A pumpkin seed purchased for £1,250 is now in the tender loving care of Matthew Oliver, a horticulturist at RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex, and the challenge is now on for him to grow a world-record-breaking pumpkin.
The seed was purchased in February at auction by Thompson & Morgan Horticultural Director Paul Hansord. Although the price paid for this single pumpkin seed surpassed all previous records, the chance to own a this incredible seed was too good an opportunity for Paul to miss.
With the UK home to some of the most passionate pumpkin growers, Paul threw down the gauntlet to vegetable growers to take on the challenge of growing a giant specimen from the world’s most expensive pumpkin seed. Of the applicants that applied, Paul knew straight away that Matthew was the right person for the task. Paul said: “Matthew’s enthusiasm and devotion for pumpkins was evident, and he was absolutely thrilled when I delivered the news that the seed was his.”
Matthew said: “The pressure to deliver is massive. I’m not sure whether it was a brave or stupid idea to take on this challenge, but I’ll give it my best shot. Let’s just say that my holiday plans will be on hold until after the October weigh-in, so that I can dedicate the time and effort required.”
Growing for gold
Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticulturist, said: “The best advice I can give to Matthew is to make sure that the one and only seed germinates. Pumpkin seeds are rich in oils and respire very fast so they need plenty of air. Use an open seed mix and avoid any hint of sogginess. The RHS-approved, peat-free Sylvagrow is the best seed-raising medium I have found. Keeping it at 18–25°C is best. Getting off to a flying start is vital. I suggest watering in with a starter fertiliser when planting out, and covering with fleece or a cloche until it gets too big. Good luck.”
The pumpkin seed comes with in-built genetics from the world’s current record holding pumpkin grower, Beni Meir from Switzerland, whose specimen weighed in at a whopping 1,054 kg (2,323 lb). However, we will have to wait until 8 October 2016 to see if Matthew’s pumpkin is a prizewinner, when it will be taken to the UK’s official weigh-in at the Autumn Pumpkin Festival at Netley Park, Southampton.
Matthew won’t be alone in his endeavours this season. Thompson & Morgan was so impressed with the enthusiasm of those pitching for the seed, that is has called favours with other giant pumpkin growers to source more seeds for five ‘runners up’. The pressure is on, but we look forward to seeing the fruits of their labour at the autumn festival.
Updates on Matthew's attempt will be posted on the RHS Garden Hyde Hall Twitter and Facebook pages.