Retired sailor, 71, bags gardening prize for a whopping 25kg winter melon

Mr Ivan Loh with his winning winter melon which weighs 25kg and was cultivated over 8 months.
Mr Ivan Loh with his winning winter melon which weighs 25kg and was cultivated over 8 months.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - First time gardener Ivan Loh, 71, tried his hand at growing a winter melon for fun.

Eight months and several bags of fertiliser later, he had a monster melon weighing as much as an eight-year-old.

For his 25kg fruit - about 10 times the size or a regular winter melon-  he won a prize at the Community Gardening Festival, which opened on Friday (Nov 3) at HortPark off Alexandra Road.

Mr Loh, a retired sailor who lives in a flat in Bukit Batok, decided to give gardening a try at his friend's backyard in Chua Chu Kang earlier this year.

"I am happy and proud, but it was very unexpected," Mr Loh said of his successful harvest.

The secret to his success was a combination of good fertilisers, he revealed.

Seeing the gigantic melon, Mr Loh's friend, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, told him about the 2017 Community Garden Edibles Competition, and urged him to sign up.

When Mr Loh dragged his feet, his friend signed him up anyway.

He ended up winning the "Heaviest Winter Melon" prize, earning himself $500 in cash.

Over 400 people entered the competition.

Entries, sent in by individuals or groups, were assessed by National Parks Board (NParks) representatives according to size, condition and colour.

There were 10 categories: the longest brinjal, lady's finger, long bean, bitter gourd, chilli and the heaviest papaya, pumpkin, winter melon, sweet melon and tomato.

Growing fruits and vegetables is a hit with Singaporeans - eight in 10 community gardens under NParks are currently growing edibles.

  • STEPS FOR BEGINNER GARDENERS

  • 1 Decide if you want to grow sun-loving or shade-loving plants.

    2 Always water your plants when the top few centimetres of soil are dry. Water the plant until water drains out from the bottom of the pot.

    3 Regularly supply your plants with a little bit of either organic or inorganic fertiliser.

    More information can be found at https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardening/gardening-resources/caring-for-plants

And this year, 33 per cent more people entered the competition, compared to 2015.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, presented Mr Loh and other prize winners with trophies at the NParks' second edition of their Community Garden Festival on Friday.

Other champions included Ang Mo Kio Zone 1 Residents' Committee with its 1.09m long bean, and a 2.52kg sweet melon from the Woodlands Zone 9 Residents' Committee.

Mr Loh said he will "share the prize money with (his) friend, and eat a good meal".

And no, the winter melon is not on that menu. It will be showcased throughout the festival.

After that, the whopper which Mr Loh cannot even lift - will be cut up and shared with his new friends at NParks.