No weight-watching for these WHOPPERS!

one of the paton whoppers

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.

Pumpkin update: Tackling Powdery Mildew on Pumpkins.

Pests and diseases on crops are always a problem in the garden – and my Pumpkin crop is no exception, in the last few days, the leaves of my plants have unfortunately developed Powdery Mildew.

Powdery mildew is easily identified by the powdery white spores on the surface of the foliage, severely affected leaves will quickly shrivel and die back. The spores of this unsightly disease are air borne so it can spread quickly and easily where plants are growing close together.

Powdery mildew is particularly prevalent during humid, wet summers like we’ve had this year, where the spores are spread from leaf to leaf by rain splashes.

powdery mildew on pumpkin leaves

If you notice powdery mildew appearing then you’ll need to act fast to stop it spreading: You can remove and destroy infected leaves to control its spread. Put them straight in the household waste – never compost the leaves as this will simply spread the problem again next year. Keeping the roots evenly watered will also help to prevent the problem.

If the infection is over a wider area then you may have to use a chemical control; there are lots of fungicides available to pick up at your local garden centre. Just be sure to check that you choose one which is suitable for use on edible crops. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and spray the plants evenly, both above and beneath the foliage.

Hopefully that will solve the problem, but if necessary then you may need to repeat the treatment in a few weeks time.

Check out my other videos on growing pumpkins here :

How to grow pumpkins. Part 1: sowing pumpkin seeds

How to grow Pumpkins. Part 2: Planting out Pumpkin plants.

How to grow Pumpkins with Thompson & Morgan. Part 3: Feeding and pollination

I hope you enjoy pumpkin growing this year – who knows, you might grow your very own giant!

 

Sue Sanderson
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman’s nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online. I have a keen interest in drought resistant plants and a passion for perennials, particularly hardy Geraniums. I’m a regional secretary for the International Plant Propagation Society which gives me lots of opportunities to see what other horticulturalists are up to in their nurseries and gardens.

Giving Giants a Go

Last year, I saw a feature on BBC News live from RHS Hyde Hall where Matthew Oliver had smashed the record for the largest pumpkin grown outdoors in the U.K. The giant weighed in at an incredible 605kg which is 95 stone in old money. Inspired, I thought next year I would give it a go.

I purchased some seed from the Thompson & Morgan website with the seeds being named. “Matt’s Monster.” I also discovered a page on their website “How to Grow a Giant Pumpkins” which has some great tips and how to get started.

I have been a keen gardener and grower of vegetables and flowers for the last seven or eight years. Although this may not seem a long time I am still only 22! I have never really had the space or knowledge to grow pumpkins of any size let alone a giant! I sowed the seed in my electronic propagator, another first for me this year and I was off. The starting gun had been fired.

 

Soon enough I had two small pumpkin plants that were in need of being planted out. Both were rather leggy and I wasn’t convinced they were going to become anything. One thing I know about pumpkins is that they are very hungry plants. So I decided there was only one place these could go. The compost heap. Before I knew these tiny plants had swamped the compost pile and was heading for the roof of the greenhouse! The growth rates on the plants were phenomenal and like nothing I had ever seen before.

 

After a continued expansion in growth that I managed to move away from the greenhouse and out onto the garden the flowers began to come. At first I was confused because there seemed to just be male flowers with no female flowers. Female flowers are identified by the small ball behind the flower. At last I had a female flower and my giant had been born.

The growth of the pumpkin has been just as impressive as the growth of the plant. It grew from a cricket ball size on 15/07/17 to beach ball size just ten days later. I took photos so that I could keep a record of how fast it grew. I even got my mum to take photos and send me daily updates of the progress of the giant pumpkin’ while I was away on holiday. I expect by the end of the season it will have bulked up to a decent size. However, nothing like what Matthew Oliver managed to achieve.

 

 

The lessons I have learnt from this experiment have been fantastic. It has reminded why I fell in love with horticulture which is that you never stop learning. Although I am by no means an expert I’ve learnt a lot this season and will use my knowledge to beat this year’s efforts next year. Also it has encouraged me to try new things out and not be afraid to make mistakes. I’m sure this year I made many mistakes but all that has done has put me in a better position next year. So from now on every year I have challenged myself to have a go at growing something I’ve never grown before. I would thoroughly encourage you all to do the same!

