Documentary which digs into the colourful world of Welsh giant vegetable growers as they fight it out in the first show of the season.
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Wales, land of legends, awe-inspiring landscape...
..and giant veg.
Well, you think you're carrying a body out, you know,
when you're carrying a marrow on a stretcher.
Every August, the nation's growers gather to battle it out in the first
competition of the season.
35, heaviest marrow.
This is a story of extreme dedication...
I would rather spend my money on giant veg than the ladies, these days.
I nearly cried. A grown man, you know, crying when his marrow splits.
..and defying nature to nurture some of the biggest vegetables
on the planet.
It's 44 inches.
It's going to be a monster.
We don't get nothing for breaking the world record.
We don't even get knighted.
Welcome to the Land Of The Giants.
The village of Llanharry, 15 miles west of Cardiff,
home to a champion with a big reputation.
I'm thinking about vegetables from the time I wake up till I go to bed.
Look at the length in that.
Four foot six - could be some marrow.
Phillip Vowles has been growing giant veg for over 30 years.
That is the cucumber I broke the world record with.
With the giant vegetable shows, the scales is the judge,
it's all about the weights.
This could be up to around 20st.
You know, which is a lot of weight for a vegetable.
Come on, my beauty.
Come on, marrow, let's grow a couple more inches today.
The wife reckons I talk nicer to my plants than I do to her.
I get in big trouble.
But Phillip's wife Brenda doesn't quite share his passion.
I am definitely an allotment widow.
You know, it's 12 hours a day, almost every day,
unless the wife drags me away to go shopping.
He is up there far too long and then he's absolutely worn out in the night-time.
Well, he is getting on now a bit, I suppose.
Oh, you cheeky devil.
You're older than me.
I don't look it, though!
Early April - four months until the giant veg competition
and Phillip is preparing his seeds for battle.
Very often, I'll just file around the outside of the pumpkin seeds
because sometimes when they've been standing all winter,
they get a bit tough.
That's the marrow seed and within 16 to 20 weeks, that will turn into
a marrow over 100 pounds in weight.
But these aren't your run-of-the-mill seeds.
They are giant vegetable seeds
and they've got to be giant vegetable seeds -
you won't grow a giant out of a normal seed.
I reselect my seed every year from the biggest and the best
and I've had some real good results.
I managed to win it last year,
but I think this year, they're gunning for me this year,
I think I've got strong competition.
On the outskirts of Newport lives a man who grows on a grand scale.
I can feel the ground is right through the seat of my pants.
This monster plot belongs to Phillip's main rival,
74-year-old Ian Neale.
The doctors tell us we're not getting enough exercise -
they want to come and join me when I'm doing this.
I've got to think of another way of growing my parsnips and carrots
because there's 36 holes like this to be dug.
Ian's site used to be the family garden centre business.
But after his parents died,
he shut up shop to focus on his giant veg
and has broken seven world records.
The giant veg is on my mind all the time.
How can I grow bigger, grow better?
I'm planning it all up here.
This is what you think about while you're watching the television,
before you fall asleep in front of it, cos there's not a lot on it.
Dolphins, carrots, sweet peppers...
Ian is known on the scene for his spectacular shirts.
That's the most famous shirt in the world.
That's the one I met Snoop Dogg in.
Nice, isn't it?
MUSIC: Who Am I? (What's My Name?) by Snoop Doggy Dogg
Yes, you heard correctly -
rap Lothario Snoop Dogg heard about Ian's monster veg and sent
a cheeky message to get some growing tips.
What up, though? Shout out to my homeboy Ian Neale in Cardiff for
breaking the world's records for the biggest vegetable.
Man, I want to tell you something, when I do my show in Cardiff,
I want you to come backstage and see me because I do vegetation myself
and I want to know your secret,
so I can show you my vegetables and see if you can grow that into
a real big vegetable.
That swede there broke the world record and Snoop Dogg heard about it
and he invited me backstage and I got a face like that
cos I knew exactly what he was going to do -
he's offering me a weed and I don't smoke.
By late April, Ian and Phill's marrows are ready to transfer
from pot to soil.
Good morning, you lot! You're looking well today.
Both have opted to grow inside in their big polytunnels.
But not all competitors have got such huge resources.
We haven't got a water supply here at all, no electric.
But we'll manage.
Vegetable-growing giant Vince has an allotment in Barry
and is a relative newcomer to the scene.
We started here four years ago
and it looked like what you see over there -
brambles, weeds, rubbish.
Plenty of wood from work and donations and we managed to get it
looking like this.
But, unlike Phill and Ian, without a polytunnel big enough,
Vince has to grow his marrows outside.
The only problem is it's still a touch cold in the nights so
hopefully this frame will keep it a little bit warmer in the nights.
This one is my own seed this year, it is,
from the two best marrows I grew last year -
from a 136-pounder, and a 122-pounder.
