Giant pumpkins definitely grab the headlines and the attention of social media but growing them can be very costly and requires a considerable amount of space.
Other giant vegetables can be much more practical to grow in either a standard garden green house or in small vegetable bed at home or on the allotment. These provide all the interest, challenges and frustrations of growing ‘a big ‘un’ but without anything like the resources needed for big pumpkins.
If you have been down to the plot today… you might have caught Clive administering to his big potato plant. Whilst we will never know everything that went on, I can tell you that the original potato from which the plant was grown has been removed and discarded.
This technique might be well known in the large potato growing community but it was news to me!
Plant out your shallots in pots in December by sitting the shallot on top of a pot of compost but do not cover.
Place the pots in a green house or cold frame. The shallots will start to quickly form roots and grow shoots. Towards the end of March plant out the shallots in the ground.
When the tops start to die back, pull up the shallots and shake off the soil. Dry them off on a mesh or on the bench where there is good airflow.
The first job when preparing your shallots for show is to read the show schedule carefully as there may be two or three different classes and you MUST comply with any stipulated criteria such as fitting through an inch ring etc.
When preparing the shallot. Have a good look that they are all the same size with no damage. Clean off all loose skin preferably 2 or 3 days before the show and tie the neck of each shallot with raffia or string. Place the shallots in sun light to dry the skins; a nice nut brown colour is what the judges want to see.
The shallots should be ‘shown’ on a dish filled with dry sand with them displayed at an even distance apart. As a guide, judging shallots is often assessed from a maximum 18 points: 7 points for the condition and size, 4 points for shape, 2 points for the colour and 5 points for the uniformity of your selected shallots.
For once, the variety of shallot Clive favours isn’t a secret, it is just not known. His prize winning shallots were sourced from a friend who’s father had originally brought them back from France after WWII.
This is not a definitive guide to growing a giant potato as competitive growers are, quite rightly, very secretive about the exact tricks and techniques they employ which are often based on years of trial and error.
What is on offer here is a ‘helping hand’ from Clive who has described and pictured the tools employed so that you can at least have a go and be in with a chance but you must expect to fill in some of the gaps yourself!
Take a large plastic barrel which are often easily obtained from local sources or from ebay sellers although postage can be expensive.
Cut out a panel along the length of the barrel and drill a few drain holes though the barrel on the opposite side to the panel.
Cut out a window of approx 8″ x 10″ from the panel
Select a potato; consider a variety used as a baking potato and blight resistant.
Start your selected potato off around February – March in a 5 litre pot with the bottom cut out. Turn the pot upside down and fill with compost and sit the potato on top. Do not overwater or your seed potato will rot.
Half fill the barrel with good quality compost mixed with your chosen fertiliser and replace the access panel. Once the seed potato is growing, place the contents of the chitting pot into the barrel, fill up the remainder of the barrel and replace the access panel.
Remove the panel to access your giant potato in time for your allotment competition or horticultural show.
Weigh your potato and hopefully collect your prize!
The most common question asked when starting out growing Giant Vegetables is ‘When should I plant…” Clive has provided the following guidance:
Starting times for growing giant vegetables.
1. Beetroot. Feb – March
2. Cabbage. Nov – Jan
3. Carrots. Dec – March
4. Celery. Dec – March
5. Cucumbers. June
6. Marrow. Late May
7. Melon. Late May
8. Onions. November – Jan
9. Pumpkins. April – May
10. Parsnips. Jan – March
11. Radish. May – June
12. Runner Beans. May – June
13. Swede. Jan – March
14. Tomatoes. May – June
15. Sunflower. May – June
16. Watermelon. March – May