Welsh Branch of the National Vegetable Society
13th Sep 2001
So high was the standard that my fellow Judge, Colin Lewis from Carmarthen, agreed with me that a set of parsnips in the UK Tap Root class were truly worthy of 18 points from a possible 20. I don't usually give points away easy and do tend to point on the low side but in this case the pair of Gladiator parsnips staged by Derek Price of Brecon were really off the top shelf.
One of the best exhibits in the prestigious UK Championships which are run under the wings of the Welsh Branch was the potato display by Mr Bill Hughes from Swansea. Bill has won this most difficult of classes on 7 occasions and this one must rank as one of his best attempts. The schedule asks for five dishes of four kinds of potatoes and they were Winston, Harmony, Nadine, Maxine, Kestrel. The size and skin finish was superb even though Bill told me it wasn"t one of his best years as regards having plenty of good tubers to select from.
Bill grows all his potatoes in old 80 litres compost or peat bags and has two mixes which he calls his Top and Bottom mixtures and he will start mixing these around the end of October. All his peat is riddled through a quarter inch sieve and Bill does this over at a friends farm with some help from his good lady spending a couple of hours a day there. It takes weeks to riddle enough material for the quantity of potatoes that he grows and as he fills the bags with the material it is then stored under cover until required. Bill uses between 50 and 60 bags to grow each variety so it just goes to show how difficult it must be to get sufficient potatoes of the right calibre.
His Top, mix is as follows - 4, 2 gallon buckets of Sieved or riddled Moss peat, Bill hasn't got a mixer so this peat is then spread out on top of a large table and a sprinkling of Vitax Q4 applied on top. He doesn't weigh any of his nutrients he just applies a few handfuls but he does assure me that it's around 8 ounces per 4 bucket fulls. The next item is Calcified Seaweed, again at approx. 8 ounces to the same quantity and finally a couple of handfuls of Cowbridge Composted Cow Manure which has been heat treated.
The Bottom Mix is as follows - 2 x 40 litre bags of Somerset Horse manure and black peat which strangely enough has some added lime in it. One 80 litre bag of moss peat is then mixed with the Manure and peat and all mixed together to give him 160 litres of compost. Potato fertiliser is then added at 8 ounces as well as the same quantity of Calcified Seaweed. After he has complete the mixes the bags are stored in a barn and each one is given two gallons of water with a watering can to moisten the compost as well as activating the fertiliser so that when it comes time to plant up it has lost some of it's burning edge. Strangely Bill repeats this again to both bags on the day that he plants them so that each bag is nice and moist and he won't have to water them again until the haulms are around 8 inches high.
The planting is carried out from late April to early May with 2 bucketful's of the bottom mix first lining the bottom of each bag. A potato, that has already been chitted, is then placed on top of the bottom mix and a bucket of Top mixture is then placed on top of the potato. When the haulms are about 8 inches high and before watering, a couple of handfuls of Top mix is again spread around the haulms. Bill waters regularly from that point once a week, 1½ gallons per bag every time. Half way through the season when the haulms are fully growing away he will apply a full strength liquid feed of Phostrogen right through until the end of the season. The haulms are supported with 5 ft canes and baling twine and sprayed from early June with Dithane 945. When Bill is happy that the potatoes are at the right condition for lifting he will cut off the haulms leaving at least 7 to 10 days before they are required for a show. Once the haulms are cut no water must get at the compost so he tucks in the top of the bag between the other bags.
John Branham is certainly the one to beat at the moment with Collections, he won the collection for six kinds of vegetables with a superbly even arrangement of twenty pointed vegetables that was also awarded the best exhibit in the show. John staged Celery Evening Star (an exclusive variety of mine) Leeks Peter Clark selection, his own selection of Kelsae onions. New Red Intermediate Carrots, Gladiator Parsnip and Kestrel Potato.
A man who managed to find time to select vegetables as well as being the main co ordinator for the whole show was Ron Macfarlane from Pembroke. Ron won the class for 9 Runner Beans with an amazingly even set of Stenner strain.
Exhibitors travel far and wide to compete at this prestigious show and one happy winner was Gerald Treweek from Derbyshire who won the long carrot class. Graham Watson was aslo in the cards winning the class for a dish of 5 coloured potatoes as well as the class for a dish of nine peas, a class that was the best I had seen at the Welsh for many years. Bill Wise is undoubtedly the stalwart of the Welsh Branch shows as well as having regulalry competed at other NVS venues for many years. Considering the amount of travelling that Bill does in a showing season it is really quite amazing. He did not however travel down in vain winning the class for 2 Cauliflowers and the dish of 9 shallots which was certainly up to his superb standard whenever he exhibits these.
Onions and Leeks
Vin Throup from Silsden is another regular supporter and his onions and leeks were again on top form. Vin won the Welsh Open Onion Championship as well as the National leek Championship of Great Britain.
There is a class at the show for Children as well and possibly one of the future top growers, David Mace won a class with three lovely matching marrows.. The furthest competitor however was David Curran who came all the way from Ireland to win a collection of vegetables in the Novice Section.