Gardeners get pumpkin call

LOCAL gardeners are being challenged to grow the biggest pumpkins ever seen in the district in aid of charity.

Sunday, 25th March 2012, 3:00 pm

Leighton Buzzard Garden Centre is planning a giant pumpkin festival in October and is calling on vegetable growers in the town and nearby villages to take part in a prize-winning competition.

The goal is to produce a breath-taking display of monster-sized fruits, hopefully anything up to the size of an armchair and weighing as much as a man.

Whoever grows the heaviest giant will win a cash prize, trophy and the title of Pumpkin Champion 2012, presented by the town mayor in a polytunnel full of incredible pumpkins on Saturday, October 13.

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Local schools are also being invited to join in a creative contest to fill the rest of the garden centre’s polytunnel with a grand spectacle of carved, dressed and artistically-decorated pumpkins.

The family-run business in Hockliffe Road is aiming to have a large number of amazing pumpkins on public display and wants hundreds of visitors to come along on the day to see them.

Both sections of the event - the giant pumpkin challenge and the schools’ best dressed, carved or decorated pumpkins - will have a chance of winning cash prizes, trophies, rosettes and certificates.

But the main object is that it should be an enjoyable and exciting occasion, so everybody is urged to bring their pumpkins to the garden centre early on the Saturday morning, even if they think they aren’t likely to be winners.

As an encouragement to get started, the garden centre is giving away free pumpkin seeds to all customers who would like them during the next few weeks. The rest is up to your growing skills and enthusiasm...but pumpkins have been grown in this country weighing more than 150lbs, and the world champion, in north America, weighed a staggering 1,818lbs!

More details about both competitions and the festival day will be released soon, but the first job is to collect your free seeds and get the plants started in frost-free warmth. Allow plenty of space when you plant them out in the garden in late May.

The event will be staged in aid of the All Saints Preservation Trust. The charity is working to raise about £500,000 to complete the restoration of Leighton’s All Saints’ Church and prevent it collapsing. The 700-year-old church is a grade 1 listed architectural gem and the town’s oldest and most historical building.

“We’re hoping for a huge entry”, said garden centre boss Martin Hammond. “We want it to be a real community day and it’s the taking part that matters.”