 

 

Thomas Carpenter
My name is Thomas Carpenter and I live in Essex. At my home I have a vegetable patch and greenhouse where I grow a range of flowers and vegetables for both the show bench and for eating. I am the Show Secretary for my local horticultural society and have been a member there for the last eight years. Currently I am in training with the Essex Guild of Horticultural Judges and the National Vegetable Society. I have a real passion for growing and showing vegetables as well as encouraging children and young people to get involved with horticulture.

Today is National Pumpkin Sowing Day!

In February, we launched April 12 as National Pumpkin Sowing Day and now that day is upon us! We hope that you’ve got your seeds at the ready – if you haven’t, there’s still time to get some – so you can get them planted and on their way.

As sponsors of the UK’s giant pumpkin growing competition each autumn at the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth’s annual event in Southampton, we decided to designate a specific National Pumpkin Sowing Day in response to the many queries that we receive around the time of the giant pumpkin weigh-in.  We thought it would be a great incentive for people wanting to try their hand at growing a record-breaker or for those simply wanting to grow a modest pumpkin for carving at Halloween.

Our commercial director, Paul Hansord, who himself sows a couple of pumpkins each year, said: “We decided to set April 12th as National Pumpkin Sowing Day 2017 and encourage people to get their seeds ready to sow on this date. We’ll show them how to sow and grow their pumpkin with useful tips and informative videos and hope someone out there might grow a pumpkin to rival last year’s winner”.

The heaviest pumpkin at last year’s giant pumpkin event weighed in at 2,252.3lb and was grown by Ian and Stuart Paton who have broken the UK record an incredible 7 times. The majority of entries to the 2016 official weigh-in at the Southampton pumpkin event were grown from seeds that came from giant pumpkins grown by the Patons. Seeds from the Paton twins’ 2016 record-breaking giant pumpkin are still available from T&M if customers want to invest in some excellent giant pumpkin genes. Go to Pumpkin ‘Paton Twins Giant’ to purchase.

RHS Hyde Hall’s Matt Oliver won the award in 2016 for the largest outdoor-grown pumpkin with a seed purchased for £1,250 by Thompson & Morgan. His pumpkin weighed in at an astounding 1,333.8lb (95 stone or 605kg) and the seeds from this aptly named ‘Matt’s Monster’ can also be purchased from Thompson & Morgan.  Matt had the crazy idea of hollowing out his pumpkin, along with some other giant pumpkins, and rowing them across the RHS Hyde Hall lake in November last year. Watch the Madcap Giant Pumpkin Rowing Race by clicking the image below

Giant pumpkin race

Whether you want try to grow a whopper or simply a modest-sized pumpkin to carve at Halloween, we are urging people to sow their seeds today.  We’ll be posting tips and updates on social media over the coming months, so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep in touch with us, as well as with other budding pumpkin growers, using #growapumpkin

Did you know?  Pumpkin seeds are best sown on their sides

Our how to plant pumpkin seeds video guide can be found here

pumpkin seed sowing

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

It’s next week! Get your pumpkin seeds ready for April 12th – National Pumpkin Sowing Day

Next Wednesday, April 12th, is National Pumpkin Sowing Day and we are urging the British public to get involved. Whether you’re a gardener or not, it’s easy to pop a pumpkin seed into a pot of compost and watch it grow.

We launched a specific seed sowing day in response to the many pumpkin-related queries we receive in October when pumpkins are in shops in the lead up to Halloween.

“We sponsor the UK’s giant pumpkin growing competition each autumn and we always get so many enquiries at the weigh-in, asking how to grow pumpkins at home”, said Paul Hansord, our commercial director and himself a keen pumpkin grower.

“So we’ve decided to set a date and once people have sown their seeds, we’ll support them with growing tips and advice – whether they’re aiming to grow a giant record-breaking pumpkin or a good-sized one for carving at Halloween.”

stages of pumpkin growth

You’ll remember that we made the news in 2016 when we paid £1,250 for a single pumpkin seed. Its pedigree was proven when RHS Hyde Hall’s Matt Oliver won the award for the largest outdoor-grown pumpkin from this very seed and now the seeds from his appropriately-named, ‘Matt’s Monster’ can be purchased from T&M at a cost of £7.99 for 3 seeds.

