Do we need GM? You would say not if you had seen these uncomfortable and grossly fat pumpkins oozing over their pallet at the Giant Vegetable Show at the Bath & West showground in early September. 27 year old Mark Baggs from Wareham broke the record for the heaviest pumpkin by 552 lbs. Marshalls Seeds, show sponsors, had offered £1 per lb for the pumpkin that set a new show record. Mark wasn’t going to enter the show, but when he heard of Marshall’s offer, he got growing.
He has ad-lib access to dung on his dairy farm, and grew his pumpkin in a polytunnel. It took 87 days from flower to 1,210 lb pumpkin. His pumpkin surprised Marshalls Seeds not a little, as he won £1,210 plus the show prize of £100. The weather must have helped, as 3 pumpkins broke the previous record this year.
The show is a little early for world records – the later shows often see heavier pumpkins, and the climate in parts of America is so much better than ours, not to mention their lavish sponsorship and prize money. They always hold the world record, which currently seems to be 1,725 lbs, for which Christy Hart won $10,350 at $6 per lb as well as nearly $20,000 prize money. Remarkably Christy’s husband also grew a 1,081 lb pumpkin in the same garden. Quite a pair! They say they use no fertilisers, only compost and water, which is a good lesson to us amateur gardeners.
In spite of this, our Somerset show attracts fantastic growing feats. Peter Glazebrook from near Newark on Trent, won 12 prizes, and broke the world record for heaviest potato at 8lb 4oz. He received an un-staggering £60. And a special prize certificate from the editor of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Peter entered 18 ‘long’ and 5 ‘heavy’ classes, and won more prizes than anyone else. His onion was grown on a pedestal in a polytunnel, bathed in light, and with a fan blowing on it to stop it getting too hot in the summer. He covers his marrows with muslin, as too much sunshine can make the skin split. His 21 foot beetroot grew in a pipe leaning against his barn and broke the world record.
Joe Atherton grew his record breaking 19 feet 1.96 inch long carrot last year. He sowed it 14 months earlier in two pieces of 21 foot guttering taped together and filled with Levingtons F25 compost. He keeps them in his greenhouse over the winter at a tilt and under duvets. Watering holes in the gutter allow him to keep the compost moist all the way down, and seed heads are picked off. Extracting and washing the carrot is his wife’s nervous job, and getting it to the show on his trailer without breaking it is always a nervous journey.
They all spend many patient hours unwrapping their roots and gently washing them, followed by a nervous drive down the motorway hoping their fragile roots won’t crack. An extreme sport indeed, and very good fun for us.