Alex Foulstone, 8, with his best-dressed pumpkin Mary the Pumpkin Fairy in the under-12 years division.
Alex Foulstone, 8, with his best-dressed pumpkin Mary the Pumpkin Fairy in the under-12 years division. Doug Eaton

Kyogle pumpkin-mania

RUKENVALE farmer John Leadbeatter knows how to grow a big pumpkin.

Mr Leadbeatter won the Biggest Pumpkin category at the Kyogle Bazaar pumpkin festival on Saturday. His mighty orange vegetable weighed in at 67kg.

It could have been bigger, Mr Leadbeatter lamented, but it ripened early and he had to harvest weeks before the competition.

"It was 75kg and was sitting on my porch for six weeks. It dropped to 67kg," he said.

Bigger ones would have been at the festival but a wet start to 2012 stunted the growth of pumpkins in the area.

The pumpkins in the competition were grown from the same batch of seeds which Kyogle Bazaar site manager Chris Pike handed out in November.

"I was amazed by all the different-shaped pumpkins," Mr Pike said. "Some had big ribs, some were very smooth and there were oblong-shaped ones."

Mr Pike said the key to growing a big pumpkin was good preparation.

"You've got to put good organic matter in the ground and big pumpkins need a constant and steady supply of water and nutrients," Mr Pike said.

"The growers that are successful are constantly assessing how much they can feed their pumpkins. Fertiliser is actually a killer if it's over-supplied, so there's quite a bit of intuition and experience required."

At first, Mr Leadbeatter was reluctant to reveal his secret but eventually gave in.

He said a mix of natural minerals, superphosphate, blood-and-bone and fertilisers was the trick.

However, size wasn't the only thing rewarded on Saturday.

The inaugural pumpkin competition had Best Decorated, The Funniest, The Cutest and under-12s categories.

Alex Foulstone, 8, won The Best Decorated in the under-12s.

"I dressed him (the pumpkin) in fake hair and made his eyes out of marbles and I put some earrings on him," he said.

"It's very fun because you get to make it look cool and get everybody to look at it."

According to Mr Pike, the festival wasn't just about showing off your pumpkins.

"I think it's about good earthy fun. People love to grow things and this gives them that opportunity," he said.

"I just enjoyed seeing people and saying, 'How's your pumpkin growing?' "

It was the first year for the competition and Mr Pike hoped it would become an annual event.

"We'll be back next year and I think we'll crack the 100kg mark," he said.

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