18th May 2005
Introduction of a New Class
I have no doubt at all that the new class introduced last year in both the National Vegetable Society Championships and the Welsh Championships is certain to grow in popularity. The competition is called the Millennium Class and why I'm so confident of it"s success is because of the simplicity of the class itself and the vegetables selected for staging. This class was first thought of by the North East Derbyshire District Association where it has proved to be extremely popular. The class consists of the following - A collection of Five Kinds of Vegetables – Four of each kind. Potatoes: white or coloured; Carrots: stump rooted; Beetroot: Globe; Tomatoes; Onions, each onion must not exceed 250 grams. Displayed in an area 30cm frontage (12”). Plates provided, no other staging materials allowed. I was fortunate to win the Welsh Championships last year where as David Thornton form Ockbrook won the class in the National at Tunbridge Wells.
The above is how the Schedule reads for the NVS Championships and can naturally be varied to suit your own needs if you have a smaller local show in mind. The great thing about this class is the choice of vegetables, they are not difficult to grow, you don't need elaborate growing systems such as with exhibition large onions and leeks. Also the potato is the only vegetable that has the maximum of twenty points owing to the degree of difficulty in growing a perfect specimen. It follows therefore that the remaining four are, or should be, easier to grow by varying degrees reflected in the lower points.
Outdoor growing without protection
The other aspect of this collection is, apart from the tomatoes, everything can be grown outdoors with no need to have any protective covers at all. The globe beetroot is one vegetable that does need to be timed properly for whichever particular show you intend to enter in. This year the Welsh Championships is held over the August Bank holiday weekend the 28 th and 29 th and the following weekend, for three days, from the 2 nd to the 4 th September, the National is held at Dundee in Scotland. This means that both shows holding the Millennium Championships are within a week of each other. This means that one sowing date will suffice as far as I am concerned. Last year the National was on the 11 th September and my sowing date for the globe beetroot was on the 17 th May. This proved to be slightly too early in my case here on Anglesey as the better quality and the most choice from five short rows that I had sown, were gone past their best.
This year I intend therefore to sow later, ideally I would like to sow a week later on the 24 th May but as this falls bang in the middle of the Chelsea Flower Show week, I shall have to sow as soon as I come home which will be Monday the 30th. Some might consider this date to be late and indeed it may well be for those of you living in a cooler environment than I do, adjust these dates therefore according to your own climate. I don't go to a lot of trouble to grow them as the soil in Jim's garden, where I grow these, lends itself perfectly to producing nice clean skinned specimens with no warts evident on them. The area where the beetroot will grow used to grow my exhibition potatoes, back in the days where I used to lay down bales of straw every year underneath them to get a good finish. This means that there is plenty or organic matter dug into the ground which beetroot love. Sowing them this late means that after germination, a period of around 10 days, the plants will gallop onwards unchecked giving me a much better quality root and more tender specimens. I simply rotavate the soil over and then rake in 4 ounces of Vitax Q4 to the square metre prior to opening shallow furrows using a straight string line. The variety that I prefer to grow is Pablo F1, a very reliable type with deep crimson colour coupled with an exceptionally uniform shape, If you can't get hold of this variety you can purchase it directly from my on line shop at medwynsofanglesey.co.uk. Sow the seed sparingly along the row and cover over with a rake along the length of the furrow. Thin when an inch tall to leave one seedling every two inches or so. If you want to be really keen you can bore a hole for each beetroot as we do with short carrots and fill it with sieved soil. This will obviously be far more time consuming but it will allow you to pull beetroot with a lovely long straight tap root that look so well on the plate. As the seed is sown late, and the weather could be warm and dry, never forget that dryness at the roots leads to woodiness as well as small sized specimens. Watering well after a dry period could also lead to splitting, keep the rows therefore uniformly moist at all times as well as keeping the hoe on the move to keep weeds under control.