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Puckering Profiles:  Martin Johnson, A Man and His Vegetables
Puckering Gazette, September 4, 1999
For Martin Johnson, this time of the year is one of excitement and trepidation. It is now that a year's work can come to fruit when he lays out his best for all to see. For his entire adult life, Martin has been the head gardener at Stoney Grove and much of that time has been spent growing large vegetables for competition.

A quiet man not given to many words, Martin can get quite agitated when it comes to the 'Big Vegetable'  contests. "It's cut-throat," he warns. "When I first got started, I lost a lot of aubergines to some hooligan who crept into the garden at night and smashed them to pieces.  It broke my heart. Several years later a bloke from Birmingham hopped over the wall on the estate to try and sabotage my courgettes. This time I was ready for him. He won't be causing mischief no more. I wouldn't leave my babies at this time of year."

Martin has won prizes in several categories over the years, including carrots and turnips, but he feels it's with courgettes that he's making his biggest mark. "It's not just size," he explains. "They look at many things like colour and shape too.  They're really beautiful things, courgettes are.  Most people don't look at em.  They just eat em."

Martin is proud to work at Stoney Grove where he has been able to pursue his passion for large vegetables.  He's recently been finding out more about the history of the landscape at the house, but says that much of it is a little disappointing. "It's all show and design, I don't think they really loved the plants, they just used them like furniture. But I do like feeling that there is a history there, that seeds have fallen and germinated over hundreds of years."

This summer, Martin has been pleased  to have his grandson John White working with him. John grew up in Somerset but came to spend this summer in Puckering after completing a degree in drama at University. "I believe he could become a good gardener if he put his mind to it," says Martin proudly.  Perhaps it's in his roots.  --Nigel Twicks

Photo of Shirley and Monty Hall

Photo of Unidentified Man, possibly Martin's dad