AZGVG Through The Years

Just getting a giant vegetable to the scale, in Arizona, is an awesome achievement.  Months of hard work and special attention – to the needs of our plants – don’t earn most of us more than a ribbon or an occasional t-shirt.

We also want to thank the volunteers who arrive early to setup for a weigh-off, or drive wherever, to make sure all of our giant vegetables have the chance to be given an official weight.


The New Year offered us a chance to at least embrace the thought of “Hope” as we once again planted too early in the spring in hope of having a good fruit before the heat struck down the Valley gardens.  The spring was actually quite nice, through devoid of rain.  But then the heat set in the plants rushed to the finish line — many of them stopping along the way because it was too hot.

We saw several new gardens being put into use in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Payson.  With the new gardens came the unknown factors regarding the soil and ravaging pests.   The spring was truly a science experiment as we all tried to learn about our new gardens.  We also saw two new greenhouses constructed by members wanting to find a way to control the growing environment just a little better.   AZGVG membership continues to evolve as growers branch out from our pumpkin-centric beginnings to cultivate a wider variety of vegetables, which could possibly help expand gardener participation throughout the state.

Arizona has three distinct growing seasons, which makes competitive giant vegetable growing a challenge.  The Valley (Central Desert to include the Phoenix metropolitan area) has a spring season (Jan-May) and a fall season (late Aug-early Dec).  Then there are the higher elevation communities (Northern and Southern Arizona, which enjoy the more traditional growing season (May-Oct).  Setting a day and time to have all our growers gather for a competitive weigh-off has historically proven to be ineffective. 

The AZGVG believes that growers need to be recognized for all the work they put into their gardens and the growing of a giant vegetable.  It created the SunStroke Giant Vegetable Weigh-Off to ensure recognition is given to all who fought the short season, high heat and lack of rain to attempt to grow a vegetable — especially a giant vegetable.  Being able to travel around Arizona has given AZGVG members a chance to create a community and share their experiences with like minded growers.  By having one competition, that includes all regions in Arizona, we have provided gardeners the opportunity to compare their efforts with all growers in the state.  We have the scales and will travel to wherever to make sure no giant vegetable is left unweighed or unmeasured.

We’ve completed the Spring phase of the competition and saw one giant pumpkin, an early chile pepper, and several sunflowers.  We all were disappointed that the tomatoes were bust in the spring (We’ll all try again this fall).  There is excitement because now we get to wait and see how growers in Northern Arizona and Southeast Arizona due with their entries.  We expect to busy with our travel in late August and September.

Gary Soutier was the only grower with a giant pumpkin during the spring.  This was Gary’s third year growing an AG pumpkin in the Phoenix area.  Gary, who started growing giant pumpkins in the early 1990s, in Massachusetts,  has decided that even with more than 25 years of experience “growing giant pumpkins in Arizona is hard.”

Gary Soutier (Phoenix) 258 pound Giant Pumpkin
Casey Culp (Sierra Vista) 10.19 inch Long Chile Pepper (Poblano)
Arizona State Record - Scott Culp (Sierra Vista) stands in front of his 135.5 inch Tall Sunflower prior to being cut down and measured.
Sunflowers are measured from the bottom of the stalk (without roots ...
to the top of the highest petal. Sunflowers are measured in a straight line, regardless of any curves in the stalk. Marks are put on pieces of paper and then a metal measuring tape is used to determine the length.
Arizona State Record - Scott Culp (Sierra Vista) grew a sunflower designed to produce a large head. His 15-inch entry broke his existing record.
Dean Baker (Scottsdale) made his first attempt at growing a Tall Sunflower, which produced his 86-inch entry.
Dean Baker (Scottsdale) also entered his Sunflower in the Widest Head catagory. His entry was 13-inches wide.


What can we say about 2020 …. Hey! We social distanced like champions.  The AZGVG‘s scales traveled throughout the Valley, and made the trip to Sierra Vista, to weigh all the giant pumpkins and watermelons that survived our record setting summer.  (Who could have planned for 52 days of temperatures of 110 degrees or higher).  Not only did Phoenix set records this summer.  It was also the hottest on record for Flagstaff, Prescott, Payson, Winslow, and Page.  To make matters worse, our Monsoon season became a “Non-soon” season.  We had less than 0.1 inch of rain this summer.

The good news is Arizona FINALLY has a 100+ pound watermelon.  Scott Culp set the Arizona Record with a 118.35 pound watermelon this summer.

Congratulations to everyone!

Arizona State Record -- Scott Culp (Sierra Vista) 118.35 lb. Watermelon
Scott Culp (Sierra Vista) 404.5 lb Giant Pumpkin
Gary Soutier (Phoenix) 231.4 lb Giant Pumpkin
Rick Johnson (Paradise Valley) 134.15 lb Giant Pumpkin