Picture of Medwyn Williams

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.

Thursday 23rd August


My Blog 23rd  August

I’ve had a rather hectic time of late which is on par really with every other year as we are now in the middle of the showing season, hence no Blog of late.  There is no doubt that the dreadful weather conditions we have experienced has had a dire effect on the quality of the vegetables as well as their quantity.  I have been judging at Tatton Park, Tullamore in Ireland and at Haworth, the famous Bronte sisters village and all of them had lower entries than previous years.

Tullamore has many classes but there’s no doubt that the main competition and the most prestigious one is the All Ireland Quality Potato Class. The schedule asks for ‘six potatoes of any variety and the variety to be correctly named. each tuber to be free from skin blemishes, be true to type and weigh approximately 6ozs. ‘170g.’ Another section of the rules states ‘This being a quality championship, the adjudicators will favour floury, high dry matter varieties which are popular with the Irish consumer’  To enter you must first qualify at other shows prior to this championship. The prize money is certainly worth all the effort as it amounts to €600.00 with the winner taking home €250.00. The judging criteria is extensive with marks given for different merits in each dish from a total of a 100 points with one potato from each dish being cut in half to determine its High Dry Matter Content.

The winner from 20 entries was Raymond Higgins

The All Ireland winner for a dish of six potatoes

from Athlone but who now works in Canada and came over specially for the show. The interesting thing is that modern technology played a big part in all of this. It was Raymond’s Mum and Dad who looked after them by taking the lap top computer to the garden and using Skype, Raymond was able to tell them how to treat his twenty bags of ‘Rooster’ he was able to see them clearly on his Lap Top in Canada.

At the Haworth Show last Sunday I awarded the Best Exhibit in the show to Brian King

Six Cumbrian Pot Leeks grown outdoors by Brian King

from Ridddlesden nr Keighley who staged a really good, evenly matched dish of three Cumbrian Pot Leeks. The barrels were very parallel, clean and smooth with no signs of disease or pest damage on the flags.  These were grown directly outdoors with no cover whatsoever in raised beds a foot or so above ground level. The bed was emptied out towards the back end of last year and old green waste from his garden, up to six inches in depth, was laid in the bottom. This in turn was covered over with well rotted manure before the soil was placed back on top. The leeks were planted out from 7 inch pots with the button at least 4 inches into the soil. This means that Brian never had to revert to collaring as most growers do when they plant  their leeks on the surface.

I emptied my potato bags out yesterday hoping tom have a set or two for the Welsh Championships as well as possibly for the World Championships at Dundee which has been very kindly sponsored by JBA seed potatoes. It seems the entries are well down this year with the two top growers at the competition, Sherie Plumb and Alistair Gray both struggling with Sherie I understand unlikely to travel up there. I realised when I was half way through that I was never going to get the World Potato Championship requirements of 6 plates of 6 distinct kinds.

I appreciate that it’s the World Championships, but I really think it’s asking a lot of amateur growers to produce such a quantity.  Why not reconsider and go for either 6 plates of four or four plates of six, what do you think? It’s better to have a table full of exhibits rather than 4 or 5 entries for such a prestigious competition.

I was very pleased indeed with one potato in particular that I harvested yesterday and I do feel that when it gets generally released, it will definitely make it on the show bench.  The variety, that I grew on trial is called ‘Bute’ a white oval with shallow eye and an excellent cropper with super skin finish. Look out for this one when it’s released. I had an excellent pull with both my parsnips and long carrots for the Royal Welsh Show which means I still have plenty left to pull for Malvern.

I am therefore thinking of entering a set of both in the Welsh Championships on Saturday and Sunday September the 1st and 2nd

A long carrot with a good top, Oh for X Ray eyes!

if they ‘Pull’ reasonably well.  The carrots appear to be the best I have had for some years and they certainly appear to have a heavy top on them. The proof of course will depend whether or not they have gone down far enough to give me  a decent length of body. The parsnip is the new variety to replace Polar, it certainly has some really heavy top on them and having gently cleared around the top of one parsnip they are big as well.

