Thompson & Morgan donates world’s most expensive pumpkin seed to Hyde Hall vegetable grower
Following a nationwide hunt to find a gardener brave enough to sow the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed, Thompson & Morgan has delivered a seed of the current world record-breaking pumpkin (2,323lb, grown by Beni Meier in 2014) to the vegetable garden at RHS Hyde Hall, Essex. The mail order seed and plant specialist paid a record £1,250 for the seed at auction at the World Pumpkin Commonwealth Conference earlier in the season, in a bid to boost UK pumpkin genetics and see a world record contender grown on UK shores for the first time.
Paul Hansord handing over the giant pumpkin seed to Matthew Oliver
Thompson & Morgan director Paul Hansord delivered the precious seed to RHS horticulturist, Matthew Oliver, on 13 April. Armed with a crib sheet of Thompson & Morgan’s tips for success he promptly set the seed into potting compost, eager to make a start on the giant undertaking. Adding to the pressure, all this was carried out in front of a film crew from BBC Inside Out East, who will be following his progress through the season. A full report will be aired on the BBC1 show in the build up to Halloween.
Fortunately Matthew already has some good experience under his belt. Hyde Hall has become renowned for its pumpkin patch in recent years. Around 60 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds are grown at the Chelmsford garden each year, with thousands of visitors attending events through autumn to see the produce on display.
Matthew said: “Our largest pumpkins always draw a crowd, so I have been concentrating more time and effort on growing giant specimens in recent years. In 2015 I produced a 530lb giant and I already had big plans for 2016. We’ve built a larger patch (150x40ft) giving me space to grow four giant plants. Soil conditions have been improved and so have the irrigation systems, wind shelter and feeding programmes have all been planned to encourage the heaviest fruits.”
Sanding down the seed coating for quicker germination
Growing outdoors, Matthew admits he is unlikely to break the world record, but has set a personal target around the 1,000lb mark, which would make his attempt the heaviest outdoor pumpkin ever grown in the UK. He also hopes his attempt will encourage others to try in the future. He said: “Outdoor growing is much more achievable for home gardeners, and once they see the results at Hyde Hall I hope others will take up the challenge in their own gardens and allotments. Pumpkins are such a rewarding hobby plant.”
Matthew now has until 8th October to grow the biggest possible specimen and get it to the UK official weigh in at the Autumn Pumpkin Festival, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Southampton.
The pumpkin patch will be on show to all Hyde Hall garden visitors through the season.
Thompson & Morgan was swamped with requests to grow the seed. Impressed with the passion of many of the entrants, it has sent seeds from several other heavyweight pumpkins (1689-2008lb specimens) to five other interested growers: Joanne Jackson, Cheshire; Guy French, Essex; Anthony & Sally Pooley, Suffolk, George Richardson, County Durham, and Mr Hill, Cantubury
Fertiliser choice is the key factor in improving sweetness and flavour
When Thompson & Morgan assessed over 140 tomato varieties at its Suffolk trial grounds last summer, the aim was to gauge the plants against indoor and outdoor growing conditions. What they weren’t expecting was to hit on a simple way of vastly boosting the sweetness and flavour of home-grown tomatoes.
One aspect of the trial compared the results of different plant feeds on Tomato ‘Sweet Aperitif’. In terms of health, vigour and yield, incredicrop® stood out as the best feed for tomatoes. A single application of this season-long feed at planting time led to the best plants both in a greenhouse setting and out in the field. This was all set to be a key message at an end-of-trial event attended by gardening press, bloggers and industry figures.
Tomato ‘Sweet Aperitif’ and incredicrop®
John Burrows, director of ProVeg Seeds – a major UK trade supplier of tomato seeds and plants, attended the event with his Brix meter in hand, ready to test the sweetness levels of each variety. While passing the fertiliser trial patch, fruits of Sweet Aperitif grown with incredicrop® and another market leading fertiliser were tested – with amazing results! Fruits grown with incredicrop® registered at 12.4 Brix against a level of 10.1 from those grown with the market leader.
A taste test by those present confirmed the finding. Even organic growers among them, normally reluctant to use manufactured fertilisers, had to admit that using incredicrop® made fruits sweeter.
John Burrows and Paul Hansord – Brix Testing Tomatoes
T&M horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, said: “We already know Sweet Aperitif is the sweetest red cherry on the market, the first to consistently score over 10 on the Brix scale. We couldn’t believe the sucrose levels could be boosted even further. The findings add to an already impressive list of benefits for incredicrop®, setting it well ahead of other feed options on the market. Brix levels for Sweet Aperitif were unchanged by other feeds. Our exclusive vegetable fertiliser not only encourages stronger and healthier plants with impressive yields – the produce will also taste better.”