I crossed the two together now so hopefully it should be a good plant.
But growing a marrow outside is a high-risk game.
You've got to have good seed, good ground, good weather,
good luck and you need all four.
And things don't always go to plan.
Oh, my best marrow split last year, it did.
It split at just under 10st, 136 pounds.
It nearly brought a tear to my eye.
Vince crosses his fingers...
and puts his marrow to bed.
Meanwhile, back at Llanharry,
reigning marrow champion Phillip had better beware.
We're going to pot some giant cabbage now, Raymond.
His big brothers Bernard and Ray have entered the race.
Raymond's the oldest...
..then I'm next and then Phillip is the pup.
They've ordered a special delivery.
It's a cracking load, Ray.
20 tonnes of prime manure to fuel their giants.
This is where we might have one over on Phillip.
Myself and Raymond, we're going to be the posh gardeners -
keep our hands in our pockets and let the beast do the job for us.
While the boys continue their gentleman gardening...
Back in the kitchen, Bernard's wife Beryl is busy keeping them fuelled.
I make sure that they're fed and watered.
So it's breakfast,
elevenses and lunch.
And then they come in and have a sleep.
They're not having a lot today.
I've been too busy.
Come on, boys. No, look at him sat down there now,
like lord of the manor.
It may be the boys' first time in the competition
but Beryl has full faith.
He intends to beat Phillip this time and he is going to beat him.
-You think so?
Oh, my God.
Every year, the giant veg competition is held on the Fonmon Estate...
..ancestral home of Sir Brooke Boothby.
You have to be a bit careful getting around up here because the Normans
were a lot smaller than we were and I think their average knight
was only five foot four.
Fonmon Castle has been in Sir Brooke's family for 11 generations,
and gardening has always been in his blood.
When I was a child,
I was very frightened of the head gardener because he was very fierce
and he considered small boys to be a great danger,
which he was absolutely correct,
we'd steal his peas and things if we possibly could.
-Could you come and give me a hand?
I've got to assemble a mini greenhouse.
-All right, sir.
Sir Brooke beat Phillip with his pumpkin when Phillip's rotted,
and he's roped in junior gardener Josh to protect this year's entry.
I'm very poor at DIY altogether.
I was very spoiled as a child, you know,
we had very competent staff in the garden and therefore didn't really
need a lot of family input.
Ah. Blast. Split the wood.
Never mind. Here comes this masterpiece of construction.
Like so. To me,
half of the pleasure of gardening is in fact the ability to get out
in the sun and do some physical work.
I mean, it's A, very good for you, but I actually enjoy it, too so...
Whoops. There is one of the fuchsias which I've now put my foot on.
Perhaps you could just splash a bit more water into that,
as I think it looks as if he needs it, poor thing.
With the plants safely in the ground, the race is on to grow...
..and every contender has their own unique formula.
Bit of pigeon faeces.
I've heard somebody giving the pill to a pumpkin!
This is my magic mix.
Teabags going in first, a little bit of molasses afterwards.
And I'm not going to tell you what else I put in it.
I've got to keep one or two little secrets.
But the one thing none of the growers can control is the weather.
-There is a risk of more heavy showers and thunderstorms,
especially in mid and north Wales with a Met Office warning in force.
May, and Wales is hit by heavy downpours.
The rain will spread south-eastwards during the day,
breezy, too, and cooler.
About five or six days, we haven't been able to do a thing outside.
But, like an Olympic athlete, whatever the weather,
Ian has to keep on top of his game.
All gardeners need a good back to do what they're doing.
You're bending down, lifting.
My osteopath said, "As you get older, you've got to be
"like a sportsperson - you need to warm up before you start work."
And if I do that every morning, touch wood, my back's all right.
I'm planning up here till I'm 80, but I'm asking the question,
"Do I want to carry on?"
But what am I going to do?
Sit in this chair, wait to die?
Not likely. So I've got to carry on.
Stretched and ready for action,
Ian has to protect his marrow plant from a disease in his soil.
Morning, you lot! Cor, you're looking well this morning.
He's grafting a plant that he knows is immune to the disease
onto his marrow in a bid to keep it safe.
Because they don't take very good,
I make it about two inches long.
This one, I've gone from the root upwards.
This is like a surgery on the plant.
I've never seen Sellotape used in surgery before.
Some of these don't take very good cos you sweat.
Believe it or not, the new plant will fuse to the marrow and make it
resilient to Ian's soil disease.
I think I'm the only one doing this.
I'm not going to let my competitors know...
..till next... Till the show's on.
Over the next six weeks, the plants grow at an alarming rate.
Marching on, day and night...
..until the marrow and pumpkin shoots are up to 20 feet long.
But the pumpkins and marrows don't just grow by themselves -
they need to be pollinated.
And these guys don't leave pollination to nature.
