Growing a giant pumpkin
Last summer was my first ever attempt to grown a giant pumpkin. It was filmed for Gardeners' World and not only did the production team set me the challenge of growing one for TV, it had to be big enough to enter the Southampton Pumpkin Festival, held at Royal Victoria Country Park every September.
Boosted by my not entirely shameful 7th place - with the Award for Prettiest Pumpkin and a weight of 18 and a half stone! This year I am having another go.
You can't just grow any old pumpkin seed and grab a winning rosette. It has to be the progeny of a champion to stand a chance against the weighty competition.
I got mine from two veteran pumpkin growers, the same guys who supplied GW last year. It's called Patten10 - you can find similar on the internet but you need to sow it in early April and have the first fruit set between the fifth and nineteenth of July to stand a chance of getting a prize-winning whopper.
It also involves counting leaves - you need 100 before you allow any fruit to grow, so the plant is big enough to sustain the hungry fruit while it swells.
When my pumpkin fruit had just set
The idea is that every bit of energy gleaned from the soil and sunshine is channelled into the one gourd. It's amazing how fast it grows - I reckon 5-10% of its own size a day.
When it's small it's barely perceptible, but now I can actually see the difference between the morning and afternoon. Apparently 24llb in a day is possible. According to my wife, it's like that in the last week of pregnancy but I wouldn't know.
I originally decided to grow a giant pumpkin thinking it would bring with it, monster green manure to help bring the soil back to life and raise the humidity in an old Victorian greenhouse that I am renting. The problem is the growth is so remarkable, that I've found myself being drawn into the geeky super size world of giant veg. I really want the best for the plant. I worry about someone stealing it, or worse graffiting their name on its side.
Really, it's not about the competition (though I have a few wagers around the place) this swollen yellow ball has taken on a life and character of its own. A GW director friend came down recently and looked decidedly perplexed by my enthusiasm and my wife says I am spending too much work time caring for 'that blimming pumpkin'.
However, I am confident I am achieving the ideal pumpkin-life balance mix. I'm just trying help it reach its full potential. It's not like I'm obsessed, or anthropomorphising it or anything. Anyway, she now has her own twitter account PriscillaPumpk1 and should you want to get in touch, I can tell you she is a fine conversationalist. Quite witty!
Next time... the secrets of feeding watering and pruning.
Toby Buckland is a garden writer and broadcaster.