Champion pumpkin growing twins, Ian and Stuart Paton from Southampton are at it again! This year they have four pumpkin babies which are currently piling on a massive 60lb or 4 stone a day! The twins are well on the way to giving their record-breaking 160 stone pumpkin of 2016 a run for its money.
The water and electricity bills are going through the roof to keep the pumpkins hydrated and warm and in an effort to beat the record once again. The growing pumpkins are being kept at a constant 18°C, even throughout the night for the first time. This seems to be working as the rapidly expanding pumpkins are currently 10% ahead of last year’s winner with a circumference of 19ft. The Paton’s will need to hire a special, super-charged, truck to lift the enormous pumpkin as their tractor will not be up to the job.
However, size isn’t everything as one false move and the pumpkin skin can split making it ineligible for the weigh-in. The official weigh-in is on Saturday 14th October at the Royal Victoria Country Park, Southampton, so make a day of it and enjoy the Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin Festival and Scarecrow Avenue.
For the first time in 2017, the competition will also include the Tomato Gigantomo weigh-in and these entries will be a welcome addition to the pumpkins on display. So if you have any Gigantomo hanging around, why not bring them along on the day.
Pumpkin growing really is everything to the dedicated pumpkin-growing twins and the ultimate accolade has been bestowed on Ian Paton. He has been made President of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a world-renowned organisation. Well done to Ian as it is an honour to be asked.
For the third year in a row, Morrice and Ann Innes of Newmachar, north of Aberdeen, have won a prestigious RHS Chelsea Gold Medal for their potato exhibit in the renowned Flower Show’s Great Pavilion. However there are no flowers on their stand which is sponsored by Thompson & Morgan; only potatoes.
Gold award winners Morrice and Anne Innes
Their award-winning potato display of 154 different varieties aims to highlight the diversity and versatility of the nation’s favourite vegetable, whilst tracing the origins of some of the potatoes in Morrice’s extensive collection of some 500 varieties.
The gold award winning Chelsea display of 154 varieties.
In 2015, Morrice and Ann won the first ever Chelsea Gold Medal for a potato-only display in the show’s 150 year history. They won again in 2016 and have again been awarded Gold today, scoring the maximum number of points possible in all three marking categories.
Displayed on the stand this year is a selection of Wild Solanum potato plants, grown by Morrice and Ann, and by Thompson & Morgan’s Joseph Jarrold and Sharron Cook. Also on show are tubers of Solanum Tuberosum, cultivated from wild species of the group Stenotomum, as well as a selection of mini tubers which are in the early stages of new variety production.
Thompson & Morgan’s commercial director, Paul Hansord, said: “Amid all the glamour and colour of the world’s most celebrated flower show, it’s great to see a homage to the humble potato win another Gold Medal. Morrice and Ann have put on a fantastic show again this year.”
Colin Randel commented: “With their display, Morrice and Ann tell the tale of the potato. There is an incredible array of colours, shapes and sizes, from very old heritage tubers, right up to our new variety, Vizelle, which will be available exclusively from Thompson & Morgan in September ready for the 2018 growing season.”
With young royals highlighting mental health issues, T&M asks ‘Could gardening help?’
Prince Harry revealed last week that he has struggled with mental health issues due to bottling up his grief following the death of his mother.
He said in an interview in the Telegraph that he has sought help through counselling. However, not everyone with mental ill health is easily able to access the help they need.
Mental health issues are estimated to affect a quarter of us at one time or another, but services to help people are sadly not always immediately available. We often hear about the therapeutic benefits of gardening, so if something this simple could help, isn’t it worth a try?
Studies suggest that just 30 minutes of gardening can have a positive effect on mental health and it has been argued that if ‘horticultural therapy’ was actually prescribed by GPs for mental health issues, substantial savings could be made to the NHS and therefore the economy.
So why not give it a go?
Here are four ways that your mental health and well-being can be improved through getting out into your garden a bit more:
Many studies show that people who garden have lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, than those who take part in other relaxing activities. Whatever your job or occupation, gardening is a great way to shut out the distractions of life and to concentrate on the job in hand. When you’re gardening, your mind is focussed on your plants (or weeds!), digging your veg patch or pruning a rampant vine. It gives you a sense of purpose and reports show that this can considerably lift your mood and boost self esteem. Often the calm and relative peacefulness of your garden also allows you to relax and unwind.
Gardening as a therapeutic exercise has been shown to be good for the brain. Studies have linked gardening to better brain health and lower risks of brain disease such as Alzheimer’s. Many gardening tasks help to maintain good brain function; physical activity is known to boost brain health as does problem solving and sensory awareness. It’s good to know that the thought processes that go into battling with the ivy that is intent on bringing your fencing down are keeping your brain active and healthy!
Gardening gets you outside and moving. The kind of exercise you get in the garden is quite different to that which you might experience at the gym. You can burn up to 330 calories an hour with all the bending, stretching and lifting that is required in the average garden. We all know that exercise increases levels of ‘feel-good’ serotonin and dopamine – the old adage ‘a healthy body equals a healthy mind’ certainly rings true.
Gardeners often talk about a sense of pride and ownership in what they achieve in their gardens, whether large or small, which boosts mood and general well-being. People who wouldn’t normally call themselves ‘creative’ say that when it comes to gardening, they find their inner creativity, and are often surprised by what they can accomplish. This in turn boosts self-esteem.
