THIS monster pumpkin grown by Lymington twins Ian and Stuart Paton will be displayed in London’s Covent Garden throughout October after being officially recognised as the UK’s biggest squash of the year.
The supersized fruit, which tipped the scales at 2,183lb – or 156 stone – fell short of smashing the current UK record, which is held by the pair for their 2,433lb effort which they grew last year.
It was officially weighed on Saturday at the Autumn Pumpkin Festival held at Victoria Country Park near Southampton, and is now destined for a Halloween display at Covent Garden featuring a specially made carriage.
Ian (58) said: “Although we didn’t quite manage to beat our 2018 record – it was the biggest pumpkin grown in the UK this year by a mile. Two other pumpkins we grew this year weighed in at just under 2,000lbs and just under 1,600lbs at competitions in Holland and Spain.
“That put us sixth in this year’s worldwide Grower of the Year competition – which is a competition for the combined weight of the three largest pumpkins which have to be weighed at three different shows.”
The gigantic squash, which is the sixth biggest in the world this year, was cultivated in greenhouses at the family-run Pinetops Nursery in Efford, near Lymington, where Ian and Stuart spent around four hours a day and up to 150 gallons of water tending to it and a crop of several others. At their peak the pumpkins can pile on more than 50lb every 24 hours.
Ian said: “We started growing pumpkins over 40 years ago, when our biggest weighed 54lb, and it is absolutely incredible to think that the pumpkins we grow now can gain around that in weight each day.”
Ian and Stuart plant seeds from previous supersized pumpkins every April to grow a crop of six plants, which are then used to grow one pumpkin each.
The plants are pollinated in mid-June and it then takes around 110 days for the pumpkins to reach their maximum size.
Ian said: “The seeds can be quite variable, if you look at siblings from the same family you can get some short and some tall and it’s the same with pumpkins, you never quite know what you will get.”
“We always grow six plants but we will inevitably lose one or two along the way. Although we did not beat our record from last year we are definitely right up there with the top growers in the world.
“In the last four years we have come third, then second, then third and finally sixth in the Grower of the Year competition – and no one else in the world has been that consistently successful.”
Super squash growing is a time-consuming hobby, with the twins set to attend the international pumpkin grower’s convention in Las Vegas next February before the hard work begins again in April.
Ian said: “Pumpkin growing is one of the friendliest activities in the world – it’s very, very difficult so we are always helping other growers with tips and advice.
“It is important for us to help the next generation of growers coming forward, because that is how the records keep being broken. If it becomes impossible, people will lose interest.”
And the Patons have a big ambition: “We know that a pumpkin will be grown that will top the 3,000lb mark,” said Ian, “it is just a matter of time.”
They are also working on a plan to take their biggest pumpkin to the USA next autumn, which would involve flying it to Canada and then transporting it by road to California. Ian said: “Logistically it will take a bit of planning but it is doable.”
The twins have been growing pumpkins competitively for more than 20 years and have made no secret of their plan to take the world record for the largest ever pumpkin.
This currently stands at 187.5 stone – or 2,624lb – for a pumpkin grown by Belgian Mathias Willemijns in 2016.
Ian said: “We have been runners-up so many times that we know our time will come. It might not have been this year but we are determined to keep going until we do.”