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
We were alerted last week by a customer on Twitter who remarked on the impressive sight of Thompson & Morgan’s begonia pots at Ipswich station. We quickly despatched T&M’s intrepid photographer, Helen Freeman, to capture proof that these fabulous plants were indeed still flowering on the platforms four months after planting!
T&M begonias still blooming on Friday 29th September, four months after planting
And here’s the proof! The plants were indeed still going strong on both sides of the London to Norwich line.
Back in June, we donated pots of beautiful begonias for a joint project with Ipswich-based ActivLives charity who undertook the planting up of the pots which were then positioned on the platforms of Ipswich station.
Volunteers and young learners from charity ActivLives created 26 summer pots, filled with begonias supplied by Thompson & Morgan. The pots have brightened up the platforms of Ipswich station on the Norwich to London mainline since June, and staff at the station say that customer feedback has been plentiful and positive.
ActivGardens brings people together in an active and healthy way, creating change to improve the vitality of local communities. Susannah Robirosa, ActivLives’ Development Manager said:
“I’m delighted ActivLives has been able to collaborate with Thompson & Morgan in this way to brighten up the town for the benefit of residents and visitors.”
According to Thompson & Morgan’s head of sales, Victoria Ager, Begonia ‘Whopper’ is a firm favourite with T&M customers – so it was the obvious first choice of the company’s many flowering plants to dress up the station.
Jackie Rathbone, Greater Anglia’s Assistant Customer Service Manager, said:
“We are delighted to be involved in this project and working with ActivLives and Thompson & Morgan once again. We are very impressed with the hard work of the volunteers of all ages and abilities involved.”
No garden? No allotment? No problem. You can grow plenty of vegetable varieties in containers. Follow our 4 steps to successful vegetable gardening in containers.
As our so-called spring gets under way, we’re noticing that one of this season’s hot trends is growing vegetables in containers. Like many other aspects of our lives, this is all about maximising time, space and effort. Well aware of the health benefits, many of us are keen to grow our own vegetables, but are time poor, so we’re looking at ways to make things easier. Lots of people don’t have a huge garden or allotment, so growing in containers, whether flowers or vegetables, seems to be the way forward.
Here’s some advice on how to get the most out of your container vegetable patch so that you can enjoy that ‘fresh-from-the-garden’ taste even if you only have a small patio, balcony or roof terrace. Use these tips as your next step to fresh and delicious – and convenient – vegetables
1. Soil – Starting your seeds and plants in good soil is really important. If you’re using containers and pots that you used last year, remember that it’s fine to reuse the soil as long as you give it a bit of a boost of nutrients with compost and fertiliser. You should try to avoid growing plants from the same family in the same soil as last year – it’s the same theory as the crop rotation principles that farmers work to. If you’re just starting your container veg growing experience this season, then you can’t go wrong with our incredicompost® which has been independently trialled and verified as the best overall compost for raising seeds and young plants. Using this, along with our incredicrop® fertiliser, will go a long way to giving your vegetable plants the growing environment they need to produce really good crops of tasty and nutritional vegetables.
2. Sun – It’s important to consider how much sun your patio/balcony/roof terrace gets when choosing which vegetables to grow in containers. Plants that you will pick fruit from, such as tomatoes, need a good dose of sunshine – 6 to 8 hours a day – whilst vegetables that you pull out of the ground need approx. 4-6 hours. Leafy greens can manage on just 3 to 4 hours. Don’t panic if your outdoor space isn’t graced with non-stop sunshine – plenty of edible crops will thrive in partial sun and you’ll still get a good crop. Just be mindful of keeping your plants watered and fed, especially if they ARE in full sun.
3. Size – It’s worth considering the size of your container when you come to sowing your vegetable seeds and planting your vegetable plants. Think about it – for some plants, you’ll need deeper pots, planters or tubs – it’s not rocket science. As a guide, for shallow-rooted vegetables, such as radishes, lettuce and other leafy vegetables, and herbs, you’ll need about 20-30cm (9-12in) of depth in your container. For medium-rooted plants, you’ll need 30-35cm (12-14in) depth and for larger plants, such as tomatoes and potatoes, you’ll need 40-45cm (16-18in) depth. Of course, there are many options when it comes to buying containers for growing vegetables – there’s a huge choice of patio planting bags which have the benefit of being easy to move and position, as well as being reusable, and they’re easy to fold down and store when you don’t need them. Have a look at our brilliant VegTrugs™ which are just perfect for growing vegetables in!
4. Selection – Most edible vegetable plants can be grown in containers, but these days there are many varieties which have been especially developed to grow in pots and containers. These varieties will be more compact – meaning that they won’t get too big – and easier to harvest. See below for some of our container variety suggestions.