For those wishing to grow a more modest-sized pumpkin other pumpkin seeds are available from T&M, such as ‘Jack Of All Trades’, for carving at Halloween or for those who simply have a penchant for pumpkin pie or a hearty pumpkin soup.

We will be supporting pumpkin growers after they have sown their seeds with information on how to grow giant pumpkins and on growing regular pumpkins for Halloween on our website, as well as with timely posts on social media.

Useful links:

www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-grow-pumpkins

www.thompson-morgan.com/giantpumpkins

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Giant pumpkin boats brave high winds to cross RHS lake in Essex

Matthew Oliver, of RHS Hyde Hall, rows hollowed-out UK record-breaking pumpkin in daring stunt

Had aliens landed in East Anglia this morning, they might have been forgiven for thinking that they’d stumbled upon some very strange goings on. Windy weather had caused traffic chaos on the A12 and A14 in the Ipswich area and grown men and women were rowing hollowed out pumpkins on a lake in Essex.

Matthew Oliver, horticulturist at RHS Hyde Hall, Chelmsford, not content with having successfully grown the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin in the UK, decided to turn his record-breaker into a boat and to attempt to row it across the lake at the RHS Essex site today.

 

Matt Oliver and his Giant Pumpkin Boat!

Matt Oliver and his Giant Pumpkin Boat!

Not only did Matthew launch his 1,333.8lb (95 stone or 605kg) pumpkin, he also managed to persuade 3 others to get aboard other giant pumpkins which were huge, but hadn’t grown quite big enough to break any records. Taking part were Steve Usher of Motorboat & Yachting magazine, dressed as a pirate, and 2 intrepid ladies who work at RHS Hyde Hall and who had daringly volunteered to (wo)man two of the potentially un-lake-worthy ‘boats’.

 

Matt Oliver scooping the pumpkin out & Matt and Paul Hansord scooping the bottom!

Matt Oliver scooping the pumpkin out & Matt and Paul Hansord scooping the bottom!

Having hollowed out the giant pumpkins, the valiant sailors set off, using oars to propel the cumbersome craft across the designated course. Prior to the event, Matthew had voiced some concerns about the ‘floatability’ of the giant pumpkins and how he might extract the waterlogged pumpkin hulls from the lake should they sink.

Matt and Paul Hansord from Thomspon & Morgan scooping out the bottom

Matt and Paul Hansord from Thomspon & Morgan scooping out the bottom

However, his fears were unfounded and, whilst one pumpkin foundered at the start of the course, the other 3 made it safely over the finishing line.

 

Sailing on the lake in a pumpkin boat!

Sailing on the lake in a pumpkin boat!

The seeds from Matthew’s record-breaking pumpkin will be available for purchase from Thompson & Morgan ready for next year’s growing season.

Anyone who would like to try their hand at growing a record-breaking giant pumpkin, can find Thompson & Morgan’s top tips at www.thompson-morgan.com/giantpumpkins

 

Matt Oliver wins again!

Matt Oliver wins again!

 

Pumpkin Facts & Figures

The pumpkin seed was bought for £1,250 at auction by Paul Hansord from Ipswich-based plant and seed merchant, Thompson & Morgan. The seed came from the then heaviest pumpkin in the world, which weighed 2,323 lb (166 stone) grown by Beni Meier from Switzerland in 2014.

The seed was entrusted to RHS horticulturist, Matthew Oliver back in April. Matthew then spent seven months nurturing the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed in the hope of breaking a new world record.

At the official weigh-in at Southampton on 8 October, the Pumpkin Commonwealth confirmed that Matthew’s pumpkin was the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin in the UK at 1,333.8 lbs
.
After the official weigh-in the pumpkin returned to Hyde Hall and took centre stage in a Halloween-themed pumpkin display.

The seeds will be harvested from the UK giant pumpkin with the intention that they will be available to purchase from Thompson & Morgan in time for next year’s growing season.

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Pin It on Pinterest