While there are many different school clubs a child can take part in, there aren’t many schools that can say they have a pumpkin growing club, one such school is Southwell, located in Hamilton.

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I caught up with Gareth Lusty the man behind the school pumpkin growing club to find out more about it.

The only school pumpkin growing club in NZ was started in 2013 when Gareth’s daughter Grace had sent out a whole bunch of seeds to every local school, reception at Southwell was bleak with no one keen to give growing pumpkins a go.  This is when Gareth had a great idea and approached the school.

He suggested starting a club for keen growers to be part of, just like any other extra curricular activity at the school and helping cater for kids who may not be that interested in other clubs or activities.

The Southwell School Pumpkin Growing Club was born

During the pumpkin growing season the club has weekly meetings to talk about how the pumpkins both at school and any grown at home are growing, they talk about websites to check out or interesting pumpkin related stuff they have seen, any ideas the kids have to do with the pumpkins is discussed and any support they require.  There is also a newsletter that goes out.

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A few questions I had:

GPNZ: How has the response from the kids been.

Gareth: This year we have 16 dedicated members.

GPNZ: Do you see interest fading off with the kids, or are they dedicated throughout the whole season?

Gareth: There are kids that probably wont grow again, but there are kids that are definetly stimulated to want to grow the following year, the kids this year have been more involved and interest has been higher.

GPNZ:  So some of the kids that grew this year also grew last year?

Gareth: Yes

GPNZ:  Do you see the kids from last year helping the kids out this year?

Gareth: Yes, talking about the carnival and sharing tips.

GPNZ: How is the feedback from the school been?

Gareth: Really good, because of the first season the kids grew at home, but after going to the carnival and seeing the kids succeed, they have let us have a pumpkin patch at the school.  We also made a sign for the patch for parents and visitors to the school to see when they went near the pumpkin patch.

GPNZ: Obviously you want to see this grow, what are your plans to grow this next year?

Gareth: We’ll grow it slowly, and working towards older chuldrens input, to help make this club their own and drive it all along by themselves.

GPNZ: What is the age range of the pumpkin club at the moment?

Gareth: From about 7 – 12 years

GPNZ: There are other schools growing pumpkins around the local area and other parts of the country, what advice do you have for them if they want to start a pumpking growing club?

Gareth: Make it as fun as possible, because the fun side of it generates more growers, and support the kids that grow and may have a bad season, with the club this can be achieved.  Having a club garden is a good idea.  Clubs are good as they can generate ideas amongst people, and can help kids decide on what categories to enter at a competition.

GPNZ: From having the pumpkin growing club, has the interest from the kids growing other things expanded.

Gareth: I think so, yes.

GPNZ: Does the school support you in any other way?

Gareth: We are pretty much self sufficient, but we do get to use tools that the school has available, and the groundsman helped out by watering the pumpkins over the Christmas period.  This is also why we encourage the kids to grow at home as well, to help the kids learn about the day to day care of looking after a plant.

We have a saying, growing outside is growing inside, the basis of that is that they are growing a plant outside but inside they are learning all these different things, from measurements, working out water or fertiliser.

GPNZ: If anyone had any questions about a pumpkin growing club, what is the best way to contact you?

Gareth: They can contact me via email at: [email protected]

Please check out the Southwell School Pumpkin Cub Page on Facebook to keep up with what they are up to.

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A big thanks to Gareth for taking the time to talk to me about the Southwell School Pumpkin Growing Club, a great initiative and something that offers a lot of benefits to the kids taking part and hopefully leads them on a great journey with both giant pumpkins and the wider gardening aspect as well.