Powerful stalks as can be seen with the 50 pence piece against them (couldn’t afford a £1.00!!)
The replacement Parsnip for Polar


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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3 thoughts on “Thursday 23rd August

  1. Really glad you’ve bought up the subject of class quantity reduction Medwyn as it’s something that I believe is going to get some heated debate in the next few months. As well as the World Potato Championships I believe we need to take a serious look at the National classes that call for a set of 5…..in particular long beet and blanch leeks, and maybe even long carrots and parsnips. None of us are getting any younger, and there will be less of us doing it in years to come. Gardens are smaller and so newcomers to the showing scene will probably never be able compete at the National in these classes. Having said that I signed up a new member to my local hort soc yesterday at our annual show…he was 9 years old and mad keen about showing veg. Whether he’ll stick to it when he discovers girls in his mid-teens is another matter but I look forward to reading about him in 25 years time!

    1. Your an optimistic chap hoping to be around in another 25 years time, your already in your seventies aren’t you!
      On a much more serious note though, whilst I believe that the World potato Championship should be reduced to either 6 plates of four or 4 plates of six, I have reservations regarding the National. There is a valid argument on your side but we mustn’t lose touch with the fact that it is the Premier event for any Vegetable Exhibitor. It’s interesting you mentioned smaller gardens, the section of my garden here for growing vegetables is only 70feet long and 5o feet wide.
      In my prime, way back in history! I used to stage collections of 6 kinds with six of each and I managed to win in all five branches straight after each other, something no one else has achieved. In those days the root classes were 6 of each and on the morning before the show I had to lift 6 long carrots for the Collection, 6 for the class and two for the mini collection. The same applied to Parsnips and to Long Beet. A total of 34 quality roots including 6 long beet for the class. Personally, and within reason, I don’t think it matters too much how big or how small the garden is, it’s really about planning and commitment to the job.
      I was so mad keen in those days that I used to ring the wife from work to tell her not cook my evening meal, just to leave my working clothes in the back porch and I would be straight out into the back garden. I would get back to the house when it was getting dark, mind you after copious amounts of tea throughout the evening, where would we be without our cuppa! I await with interest to see how the debate goes at the AGM.

  2. I’m not 70….I just look it!

    I respect what you and other traditionalists are saying and would hate to think anyone will get upset if change does come about. All i’m saying really is that the subject needs debating and when you have eminent growers such as Ian Simpson, Jim Pearson, Gareth Cameron and Ron MacFarlane advocating change it surely needs airing. I personally don’t much care if change is adopted or not but I do believe it’s common sense if the National is to have a future. I don’t quite see how numbers should be different just because it’s the National and a few people have said to me you just want to make it easier…..I think it would be quite the opposite, it would make it harder to win!

    I agree that size of garden makes no odds. I am as dedicated as they come but I have ‘plateaued out’ on the number of long roots I grow, having increased them bit by bit over the years, about 40 parsnips, 30 long carrots, a couple of raised beds with a total of 100 or so stumps and a couple of drums of long beet. I have quite a large garden (300′ x 20′)and could grow a lot more but I’m afraid I struggle to find the time (not to mention the escalating expense) to commit to more than that. And as you know Medwyn, it’s bloody hard work! People say when you’re retired you’ll have more time and while I’m reasonably fit and nimble at 48 (oh yes I am!) and I shudder to think of all the extra work when i’m older and less mobile. I know quite a few growers who have won long carrots at a high level of showing (sets of 3) but I’ve rarely if ever seen them show at National level.

    My problem, and that of many others is keeping your local shows going which I feel I have a real duty to do, and it’s very difficult to say ‘no’ to them when they’re relying on you. 40 parsnips easily becomes 30 if you discard forked or substandard roots and if you tick your shows off it doesn’t leave many spare. As a result it’s highly unlikely I’d exhibit at National level when a set of 5 is called for, but I would probably have a crack if it was only 3. Long carrots and parsnips I could more or less accept leaving as they are, but surely long beet and blanch leeks should be reduced to 3 immediately? After all there were only 2 sets of blanch leeks at last year’s Llangollen National, and long beet are the crop of Satan anyway!

    By the way if I asked my wife to leave my workclothes out ready so I could get straight into the garden then they would also be ready….packed in a suitcase along with the rest of my clothes by the front gate! This illustrates another point…..we have to carefully balance our lives so that the hobby doesn’t become obsessive, and whilst my good lady enjoys helping me out at shows and catching up with the many friends we’ve made I do have to be careful that I don’t neglect her or the rest of the family!

    Anyway…..I hope your tomatoes are good because mine are starting to come good at long last and I shall be going all out for your crown at Malvern! I wonder if I could propose they are reduced from 12 to 3 in future! ;o)

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