Today, Phillip is playing the part of a five foot eight bee.
Well, I am doing what a bee does, you know,
perhaps I'm interfering with nature, perhaps I shouldn't do it.
There's the female flower, you can see it's the female flower,
it has got the fruit behind the flower there, there's the marrow.
Here's a quick lesson on the birds and the bees.
There is the male flower going into the female flower to pollinate it.
And that should be plenty good enough there,
and that is the pollination done.
Without the pollen from the male flower being deposited
in the female flower, the tiny marrow would fail to grow,
and Phillip is leaving nothing to chance.
I don't want any other bee coming in here now to cross-pollinate it,
so what I do, I'll tie that flower up now to stop a bee going in there
With Phillip's marrow protected by its chastity belt,
the race is on to grow the biggest fruit.
The pumpkins and marrows put on an incredible six inches of growth a day.
But, at the end of June, Wales gets hit with a heat wave.
-Temperatures once again soaring - very warm or hot,
humid, too, highs between 25 and 30 Celsius.
Cooler on some coasts, with a breeze...
Over in Newport, the thermometer in Ian's polytunnel
has reached astronomical heights.
No wonder the plants are wilting.
They just can't take enough water up to keep 'em going.
And, with just one big, rather oddly-shaped marrow,
Ian is concerned.
It is worrying, because that there could go soft.
I had one, pear-shaped, and the end went soft.
Back in Llanharry, Phillip has also been feeling the burn.
So much heat coming off the side of the polytunnel,
he's started to cook!
I have lost six now through the hot weather.
You've got to have failures, you can't have all success.
But it is disappointing, you know, because it was a good marrow.
And look at that inside there.
Isn't that a good marrow?
But Brenda will make some nice chutney out of that one.
I'll just make you a sandwich now, and make you a cup of tea.
But Brenda has more pressing things on her mind.
Just waiting now, waiting on the solicitors to tell us the date,
and I will be happy to go now,
because there is so much packing and things to sort out.
After 48 years, they are moving house.
Lovely memories with all the children and all the parties
and everything else we have had here,
we've had some lovely times here with the family.
Phillip has been doing the entire move by hand.
How many trips have I made with this wheelbarrow?
I haven't counted!
And it is one heck of a journey,
all the way to their new house...
..three doors down the same road.
We are moving from number four to number one.
Literally, what, 50 yards away?
This has got to be about...
..the 80th container that we've brought down.
Why? Because it is right by my allotment, is number one.
And there is a little bit of ground alongside here,
so we're hoping to put a little bungalow alongside the house here.
Just to retire in. Brenda's going to retire.
Phillip's not going to retire, but Brenda is!
The best view is up the back here.
Yes, every day, Phillip can wake up to a view of his beloved allotment
from his bedroom window.
People do say about moving abroad - no, thank you.
Just give me Llanharry.
How are Phill's marrows doing, then?
How big are they?
One month to the show, and back in Barry,
Vince has come up with a novel way to give his cucumbers some added...
It's a DD cup, it is.
I got it off my friend's mother, I did.
Take the strain off the stalk.
My friend's mother will be happy, seeing her bra on telly, anyway.
Vince may well laugh.
While the polytunnel boys have been suffering with the heat,
his two marrows have been thriving outside.
This is my pride and joy at the moment, this is.
I did get the tape measure on yesterday, and worked out on the chart,
and it was 80 pounds yesterday,
so it has probably grown a few more pounds since yesterday.
It's motoring, flying, it is.
Another two weeks like that, they should...
I reckon, by next weekend, it should reach 100 pounds by next weekend.
But growing outside leaves Vince at the mercy of the elements.
I'm just dreading tomorrow, there's going to be a good bit of rain
tomorrow, so I just hope they don't swell too quick tomorrow,
and end up with a split in them.
That's what happened to my best one last year -
we had two nights of rain, and it blew the side out of it.
While Vince's veg have been flying along,
things haven't been going so well for gentleman gardeners
Bernard and Ray.
Cold drink today, because it is hot,
and you can have some carrot cake,
because I have been baking this morning.
Yes, the boys are well nourished, but the vegetables aren't.
This one looks a good one,
but I think I am going to have to have a chat with Phillip.
I don't really know whether we ought to leave too many on the one plant.
If we could give him a few pints this afternoon, he might...
We might get it out of him, like.
Can you give me a lift with this cabbage?
Before they go for a pint, the brothers need to pick up their cash.
-When I say cash, I really mean the "green stuff".
-It's a beaut.
-Not bad, is it?
Don't be stepping on the roots of my marrow.
Oh, we wouldn't do a thing like that!
-You would, just for spite, you would.
-No, we wouldn't!
Phillip often supplies the local pub with giant veg.
One of his cabbages will make 100 Sunday lunches.
One nice cabbage for you.
