Closely guarded secrets

Donna Pettitt hugs her nearly 96kg entry which won the South Otago A&P Show Giant Pumpkin...
Donna Pettitt hugs her nearly 96kg entry which won the South Otago A&P Show Giant Pumpkin Competition last year. PHOTO: SRL FILES
Growers of plump pumpkins are keeping mum about their progress as competition day looms in South Otago.

Entry is free to the sixth annual South Otago A&P Society Giant Pumpkin Competition at the Balclutha Showgrounds on Sunday, April 3.

Society treasurer Katy Button, of Port Molyneux, said competitors declined her requests to show photos of the pumpkins they would enter in the contest.

"They don’t like sharing them — they don’t want anyone to know how their pumpkins are growing."

Mrs Button is growing two pumpkins for the competition — one yellow and one orange — from the same seed packet.

As a fundraiser in spring last year, the society sold more than 100 packs, each containing two giant pumpkin seeds to wannabe competitors.

In past years, Mrs Button had been able to germinate seeds to "beautiful plants", only for them to be destroyed by strong winds in November.

This year she protected her plants from wind by keeping them in a glasshouse longer than usual.

Conditions had been favourable for growing this season with consistent rain and warm weather.

Most growing tips were closely guarded secrets but regularly clipping a plant’s tendrils helped concentrate the energy to the "chosen pumpkin", she said.

Some growers became obsessed but she did not consider herself one of them.

South Otago A&P Society treasurer Katy Button in her garden in Port Molyneux where she is growing...
South Otago A&P Society treasurer Katy Button in her garden in Port Molyneux where she is growing entries for the society’s Giant Pumpkin Competition.PHOTO: SUPPLIED
"I’m just pleased I’ve been able to grow something."

Although when asked if she would pose in a photo with her pumpkins, she declined because she did not want to give fellow contestants a heads up on the competition.

The winning pumpkin last year was grown by Donna Pettitt and at nearly 96kg, it was the heaviest winner in the history of the contest.

Mrs Button had produced her biggest pumpkins ever this season and although they were still growing, she doubted either would set a record.

Raising a giant pumpkin was fun and its growth rate was unreal.

"I look at them every day and think ‘whoa that has grown’ — they are pretty full-on."

Prizes would also be given for heaviest pumpkin and the best in show.

"Sometimes the biggest look quite ugly."

Giant pumpkins were fibrous and not suitable for human consumption, so after judging, hers would be fed to her pigs.

Entertainment at the event would be scaled down this year due to Covid-19 restrictions but market stalls would feature as usual.

"We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about going ahead because people have been missing community events."

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