The Malvern Autumn Show
27th Sep 2004
he Malvern Great Autumn show is usually the last big vegetable celebration of the year for most gardeners, a time when the gardens usually take a real hammering with most of them looking like a bomb site. However a couple of days rest and most of us will be back in the garden once again, cleaning up all the debris whilst at the same time dreaming of great thing to transpire next year. The Malvern show, as regards vegetables, has really been two shows in one for the past few years as the Midland Branch of the National Vegetable Society have also held their championships there within the marvellous Harvest marquee.
One local grower from Wick who always makes this show his premier event of the season is Allen Young. Allen is certainly a meticulous grower of the highest standard and has always excelled at growing marvellous tomatoes which he once again won with over on the Malvern side of the show with a dish of Cedrico. However his runner beans caught my eye on this occasion as he beat Charles Maisey into second place and Sherie Plumb into third. The Stenner strain selection were at their peak of condition where as Charlie's could possibly have needed an extra few days to just fill out a little.
Allen grows four batches to cover the various shows starting in May and never plants out before the 7th June. This is because he follows what his father used to do after the area was devastated in 1933 when a late frost killed all the runner beans around. His last sowing, from where the Malvern set came, was on the 1st July and were grown in double rows 2ft apart and 18 apart in the rows. The plants are staggered or domino fashion in the two rows and the canes go across to the wire on the opposite row. This means that all the beans hang clear of any foliage, should there be the odd leaf in the way, they are judiciously clipped off. The trusses are thinned down to three and some trusses, the last week before the show, were even thinned down to leave just one. The last sowing was planted in his polytunnel where there was plenty of space after the onions were removed.
You can"t keep Charlie Maisey down for a long time, this experienced tomato grower did the business again in the Championship classes winning with a dish of 6 Gold Star Tomatoes. These were grown from rooted cuttings supplied from my catalogue that had been originally grown from seed by Charlie. They are grown in Westland Multi purpose compost with John Innes added plus Perlite (all in one bag) which is used to fill one ring culture pot on top of each Westland planter Gro Bags, One ring per bag. The bags are held upright so that the compost is knocked right down to one end reducing its length by half. The bags are slit open underneath, along their length, and bedded on 6 inches of well rotted manure to which the roots work their way into. This gives an effective growing depth of 18 inches. Charlie has many different feeds and alternates between the following every time they need watering and as soon as the first tomatoes have set - Kays Bumper crop tomato feed, Nettle brew (third of a 45 gallon tank of nettle leaves which is filled with water and allowed to ferment for two weeks), Sheep manure, one bucket full in a Hessian sack soaked for a minimum of a week and added to a watering can when the colour of strong tea. Charlie believes that the best showable tomatoes are harvested from the fifth and 6th trusses.
Bill Williams from Neath Glamorgan is comparatively new to showing at this high level but he certainly put on a lovely fresh dish of Gardeners Delight to win the class for 12 cherry tomatoes. Guess where he bought the seed from, he didn't, they were given free on the front cover of Garden News.
What can we say about Andrew Jones from Oswestry, this young man is only 33 and he"s already got most of us shaking in our boots – he's certainly the Wayne Rooney of Exhibition vegetable growing. Everyone is asking where did he get his skills from and how has he amassed so much knowledge in such a comparatively short time. He did admit that my column has helped him a lot but he also has the advantage of having gardening running through his veins as his Grandfather and Uncles were all showmen. The other comment he did make was that after joining the National Vegetable Society, the comradeship within, as well as the knowledge gained from talking to other top growers, has been invaluable. If any of you a want to join the Society please contact the General Secretary Mr David Thornton, 36 The Ridings, Ockbrook, Derby, DE72 3SF for further details – if you have already joined the rest, now join the best.
Andrew had another field day, from 12 entries staged he won nine cards of which he had first with Gladiator Parsnips, Large and Pickling shallots, a collection of onions, a pair of cucumbers and onions under 250 grams. One tip he gave with parsnips, foliar feed once a week with Chempak N08 from the end of June until the end of August. Andrew always does all his spraying, tying and many other chores on a Sunday, the reason is simple, he works 6 days a week as a sheep shearer in the Summer and general farm worker during the Winter months.
Another grower who has had a tremendous season being unbeatable with the large collections is John Branham from Aylesbury. His collection of six kinds of vegetables gave him the best exhibit in the show. As if that wasn't enough, he also won the Mini collection of three kinds , two of each kind with Evening Star Celery, New Red Intermediate Carrot and Gladiator Parsnip.
You certainly can't leave Sherie Plumb out of the reckoning with potatoes this year, she has had a phenomenal season which was repeated in the Midland Championships winning the collection of four kinds of potatoes with Winston, Maxine, Kestrel and Malin.
Gareth Cameron travelled down from Cumbria and managed to repeat his win at Harrogate with 3 long carrots that possessed a lovely smooth skin, the variety was the universally grown New Red Intermediate. These are grown in raised beds 4ft square and built up with layers of Link-a-Bord. Gareth also won the class for a dish of White potatoes with Winston.
You cant leave Jack Arrowsmith out of the frame either, Jack staged in the Malvern side of the show as he simply hadn't received a schedule for the Midland Championships (to many growers sigh of relief!!) Jack staged a superb set of three Gringo short carrots that were certainly compatible with Graham Watson's' National entry at Tunbridge Wells.