Start your shopping list here:
TomTato® – amazing variety from Thompson & Morgan’s own breeding – tomatoes and potatoes on the same plant!
Egg & Chips® – aubergines and potatoes on the same plant! More brilliant breeding from T&M!
Courgette ‘Black Forest’ – this unique climbing courgette is a great space-saving container variety
Tomato ‘Bajaja’ (tomato seeds) – great tomato variety for growing in containers and it doesn’t require side-shooting. Try Tomato ‘Balconi Yellow’ if you prefer your tomatoes yellow – this variety makes a lovely colourful feature on the patio or balcony – and the tomatoes are very sweet and tasty too.
For another decorative and productive vegetable plant, go for the superb dwarf Runner Bean ‘Hestia’ or another dwarf bean, French Bean ‘Mascotte’.
Other varieties for container cultivation are radish, carrots, beetroot and salad leaves. And of course, many potato varieties can be very successfully grown in containers or potato growing bags
With the launch of the new Oxford Hanley range of pots on our website, we thought we’d share our 6 secrets to successful container gardening with you.
Pots and planters are often a great choice for those who perhaps haven’t got a large garden, or for gardeners who like to keep their plants closer to home where they can enjoy them, on a patio or decking area.
Gardening in pots has lots of benefits – no real digging is required; large containers mean less bending and kneeling and they add mobility to your floral displays – but there are a few pitfalls that can make things tricky.
Here are 6 secrets to getting the best out of your pots and planters.
- The first secret to container gardening is to make sure that you use fresh soil or compost in your pots and planters. If you’re planting up one of last year’s containers, just have a think about how long you’ve been growing plants in it because after a year or so of use, the soil or compost will be pretty much depleted of the nutrients that are essential to keeping your plants strong and healthy. Try our incredicompost® which has been independently trialled and verified as the best overall compost for sowing seeds and raising young plants. We also won silver in the 2016 Grow Your Own magazine’s annual Great British Growing Awards in the category Most Effective Composting Product for our incredicompost® – so you can be sure it’s the best start for your plants!
- The next secret is to make sure that the pots and containers that you’re using are clean inside. What might look like harmless traces of last year’s soil could harbour harmful diseases and pests that could adversely affect your plants’ health. You can wash out your pots with a mild dishwashing detergent – but not one containing bleach or any herbal essences – and then let them air dry. Have a look at our wide range of pots and planters – from the contemporary style of the Oxford Hanley range to the more traditional Wenlock planters or the elegant Bee Hive Planters – we’ve got a huge choice to offer you.
- Be sure to choose a pot or planter that will be big enough for your plants once they reach maturity. All too often we pot up plants in containers that will be outgrown in no time at all which creates problems for the roots and the plant becomes pot-bound. You’ll notice that we offer a number of pot ranges which include pots of various sizes – Oxford Hanley and our Antique planters both have a number of sizes to choose from, so you should be able to find the right size container for each plant.
- Talking of plants getting pot bound brings us on to our 4th point: if you’re potting on a plant or relocating a plant that you’d prefer in another site, it may well be verging on pot bound if it isn’t already. If this is the case, be sure to ‘prune’ back the root system before planting it up again. To prune the roots, think of them like the branches of any plant and simply thin them out. This will give your plant the best chance when it comes to settling into its new location. Use our handy snips to gently trim the roots before repotting.
- Once you’ve planted your chosen plants into pots, planters or containers, you’ll need to fill them up with loose soil or compost. People often think that once the plant is in the container that the soil should then be really pressed down firmly around the plant stem. In fact, it’s better to leave the soil or compost quite ‘loose’ and then to water gently, but thoroughly, just until the water drains from the bottom of the container. This helps the soil to bed in nicely around the roots whilst leaving the top soil loose enough to not constrict the growth of your plant.
- Allowing for good air circulation and drainage is key to success in container gardening. We recommend perching your pots and other containers on bricks or blocks and not to use trays or saucers unless you are going to be away for a few days. Unless you’re going away for the weekend, it’s best not to leave your plants standing in water – plants will ‘suffocate’ if they stand in water for too long. The ideal solution is to invest in some self-watering patio pots.
These are just perfect for gardeners who sometimes like to get away for the weekend, but who want to keep their plants watered. They’re also a great idea for lazy or forgetful gardeners who don’t always water their plants as much as they should! They have a nifty wick which delivers just the water that the plant needs from the built-in reservoir.
So there you have it! Some top tips for container gardening success this summer. We’d love to see how you get on, so why not send us a photo of your favourite colourful container? Send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on our Facebook page – use #shareyourgarden. We look forward to seeing your gardening endeavours! Don’t forget! If we use one of your photos in our catalogue or on our website, you’ll be rewarded with Thompson & Morgan vouchers!
Look here for more information and advice on growing plants in containers.
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.