Oh, that is brilliant!
So, do we need to reward you or anything?
A few drinks would be nice!
While the boys relax...
..it is a busy evening for Sir Brooke Boothby.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
As you can gather with me arriving,
I'm going to part you from a little money.
Sir Brooke is hosting one of his many charity garden parties.
One marrow, just two inches long.
But, as ever, his vegetables are never far from his mind.
I have magic up my sleeve.
And, when the revellers have gone home, they leave Sir Brooke
with the perfect leftovers to feed his pumpkins.
We have tried other things - lemonade and other such things,
but they don't seem to work as well as the beer.
I'm not entirely sure why, but they don't.
Phillip better beware - the beer seems to be working wonders.
Well, this one is coming along pretty well.
It will grow a good bit bigger by the time we get to the show,
and it is beginning to turn into that nice golden colour
so we are very... We're reasonably happy.
A lot of people seem to thrive perfectly well without alcohol,
but these don't.
Two weeks before the show, and Vince has had a disaster.
Split right round, and this way as well.
I haven't seen them split that way before.
Gone to bits, they have. 36 days of growing,
and they split two weeks before the show, it has gone and split again.
The rain that Vince predicted has come moving in,
forcing his two marrows to suck up too much water, and split.
It is no good for the show now.
Once the air gets inside, it will just start to decay and rot away.
Gutted again. It is like someone chopping your right arm off.
Still, Vince cannot resist finding out what this monster weighs.
That's 121 pounds.
May have had another week or two growth left in it yet.
Four months' work, gone.
It is the end of the road for Vince's marrow dreams.
It's competition day.
Time for Phillip to cut the umbilical cord on his giant babies,
and move them to the show.
Or, at least, try to.
When you are talking, you know, a 200 pound stone-dead pumpkin,
it is pretty difficult.
One, two... That's it.
You know, me and my brothers are all getting on a bit now,
and we do struggle a bit.
Meanwhile, in Newport, Ian has to rely on the power of one.
Do you know, I stopped growing pumpkins cos they were too heavy,
and these are getting too heavy.
Or I'm getting too old!
But his soil has been harbouring some monsters...
-That is a good one.
-..including his giant Swede.
Oh, he's a winner.
Yes, he's a winner.
Good luck, you two.
PA SYSTEM CHIMES
-Welcome to the Vale of Glamorgan Show.
We have a great display of giant vegetables...
At the Vale Show in the grounds of Fonmon Castle,
the competitors gather to battle it out in 13 classes of giant veg.
You go to any show, and you will not see a lot better.
And, as competition chairman, Phillip oversees the weigh-in.
You cannot mess about too much.
It has got to be one process.
Through the door, onto the scales, onto the table.
The heaviest vegetable in each class wins.
And it is time for the pumpkins to be weighed in.
Sir Brooke's first effort only comes in at 51 kilos.
But he has a trick up his sleeve with his second entry.
Sir Brooke has loaded his blanket with weights...
..and the pumpkin is rather light.
I was a bit short of a good one, so I hired one from a props department!
Are we going to disqualify him?
Definitely! Out you go!
But the competition is about to get serious.
Giant grower Tim has travelled from England with a beast.
That's an unbelievable 18st of pure pumpkin.
Will Phillip's pumpkin be heavier?
The scales say no.
But he's gracious in defeat.
Good exhibit, well done.
Now, all Phillip's hopes lie with the most fiercely fought class -
And he has got a yellow whopper that he is hoping will weigh 50kg.
It is not as big as I thought, not as heavy as I thought, anyway.
Could have been another 20 pounds!
Shock for Phillip.
-It is just over 39 kilos.
I thought he would have been heavier.
Well, there we are, he is what he is.
His stumpy green marrow turns out to be a few kilos heavier,
but will it be enough for Phillip to retain his marrow crown?
Can he beat his brothers, and Ian?
It's crunch time for Phillip's veg.
First prize for the marrows
Because I'd won it the last couple of years,
they call me the marrow champion,
and I'm still the marrow champion.
Another first prize we have is going to Vince.
Despite his marrows having bust,
Vince went on to get five class wins,
partly due to his friend's mum's bra.
Supported it well, the old DD cup.
And Ian had two first places.
I got first in my swede,
but I only come third in the marrow.
And I got first in the carrots, so we haven't done too bad.
But the king of the marrows is Phillip Vowles.
To win the marrow, I'm so pleased.
# Down the road, there lives a man I'd like you all to know
# He grew a great big marrow for the local flower show
# When the story got around, they came from far and wide
# When the people saw the marrow, everybody cried
# Oh, what a beauty!
# We've never seen one as big as that before. #
From 20-stone pumpkins to man-sized marrows, this documentary digs into the colourful world of Welsh giant vegetable growers as they fight it out in the first show of the season. Part of BBC One's Our Lives strand.