Notes to editors
What are Brix Levels? The Brix score for any fruit or vegetable is the number of grams of sucrose per 100 grams of solution (specifically the juice from a tomato in this study). Higher brix means better flavour and better nutrient value and is an indication that plants have been grown in a healthy soil, with sufficient nutrients and water. The measure is used widely by commercial growers but the equipment needed for testing is costly and is not a viable option for most home growers.
How does incredicrop® work?
This controlled slow-release feed utilises Double Nitrogen Technology to promote vigorous green growth and bumper crops – a single application at planting time will support strong healthy growth for 7+ months. Nitrogen is released in two phases in perfect sync with plant needs, avoiding wastage, which is often a problem with other fertilisers. Part of the nitrogen is stabilised to gradually break down over the first eight weeks to kick-start plants into piling on growth. The second part is released through polymer coated granules that deliver less or more nutrients depending on temperature and moisture levels, again matching plant needs for optimum flowering and cropping. (£12.99 for 750g tub)
Available from www.thompson-morgan.com or call 0844 573 1818
Thompson & Morgan promises best year on the vegetable patch with host of innovative growing concepts for 2016
2016 product developments from the specialists at Thompson & Morgan are paving the way for the easiest ever route to fresh home grown produce this season. Whether you’re short on time, space or knowledge, there’s now an easy solution for you.
Following success with our groundbreaking Tomtato®, a hand grafted plant producing both potatoes and tomatoes, T&M has launched Egg & Chips®, a world first in duo grafting. Gardeners can now grow aubergines and potatoes on the same plant. What’s more the potato ‘root stock’ gives the aubergine part the extra energy needed to crop successfully under UK conditions. You don’t need a greenhouse to grow Egg & Chips®, a large pot on a sunny patio will produce perfect plants. £14.99 for one Egg & Chips®, £19.99 for two.
Egg & Chips®, Tomtato®, and Pea ‘Terrain’
Staying with the grafted concept a new Grafted Summer Vegetable Collection has also been launched for the season, made up of Cucumber ‘Mini Stars’, Pepper Orlas, Tomato ‘Solena Red’ and Tomato ‘Sportivo’, promising to increase yields by up to 75%. Joining a fruiting variety to a more vigorous rootstock has brought massive benefits to commercial crop production. Now T&M customers can bring the goodness of grafted veg to their own pots or plots.
Vegetable Grafted Collection
T&M Vegetable Expert, Colin Randel said: “Some vegetable varieties produce fantastic fruit but are weak growers, others are vigorous growers with poor fruits. We’ve selected the best grafting matches to bring you the best possible results from a single plant. Spend a little extra on our grafted plants and reap the rewards right through the season.” 4 plant collection £19.99.
Changes in EU regulation mean that for the first time in a long time, Thompson & Morgan is now able to offer mixed vegetable seed varieties in the same packet, creating the easiest route to success on the veg patch and the longest harvest, with no need for successional sowing.
The All Season Collections take the hard work out of crop planning. Each is made up of several toptasting and top-performing F1 varieties that can be sown in one hit, but will crop at different times to give a harvest window of up to 36 weeks. The All Season Leek Collection for example, offers a nine month harvest from a single sowing of three trusted varieties – ‘Lincoln‘, ‘Oarsman’ and ‘Below Zero’. The collections have been based around the most popular crops grown by British gardeners, including peas, beans, broccoli, sweet corn and cabbage. The collections are the perfect solution for novice gardeners and those without the time (or skills!) for detailed crop planning at the start of the season.
All Season Leek Collection
Stand out vegetable seed introductions for the season include Pea ‘Terrain’ and Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’. The T&M trials team was stunned at the results of new Pea Terrain in 2015 and are heralding the variety as the most exciting introduction since the launch of existing bestseller Hursts ‘Green Shaft’. Paul Hansord said: “We’ve been truly amazed at the outstanding performance of this powerhouse pea. Yield, pod quality and taste – Pea Terrain couldn’t be beaten in our 2015 trials, but most impressive was the resistance to both downy and powdery mildew. In a field surrounded by a dozen infected varieties, only Terrain stood clean and green, making it the best pea for late harvesting. A final sowing on 31st July lead to a mildew free harvest at the end of October. Plants would have kept going if it had not been for a frost.” 99p for 300 seeds.
Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ and Potato ‘Jazzy’
Similarly, Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ has shown full resistance to all blight strains currently prevailing in the UK, making it the best option for outdoor growing and late cropping. Thompson & Morgan is so impressed with the performance and flavour of the new variety, it is championing Mountain Magic as its Vegetable of the Year for 2016. £3.99 for five seeds or £9.99 for five plug plants.
Trial results and customer feedback for Potato ‘Jazzy’ have been so impressive it now comes with a Double Money Back guarantee if T&M customers fail to produce 35 potatoes or more from a single tuber. This new second early potato can be grown in small 8 litre pots to easily achieve this number, so is a great space saving option. Pricing for ‘Jazzy’ starts at £3.99.
