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David Whiteley: Growing giant pumpkins

PUBLISHED: 10:18 26 July 2016 | UPDATED: 10:18 26 July 2016

Growing pains

Growing pains

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BBC presenter and director David Whiteley shares his insightful view on stories from across the county of Essex. This time, he tries his hand at growing a giant pumpkin!

Somewhere, right now, in a glorious corner of Essex, a pumpkin is growing. And this isn’t just any pumpkin. Oh no. In fact this could be the biggest pumpkin EVER grown!

Let me explain. You may remember, I eluded to this in my Essex Life column a couple of months ago. Well, the time has come to fill you in on this record-breaking attempt.

As the presenter and series director of Inside Out, I do find myself seeing all kinds of things. From one extreme to another. I’d go so far as to say, there’s not another programme like it on TV – I guess that’s why it does so well. It focuses on the places we live and the people that live here. Just like this magazine does, you might say. Anyway, I digress. So, we do insightful investigations, features on our fabulous history and then things like this – growing giant pumpkins.

A few months ago, one of my producers said to me. ‘How do you feel about growing a giant pumpkin?’ I stared at him. Tilted my head a little and stared some more. ‘You’re not kidding are you?’ I said. He was not. ‘It would make a great film!’ His reply came back, far more enthusiastically than my initial reaction to the notion.

Now, it’s not that I didn’t want to. No. It’s just I am useless at growing anything! And I hate gardening too. I mean really hate it. But, as the presenter of the programme, I’ve done all kinds of things, so how hard can it be? Growing a pumpkin? Easy, surely? Wrong!

A seed company, based in Suffolk, has bought a seed from the world record-holding giant pumpkin. Grown in Switzerland in 2014, it weighed 2,300 pounds! So, they want to see if this giant pumpkin can be replicated. In fact more than that, beaten!

We’re filming all of this for the next series. The green-fingered expert chosen for the challenge is a chap called Matt. Now Matt just happens to live at Hyde Hall, near Chelmsford. He works for the Royal Horticultural Society and is a very nice bloke. And he’s done this kind of thing before. He’s grown whopping great pumpkins. Massive things! The seed, which cost more than £1,000, is in good hands.

But what about my pumpkin you ask? Indeed. What about it?

Well, they gave me a seed, not from the world record holder, but the UK record holder, so still pretty impressive and hopefully with the DNA required to do the business.

Except it didn’t. Not a thing. Not a shoot. I watered it — a lot. I had it out in the sunshine – a lot. But after a few weeks, there was still no pump in my pumpkin. In fact, the seed had done absolutely nothing.

My producer, undeterred by the lack of pumpkin growth, got the RHS to send me a pumpkin plant. So, a bit of a cheat really, but we will fess up on telly, I promise. Well, I’ve told you now anyway.

It sits in our garden, getting slightly bigger every day. Nevertheless, I can only imagine just how my mate Matt is getting on with his in the fertile soil of Hyde Hall!

There’s a weigh-in for these monster pumpkins in the autumn. This will be the moment of truth for Matt. Will he have the new world record?

For me, this will be the moment of almost guaranteed humiliation. Will it be big enough to carve a Halloween face? Or even enough for a bowl of soup? I’m just glad they didn’t spend a thousand pounds on buying my pumpkin seed. That would be a very expensive bowl of soup!

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