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 of a regular winter melon - he won a prize at the Community Garden Festival, which opened yesterday 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 Choa Chu Kang earlier this year. The secret to his success was a combination of good fertilisers, he revealed. "I am happy and proud, but it was very unexpected," he said of his win.
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 he dragged his feet, his friend signed him up anyway.
He ended up winning the Heaviest Winter Melon prize, earning himself $500 in cash.
Entries sent in by individuals and 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 and chilli, and the heaviest papaya, pumpkin, winter melon, sweet melon and tomato.
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
Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, presented Mr Loh and other prize winners with trophies.
Growing fruit and vegetables is a hit with Singaporeans - eight in 10 community gardens under NParks are currently growing edibles.
Mr Loh said he will share the prize money with his friend, and have a good meal.
Raffaella Nathan Charles