Many of the varieties are available from selected garden centres now. All are available for order at www.thompson-morgan.com
Hobby gardener’s favourite becomes important commercial crop in race for earliest stems.
Couldn’t wait for your home-grown forced rhubarb this winter? Chances are if you relied on the first supermarket produce of the season, you’ve been eating Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’.
This extra early forcing variety was on sale in the wholesale markets from 30th December, beating forced rhubarb from the ‘Golden Triangle’ in West Yorkshire to stores by a full three weeks. Traditionally Golden Triangle rhubarb is the first to market every year.
The area is renowned for early rhubarb production and at its peak in the 1930s produced 90 per cent of the world’s forced winter rhubarb. It seems the region now has some tough competition from Essex growers producing commercial crops of Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’. And home growers could be beating the professionals at their own game too.
Rhubarb ‘Thompson’s Terrifically Tasty’
Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director, Paul Hansord, said: “We’ve sold this top variety to home gardeners for many years, with the promise of the earliest natural harvest. Thick flavoursome stalks are produced in March –a full month ahead of all other varieties. But it now seems you could be enjoying your own fresh stalks with your Christmas leftovers!”
Industry experts agree. Fruit specialist Will Sibley said: “I cannot imagine that there is an earlier variety in commercial production. To bring the season on by a full three weeks, just goes to show the qualities of this top-tasting variety.”
If you are not already growing Thompsons Terrifically Tasty, a favourite with T&M customers, orders are now being taken for spring planting crowns, two for £9.99 or four for £17.99. Visit www.thompson-morgan.com or call 0844 573 1818
Forcing rhubarb for a late December or early January crop is simple. In late November cover crowns with straw and place a forcing pot, large tub or dustbin on top to block out the light. This will initiate out of season stem growth leading to the earliest possible harvest.
So here we are at 1st September, time to survey the successes, failures and lessons learnt this season, with one eye on bigger and better things for 2016 already!
The greenhouse is the most productive it’s ever been. Most of its yield goes straight into my mouth and doesn’t even reach the kitchen! Two out of the three cucumber Mini Fingers (Cucino) hit the ground running this year, one plug failing due to stem rot early on. Growing in minimal space in a couple of old council food recycling bins, their vines are stretching around the eves of the greenhouse to about 7ft. During hot spells they were producing one fruit per day, with dozens of small fruits forming along the stems. As the days have cooled they have slowed in their tracks: I have pinched off any yellowing ones to allow the plants to concentrate their energies into the more robust ones. With no sign of mildew on the leaves I am continuing to feed and water the plants in the hope of an Indian Summer to boost their final production. I made a delicious chilled avocado & cucumber soup, with fennel and green chilli peppers from our garden, so I hope we haven’t had the last of them.
I wanted to compare the merits of cordon tomatoes with bush varieties, so I chose my favourite cherry tomatoes: Sungold as cordon, versus Losetto as bush, three of each. Having fed and watered them regularly, I finally defoliated and topped them off end August, so they could concentrate on ripening their existing trusses. Sungold has three trusses per cordon, each with about 18 fruits. Although slow to ripen, they are catching up now, their fruits as sweet as ever. Losetto is disappointing, the bush method too sprawling for the confines of a small greenhouse, producing a low yield of about two small trusses per plant, reluctant to ripen & not nearly as sweet. Neither type however suffered from splitting or blossom end rot all fruits being firm and equal in size. From now on I shall stick to cordons but use the space to grow more varieties.
Sweet peppers and chillies are starting to produce in earnest. David is a chilli fiend and is enjoying Demon Red and the pretty multi-coloured basket variety Loco, both ready to harvest earlier than their larger cousins. I prefer sweet peppers and purple Tequila doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty of flowers and small fruits developing so it looks like I shall have to bring them into our sunroom for some more heat and better light levels, and with such a selection of rainbow colours they are so decorative. I just hope that cats don’t try them!
Courgette Defender, whilst always prolific on the allotment, has been a dead loss in its 12” pot in the greenhouse! After one or two fruits, it succumbed to mildew and only produced male flowers, so I composted it. Although it flowered, the aubergine did not set fruit – weather too dull and summer too short.
On the allotment Climbing bean Colourful Collection sulked at first, refusing to grow until early August, producing meagre but healthy plants. They have produced about 4 portions worth of beans, the green being the most prolific, followed by yellow & purple in equal measure. I would grow them again though as they tasted delicious!
Because I can’t bear to pick blooms from our garden for the vase, I created a flower patch on the allotment specifically for cutting. This summer I transplanted some four year old Thompson & Morgan dahlias from our front garden to join the tree lilies and now have no qualms about cutting them for the vase. But as I do not intend to lift them overwinter they will have to take their chances.
So all-in-all it’s been a modest but delicious harvest which has proved to me that I should concentrate on growing crops that we actually like to eat in future!