Our message is to spend time in your garden! You’ll feel so much better for it.
As Britain’s formal exit from the European Union was triggered this week, various companies and a major Dutch bank, reported concerns over prices of fruit, vegetables, flowers and olive oil rising by as much as eight percent.
In its report, Weighing up Future Food Security in the UK: The Impact of the Brexit on Food & Agribusiness in Europe and Beyond, Rabobank, the second largest bank in the Netherlands, specialising in food and agriculture financing and sustainability-oriented banking, said that although details of British trade agreements are unknown, the cost of exports will undoubtedly increase.
Whether you’re for or against the UK’s exit from the EU, there’s no doubt that Brexit will have implications on our imports of fruit and vegetables and other foodstuffs. According to Rabobank, the UK is only 60 percent self-sufficient in terms of food. The report suggests that administrative border checks alone could lead to a hike in prices of between five and eight percent.
What can the British consumer do?
“We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again”, said Paul Hansord, our commercial director, “grow your own!”
“It’s a no-brainer as far as we’re concerned and we’re here to help with lots of ‘how to’ videos and advice on our website. People are so used to getting all their food from shops and supermarkets, but if prices go up as suggested, due to import costs once we’ve left the EU, we’ll need to grow a lot more of our own produce.”
“The fact is that it’s really not difficult to grow at least some of your own fruit and veg. Home-grown is always going to taste better than shop-bought and when you grow your own, there’s no need to worry about pesticides, food miles, the weeks that some shop-bought fruit and veg spend in cold storage; you just pick it or dig it up, and enjoy it – fresh and wholesome – straight from your garden or allotment.”
For help and guidance on growing your own fruit, vegetables and flowers, go to www.thompson-morgan.com/gardening-guides , www.thompson-morgan.com/gardening-for-beginners or www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-garden
Always striving to provide gardeners with the very best customer experience, Thompson & Morgan is now able to offer its customers a new interactive element to its catalogues. Working in conjunction with Layar, a global leader in augmented reality and interactive print, T&M’s products are coming alive in the pages of its plant catalogues this spring.
Easy to use and extremely user-friendly, Layar is the world’s most popular platform for augmented reality. The company aims to ‘bridge the gap between the print and digital worlds’ – meaning that their technology can make printed images ‘come alive’ on the screens of our smart phones and tablets.
Since launching the Layar facility in January of this year, Thompson & Morgan has noticed that an increasing number of its customers are using Layar to view pages in its spring catalogues and are enjoying the new interactive digital experience.
Once customers have downloaded the Layar app onto their smart phone or tablet, they can scan the pages in the T&M catalogue which display the Layar logo. The scanned page then comes to life! Users can tap their device’s screen to view ‘how to’ videos and photo galleries; to buy products; to contact Thompson & Morgan and to share content on social media.
If it all sounds a bit sci-fi and techy and like something from a film starring Tom Cruise, then go to www.thompson-morgan.com/layar for more information and tips on how to get the most out of this fantastic technology.
Thompson & Morgan’s marketing services manager, Clare Dixey said ‘We’re really excited to be offering an augmented reality experience to our customers. T&M is keen to stay abreast of developments in technology which can provide our customers with an enhanced experience. We’re aware that not all of our customers will use the facility, but we’re noticing a good number of customers are enjoying the added content and ease of browsing and ordering’.
With spud prices set to soar for retailers and consumers, Thompson & Morgan brings down the price of seed potatoes and repeats its mantra to ‘grow your own’.
According to sources such as the Financial Times (Feb. 3 2017) and London-based data firm, Mintec (30 Jan. 2017), UK potato prices are up 30% year-on-year due to a decline in production. Their figures show a reduction in UK potato output for 2016/17 of 5%, whilst yields for the 2016/17 season are estimated to be down 8% on last year due to adverse weather conditions seen throughout the growing season. At 5.2 million tonnes, the total UK potato crop was the fourth smallest on records going back to the 1960s. (AHDB Potatoes analysis)
However, while retailers and consumers keep a keen eye on rising potato prices, horticultural mail order company, Thompson & Morgan has brought its seed potato prices DOWN for the 2017 season. As an example, the firm cites one of its most popular potato varieties, Lady Christl. Last year, a bag of 60 tubers of this favourite, creamy-fleshed, easy-to-grow variety was selling for £12.99; this year a 4kg bag containing 64-72 tubers is selling for £9.99 – that’s a per tuber drop in price of 23%!
“I really urge people – gardeners or not – to have a go at growing their own potatoes”, says Colin Randel, Thompson & Morgan’s resident potato expert. “Not only does it look likely that potato prices will go up in the shops, but you know what you’re eating when you grow your own. There’s no need to worry about the pesticides, the food miles, the months spent piled up in storage – you just dig up tasty, wholesome spuds from your garden or allotment”.
And you don’t even need a garden or an allotment; you can easily grow potatoes on your patio or balcony. There really is nothing like the satisfaction of tipping a crop of home-grown potatoes out of a handy grow bag just in time for supper.
For Thompson & Morgan’s full range of potatoes, go to http://www.thompson-morgan.com/potatoes-inspiration and for tips on growing potatoes at home, look at T&M’s handy guides How to grow potatoes in the ground, How to grow potatoes in bags and Potato Selector Guide.