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Medwyn Williams

Hello. I'm Medwyn Williams – eleven times Gold medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show, Past Chairman of the Royal Horticultural Society Fruit Vegetable and Herb Committee and President of the National Vegetable Society.

The Harrogate Show – 17th – 19th September 2004


I have to admit that the Harrogate show certainly takes some beating, it just seems to get better and better every year and this is undoubtedly down to Roger Brownbridge and his hard working team. One of the halls was completely taken over with vegetables, not only was the regular Harrogate section there it also hosted the NVS Northern Branch Championships.

I have to admit that the Harrogate show certainly takes some beating, it just seems to get better and better every year and this is undoubtedly down to Roger Brownbridge and his hard working team. One of the halls was completely taken over with vegetables, not only was the regular Harrogate section there it also hosted the NVS Northern Branch Championships. Again I have to say that the standard of exhibiting these days is phenomenal, no sooner that you think you have achieved a certain standard that someone pushes the ladder up another rung making it even harder to win.

RHS Bi Centenary

A one off display in the hall was the result of a joint committee effort between the RHS and The NVS in putting up a 20ft display of vegetables to mark the RHS bi centenary year. This was no ordinary display though as the RHS were responsible for one half of the stand, exhibiting vegetables from as far back as 200 years ago. The other half was taken up by the modern varieties grown by NVS members. The NVS side of the growing was solely in the charge of John Branham who organised the whole event without a hitch and all this on top of his own staging commitments as well.

Derek Raw

One grower who certainly makes Harrogate his premiere event every year and always manages to pick up a handful of Red cards is Derek Raw. Derek is well known for his superb quality large and small onions, but over the past few years potatoes has also been one of his trump cards. The National potato class for four dishes of 2 white and two other than white is always a difficult one to win but Derek won it with Malin, Kestrel, Winston and Lady Christl. His single dish of Winston in the white class was superb with fantastic skin; a condition I’m sure which helped him to get the judges award for the best exhibit in the northern championships.  I asked Derek to tell me how he grows them so large and with such good quality, the potatoes on the plate each weighed in at 10 ounces each.

All his potatoes are grown in 12 inch diameter polythene pots and his mixture is made up of Irish moss peat with an added egg cupful of seaweed meal and the same of Vitax Q4 to a sufficient quantity of peat to fill the bottom third of the pot. Derek firmly believes that the seaweed meal helps towards preventing brown spots on the potatoes and also helps to raise slightly the PH. The potatoes are well chitted and then placed on the bottom third of fertilised peat and the remainder of the bag is then filled with nothing more than sieved Moss peat.

When the haulms are about a foot high, he top dresses the pots by sprinkling a handful of Fish blood and bone on top of each bag and this is watered into the compost. His potatoes are usually ready in ten weeks and when he is satisfied that he has the size within the pots, the haulms are cut off and a black polythene sheet is then rolled over them to prevent the pots from getting wet. Once they have been lifted and graded the best potatoes are rolled up into 12 inch square pieces of fleece. These are then buried in fresh Moss Peat from a newly opened bag and in cardboard tomato boxes. Derek reckons that by wrapping the potato in fleece prior to burying them in peat the fleece allows the skin of the potato to breath and it sets so hard that he seems to able to polish them up with no risk of the skin tearing away. Derek also won the French beans class (picture attached) and his tip for these is to give each plant a couple of feeds of Nitrate of Potash as soon as the flowers have set. This helps the pods to grow long and slender but more importantly the pods will snap cleanly like glass.

Gerald Treweek

The Championship onion class was won by Gerald Treweek who’s had an excellent year growing from the Tom Henshaw re selected variety. Gerald also won the class for the three large onions.

Ronnie Jackson

Derek Raw had to be content this year with coming second in the class for onions under 250 grams, in both the Harrogate and Northern branch classes; Derek has won both of these classes more time than I care to remember. The winner on this occasion was Ronnie Jackson from Millom in Cumbria with a classic deep brown well coloured dish of Tasco. They were sown at the end of January in Levington F2S and eventually grown in a raised bed under cover. Ronnie gets 4 rows of onions into his 5 ft wide bed and the plants are spaced out 9 inches apart. The bulbs are lifted during early July when they get to the correct size to weigh in at just under 250grams. If the bulbs have a high shoulder they will be harvested at 10.25 inches but if flatter they will be lifted at 10.50 inches.

Gareth Cameron

Ronnie’s friend Gareth Cameron, also from Cumbria, was over the moon to win the long carrot class with his own selection of New Red Intermediate. (picture attached) Five carrots are grown in each 15 gallon drum which are filled with ordinary builders sand and rest on a further bed of sand. The bed where they grow in is 7 ft wide and 20 ft long with Enviromesh along the sides and a sloping roof above them which is 7 ft above the level of the drum. This means that Gareth can bore all his holes under cover with no need to remove the polythene. His mix is 1 builders bucket full of sieved soil, 1 builders bucket full of sieved Moss peat and 1 builders bucket full of silver sand to which is added just 2 ounces of lime and no other fertilisers. The seed were sown on the 10th April.

Don Owens

Don Owens from Wrexham has certainly had a good year with his Cedrico tomatoes winning both the Nationals at Tunbridge Wells as well as the Northern branch here at Harrogate. They were grown in a 14ft by 8 ft greenhouse in which he dug a trench 15inches wide and 18 inches deep. The bottom of the trench is filled with two layers of turf, grass side down, and then up to 9 inches of 3 year old manure is packed on top. On top of the manure he places Westland Planter Bags after first cutting out two large circles in the bottom of the bag and two on top. He plants two tomatoes per bag and the roots are then allowed to permeate through the holes in the bottom of the bag to the goodness below. Don waters with Chempak number 4 from the very beginning and changes to Maxi Crop liquid feed when the fruit is starting to change colour. Don usually picks anything up to 30 tomatoes for a given show which he takes to the house for his wife Unni to make the final selection.

Graham Watson

The best display in the Harrogate side of the show went to Graham Watson of Whitby for his three long carrots and three carrots other long that made up the National Carrot Championship class. They certainly deserved this high accolade as they were a superb set of two that I had the privilege to judge.

W Lamb

Finally no Harrogate show would be complete without the heaviest onion competition which was won this year by W Lamb, a retired miner who lives at Easington Colliery. The onion had good girth and weighed in at 6.24 Kg which is 13lb 12 ounces. (picture attached) Mr Lamb also won the class for the heaviest combined three onions, these weighed in at 16.535grams or 36lb 7 .375 ounces. The seed were sown on the 25th November from his own re selected strain which he originally crossed from a Welsh onion and Keith Fosters” bulb. One thing was noticeable, his bulbs were really healthy which leads me to think that Mel Ednies record of 15lb 15.5 ounces could well be just within his reach in the next couple of years.


Growing Parsnips

25th July 2007 I am often asked what is the best method of growing both long carrots and parsnips for the show

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