Stuart and Ian Paton with their record-breaking pumpkin
At this weekend’s Autumn Pumpkin Festival in Netley, Southampton, sponsored by Thompson & Morgan, no less than four British records were broken.
Stuart and Ian Paton broke the record that they set in 2016 for the heaviest pumpkin to be grown in the UK. Weighing in at 2269lbs or 162 stone, the pumpkin beat last year’s entry by just 15lbs.
Ian Paton said that producing a giant pumpkin is no mean feat. He and his brother Stuart spend on average 3 hours a day tending to their pumpkin patch, often using 100 gallons of water to keep the pumpkins irrigated.
Paul Hansord of Thompson & Morgan said:
“We’ve been sponsoring the Autumn Pumpkin Festival event in Southampton for many years and it’s always exciting when a record is beaten, so this year we’re thrilled to see four records broken.”
Matthew Oliver of RHS Hyde Hall, Chelmsford beat the record for the heaviest outdoor-grown pumpkin with a 1498.4lbs whopper. In 2016, Matthew famously hollowed out his giant pumpkin – which had weighed in at 1333.8lb – and rowed it across a lake at his RHS garden base in Essex.
Other UK record breakers at the weekend weigh-in were Steve Bridges, who took the prize for the heaviest UK-grown squash (457.3lb) and David Maund with his 176.5lb field pumpkin.
The last few weeks leading up to the weigh-in have been tense for the 53 year old twins from Lymington in Hampshire, whose names are now synonymous with giant pumpkins. The risk of the pumpkin splitting and thereby being disqualified from the competition is high when it’s putting on up to 60lbs a day!
Fancy trying your hand at growing a record-breaking pumpkin, click here to buy seeds from the Paton twins’ previously grown giant pumpkins. Don’t forget to send us photos of your pumpkins as they grow.
To learn more about growing pumpkins, watch our videos here
Giant pumpkins are the order of the day!
Recently, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk to Ian Paton about his success at growing record-winning pumpkins. Last year Ian and his twin brother Stuart broke the UK record for the heaviest pumpkin grown indoors, which weighed in at a whopping 2252lbs (160.9 stone, or 1,021kg)! This year they are hoping to do even better.
The process started back in April when a dozen specially selected seeds were planted, around the time of Thompson & Morgan’s nominated National Pumpkin Sowing Day. The best 6 plants were then selected and whisked away to the ‘PRD’ (Pumpkin Research & Development) where they start their journey to potential enormity.
Ian’s growing a giant!
Each plant is trimmed and trained in much the same way you would expect a tomato plant to be grown initially, except that every leaf nodule is placed over a pot of compost, and encouraged to produce a new root to help feed the plant.
Pollination takes place in June. The fruit is set and the race begins in earnest. Each plant, sporting 900 plus leaves, each with its own root, starts to feed the newly formed pumpkin.
“There are one hundred and ten days in the growing season, so everything has to be perfect for the pumpkin”
At the peak of the growing period, 100 gallons of water go into the plant and the pumpkin puts on 58lbs in weight PER DAY – that’s the equivalent of a bag of cement each day!
*Fun Fact – The Paton brothers’ first pumpkin, grown when they were 12 years old, weighed 57lbs!*
As the pumpkin growing season slows down, its water intake reduces by about a quarter. However, at this vital stage it is essential that the plant NEVER dries out. A dry pumpkin can split when watered – resulting in disaster and tears!
Each pumpkin is grown on a large bed of sand, which allows the pumpkin to slide easily as it grows. A bow wave appears around each giant fruit as it pushes sand ahead of it, making it look like it’s ‘surfing’ in very slow motion!
The all-important weigh-in
As the weigh-in day approaches, Ian and Stuart send pumpkins abroad to take part in the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. Recently a pumpkin weighing an estimated 1950lb was sent to Holland; another, at approximately 2000lbs, is en route to France. The biggest however, is kept for the local weigh-in, held in Hampshire!
Transporting these giant fruit is no easy task, though, and comes with risks. As Stuart told me:
“We were devastated that the pumpkin split on its journey to Holland, classing it as ‘damaged’ ”
The Paton brothers have high hopes for this year’s contender. It was grown from a seed from the world record giant pumpkin, grown by Mathias Willemijns last year and weighing in at 2624.6lbs. The pumpkin that Ian and Stuart are growing currently has some impressive stats, measuring an incredible 486 inches in circumference – that’s about the same as the length of a double decker bus – and is only 9 inches short of its record breaking pumpkin parent! Although Ian remains modest about the final weight, he feels confident that it may well beat their personal best – so another record breaker perhaps!
The giant pumpkin weigh-in is on Saturday 14th October at the Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin Festival, at the Royal Victoria Country Park in Southampton.
Do you want to try to grow a prize-winning pumpkin? Check out our giant pumpkin guide here, and try your hand with some Wallace’s Whoppers If you’ve already got yours going, share some of your pictures on our Facebook page – we love to see what you grow.
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.
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
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.”
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.