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Free seeds win gardener Mark Renshaw first prize in novelty vegetable competition at Capel Manor Gardens
A gardener who experimented with a packet of free seeds from a magazine has won first prize in a novelty vegetable competition.
Mark Renshaw, who lives in Broadfield Square in Brimsdown, entered the competition on Saturday during the annual Taste of Autumn show at Capel Manor Gardens in Bullsmoor Lane.
The 47-year-old, who has been gardening for 30 years, walked away with 13 other prizes in non-novelty categories, winning all four pickle categories as well as coming first with five of his jams.
His triumph is all the more impressive as it was the first time he had ever entered a horticultural competition.
A friend handed Mr Renshaw the gourd seeds - which is the name given to the squash family, to see if he could grow the crops in his allotment, which he visits on his bicycle at least three times a week.
The gardener, who took early retirement due to his arthritic hip and spine, was surprised as he watched the unusual vegetables grow into a selection of odd shapes and sizes.
He said: “They came out with all these very odd shapes and sizes and the one I entered was like two welded vegetables, it is an odd shape.
“They are not really edible, they are ornamental. They look nice when they are on the plot as they are really colourful and I just grow them for fun."
More than 20 people entered the novelty vegetable category, but Mr Renshaw believes his crop had the edge because it is so unusual even without its wonky shape.
He knows gardeners who hollow the hard colourful skins to create bird feeders, although he has yet to try this method with his own crop.
He is unsure what the future holds for his novelty veg, although he may test the bird tactic or preserve it is an ornament.
Mr Renshaw, who grew up in Enfield, said his passion for gardening “keeps him going” after his health problems and encourages him to keep fit and active.
He is already sure he will enter next year's competition at the gardens.
He said “everything” he eats with his wife at home comes from his allotment, including cabbage, pumpkins, carrots, parsnips, beetroots and parsnips.
He was handed certificates to congratulate each of his prized entries, and although he would like to hang them in the living room, he believes his wife might demote them to the greenhouse.