DURING his career as a police officer John Raatz would wind down after a long shift with a spot of gardening.

Wherever he was posted, the current North Booval resident would take his green thumb and his bee hives along with him.

Now after decades of gardening, the retiree has set up a permanent farm, or The Ranch as it's know, which boasts more than 70 hanging pumpkins.

The grandfather of 10 said he came up with the idea when he needed to make more room on his 2.5 acre property, which he shares with wife Joy, for their beloved Jap pumpkins.

"There can be a lot of negatives in the police force so gardening has always been a way to de-stress for me," he said.

"Pumpkins normally grow on the ground but these won't drop off until I pick them, no matter how big they are. These were planted just after winter in September and they'll last for 12 months so we'll have pumpkins all year long."

Mr Raatz said his crop was best simply roasted or turned into a rich pumpkin soup during the cooler months.

GREEN THUMB: Local gardener John Raatz of North Booval has grown a hanging pumpkin trellis in his back yard.
GREEN THUMB: Local gardener John Raatz of North Booval has grown a hanging pumpkin trellis in his back yard. David Nielsen

"I'm a mad gardener, always have been and they're just beautiful eating," he said.

"There's not much I don't know about growing veggies."

The retired sergeant also grows mangoes, beans, and potatoes on The Ranch, which also hosts sheep, alpacas, Quaker Parrots, bee hives and homing pigeons.

A love of the outdoors runs in the family for Mr Raatz, whose 12-year-old grandson Miller Wilson has been dubbed as "the next Steve Irwin".

Mr Raatz said he was proud of young Miller, who discovered internet fame after posting YouTube videos of his wildlife encounters.

"It's the same thing I used to do as a kid," he said.


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