The Growers Diaries: Growers

The Growers Diaries: Joe Atherton

Joe Atherton

Joe is a staunch and dedicated gardener living in central Mansfield, England. He grows world-record vegetables in his custom-made, hand-built greenhouses.

Greatest achievement Holding 7 World Records
Growing Since 1960s
Favourite plant Onions
Biggest learning curve Preparing veg for shows

Growing giant vegetables becomes an obsession. The main challenge is the weather, especially this year! - 3/4°C overnight, then temperatures of 12°C during the day.

You´ve got to be dedicated and you´ve got to have a damn good wife behind you as it starts off as a hobby, but if you want to win – it becomes an obsession. There is no judge apart from the scales and the tape measure in growing giant vegetables, no arguments as the biggest & the longest win!

It would be impossible to grow an 8.5m beetroot in a hole in the garden, especially without breaking it, so I use guttering. I have quilts on the longer roots covered with black blankets as the black keeps them warm with the temperatures we are getting. Then in the summer, I will take the black off and just leave the quilts on as the roots are so fine, they need to still be kept warm.

The influence of showing giant vegetable at the end of the season helps a lot. Not everything is going to succeed but hopefully something will and if you can get something out at the end of the season – good luck!

My runner bean trench have poles for the beans to grow up but at this time of year it is too early to sow, otherwise you would not have any beans left for the show.

The season would probably start in the second week of October with onions and then you aren´t sowing your tomatoes until May so you are spending 6 months just sowing seeds!

At the moment I am sponsored by CANNA and I am growing in Bio Terra Plus. It is a lot easier to use as you don´t have to check the pH of your water when mixing feed, it is a lot less faffing about.

Growing up in the North, every club and pub had a leek show. Within a 90mile radius of where I lived there were 8 leek shows and one year, I won them all! Somebody said why don´t you try growing the heaviest leek – and I did. I broke the record in 2001 and since then I have just been adding different vegetables.

As far as I know, I am the only person to hold 6 World Records at the same time.

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