Move over James and the
Giant Peach and Jack and the Beanstalk. Meet Molly and the Monster Marrow. Or ‘marra’, as they say in these parts.
This is just one of the jolly green giants belonging to the Layton Permanent Allotments Association.
Growing it is one thing. Moving it quite another.
But Molly Walker, five, is tempted to fit it with wheels and roll it to Blackpool Produce Show, due to be held at Baguleys Garden Centre, Midgeland Road, Marton, this weekend – the first time the show has been held since the 1980s.
Last year a giant pumpkin stole the show here at the allotments. It weighed 450lb. They had to call out the local fire brigade to shift it and it took eight men to lift it.
It was gifted to Donna’s Dream House and carved up into a giant Halloween mask, turned into tureens of pumpkin soup and raised £500 in donations for the charity.
You only have to look at the discards in the compost to figure out growers are giants in local allotment ranks.
Some of the cast-offs would turn heads at the supermarket – so have they lost the plot here? Or just got too big for their boots?
Take that pumpkin lurking in one greenhouse. It’s bright yellow, around 54in circumference (Molly helps measure it) and built like something the thing that chased Number Six across the sands in cult TV show The Prisoner years ago.
Yet even that’s not in the same league as last year’s humongous pumpkin, say growers in the know.
Could it steal the show at the resurrected produce contest this weekend?
Only if they can get it there without rolling over toes.
Keen grower Adam Mather, 15 next week, admits that when he took his (rather smaller) pumpkin to Montgomery High School for a show and tell session, three people had to help the teacher who offered to carry it into class single handed.
Fellow pupils more used to buying their fruit and veg at a supermarket had seen nothing like it before.
Adam’s picked up the nurture-nature ethos from his gran Gail Blackburn who took on their allotment nine years ago. It was scrubland back then. Now it has mature fruit trees, apples, pears, plums, cherries – although his sister Gabrielle’s pride and joy cherry tree succumbed to honey fungus this year. Gabrielle, 11, has been coming here since she was two. She and Adam spend most of their summer holidays on the allotment.
Adam’s using it as a form of work experience – he’s off to the zoo next on a project there too. He’s installed a pond at his gran’s plot and hopes to attract newts. Frogs are already back with a vengeance.
“This has been our summer holiday,” says Gail. It’s how she switches off from pressures in life. It’s a way of life for her grandchildren. They picnic here, have barbecues here, grow their own stuff undercover in poly tunnels and outside in the open. They observe the changing seasons, know the fruit and veg which accompany such and know their onions...and just about everything else.
The only chore at which they baulk is spraying the crops with comfrey and nettle tea which stinks to high heaven. “They can cope with manure but not that,” adds Gail.
Gabrielle loves potatoes best of all. Gran lost her crop to wet weather last year but has a bumper crop of Charlotte salad spuds this season. Gabrielle also likes butternut squash, sprouts (really), sweetcorn and onion. Adam likes broccoli best, followed by spuds, sweetcorn, leeks and cabbage.
Meanwhile, newcomer Peter Eccles has just taken on the ultimate challenge – a clay packed plot which has defeated two previous tenants.
Peter has a secret weapon, his nine-year-old son Isaac has already cleared one section in order to grow more of his favourite carrots. “No sprouts,” he stresses. “And I’d really like to grow bananas.” That would be a first for the site says site representative Toni Dagnall.
Molly, self appointed guardian of other people’s giant marrows and pumpkins, grazes her way across the land, eating her share of strawberries and tomatoes – they even grow purple and blue ones here. She’s new to it all, her mum and aunt have just taken on a plot, but has already made friends with the resident scarecrow, StrawBob, and can’t wait to tell friends at St Kentigern’s Primary School about it this week.
Dave and Jacky Stennett, treasurer and chairman of the Layton site, say it’s a family friendly site. “We want children to learn lessons to take into adulthood,” says Jacky.
Their association opted out of the local federation last year in order to have more say in their own destiny, organisation and waiting list. David Slack Allotments in Blackpool is also independently run.
Isabel Horn, secretary of the Layton site, admits: “Our progress has been quite astounding since we became self managed and independent.
“We applied for and were granted monies from the National Lottery which was used to install a new drainage and water system.
“Thanks to our local councillors Martin Mitchell and John Boughton we have had new security fencing erected round part of our boundary. We were also awarded £500 from Parkland Area Forum for trees planted at the bottom of the site to create a nature reserve. We held our annual open day this summer when prizes were presented.
“Now we’ve teamed up with the other independent allotment site, David Slack, to resurrect the annual produce show. We believe it was last held in the 1980s and we’re thrilled that Baguleys garden centre, which is one of the oldest family run specialist businesses locally, has agreed to host it. We want to stress it’s for all gardeners in the Blackpool area and not just allotment holders.
“There are three different categories, vegetables and fruit, floral and bakery. The cost of entry for each item is 50p and entry forms, rules and lists of different classes of categories can be downloaded from our website www.laytonpermanentallotment.co.uk.”
Judging takes place at 10am on Saturday with trophies for different classes presented before the event opens to the public at noon and continues on Sunday.
Isabel adds: “We hope to make it an annual affair and the more people take part and get involved the better chance of success. There will be a tearoom with homemade cakes and our experienced gardeners on hand to give advice on growing and gardening problems where they can.”