotted from the inside.

They decided to purchase property that was for sale next door to their home and with their fellow pumpkin growers they cleared the timber, fertilized and began preperation for the coming growing season.

They selected certain seeds which are named based on the pumpkins they come from. The germination is explained and then the seeds are eventually placed in the ground. Meanwhile their fellow growers are mentioned as well as growers from across the country. A bunch of work must have gone into this and then be pared down to what it is.

Each chapter is titled. There are several references to the web-site 'BigPumpkins.com' about comments left there which are insightful. Adversaries to growing the fruit consist of bugs, animals, disease, and occasionally people.

A quality read all the way around. Similar to Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America andMoneyball for its insider look at a culture you may not know exists, and if you do know about it, you did not know this much about it until now.
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