Medwyn Williams vegetable prowess is second to none. He’s been nurturing vegetables since he was knee-high to a radish, schooled in the ways of growing by his farm worker dad, amongst the fertile soil of Anglesey. Medwyn (currently) has an incredible ELEVEN Chelsea gold medals to his name. To us, he’s the Viscount of Veg, Lord of the Leeks, Prince Regent of Parsnips – and this year he has called upon leading plant nutrient and growing medium brand, CANNA to help with his Chelsea show display.
Ahead of the big Chelsea reveal, we curl up amongst the carrots and chat about all things veg.
What can we expect to see on your Chelsea display?
Over forty different kinds of vegetables in a range of colours as I firmly believe that vegetables are as colourful as flowers with the added benefit you can eat them!! We aim to create a rugby ball from tomatoes with the colours of Wales to celebrate the upcoming Rugby World Cup in September which is to be held in Japan. We will also have a few new and unusual varieties of vegetables as well. Also on the display this year, Leeks, Pak Choi, Chillies and some other vegetables have been grown without using soil or peat. For the first time these have been grown to maturity using only CANNA COCO and fed with CANNA A and B nutrients. The results have been excellent all round.
Which are best – modern hybrids or old heritage veg?
They both have their place in our garden as the heritage vegetables will mature over an extended period whilst the modern hybrids tend to mature at the same time. Some of the modern hybrids such as the Sweet Candle carrot have exquisite taste as well
Do you actively attract pollinators? If so, how?
As we are now growing on the land I purchased a few years ago, we are right in the open country and plenty of pollinators are naturally around owing to the wild flowers growing in the hedgerows etc.
Any good tips for deterring pests such as slugs and pigeons?
Slugs are a constant nightmare, especially when growing celery for exhibition when we have to revert to the judicious use of slug pellets. I have also used some nematodes. Pigeons are no problem but rabbits are a real pest and anything that suits their taste buds will be devoured overnight. We therefore have to cover most things, particularly brassicas and carrots with large sheets of fine nylon mesh.
Do you tend to grow for yield or flavour?
Both. One question I get asked at shows quite often is ‘do your vegetables taste good as they are much bigger than normal’. The fact is that they are given so much TLC that they taste far superior to any shop bought ones.
Are there any veg you struggle to grow?
One year I tried to grow a bright red ceremonial Japanese carrot and the whole lot forked and went to seed!
What is the best piece of advice you could give to an aspiring veg grower?
Get the foundation right which is the soil, get it tested to see what, if anything is lacking in it. Never forget there is nothing more honest than soil, you get out of it what you put into it. Don’t be too clever to start with, just grow what you and the family like to eat. There is no point for instance in growing parsnips if no one in your household likes them. Don’t work too large an area too quickly, just turn over an area sufficient for your needs at the time.
What would you say would be the best fertiliser you have come across?
The two main ones that I have used over the years are Blood Fish and Bone and our own – Medwyns Base Fertiliser with trace elements. The first is organic and the later inorganic but does contain a good amount of micro-nutrients. Nutrimate, though not strictly a fertiliser, is undoubtedly a valuable addition to the soil as it contains a high level of humic and fulvic acid. 5 kg is equivalent to 1 tonne of well-rotted farmyard manure with no smell, no weeds and less effort. Another good product to use is CANNA Rhizotonic as it helps root development in all types of growing media from soil to Coco and all mixes in between.
Who are your gardening heroes?
Without doubt I have two, Edwin Beckett and my father. Both of these growers influenced my gardening carrier in different ways Edwin Beckett was staging displays of vegetables during the 1920s and thirties at Chelsea and other large provincial shows around the South East. My father taught me how to appreciate the soil and set me growing when I was only eight years old by giving me radish mustard and cress to sow, from that point on I was hooked..
What would be your five desert island vegetables? (Imagine it’s a fertile island, not a barren, sandy one)
Being a proud Welshman I would have to grow leeks closely followed by Lady Christl potato (my favourite early) with the sea breeze hopefully keeping the blight at bay! Carrots would also feature as well as some quick growing juicy radish and ten week turnips. The Show Perfection pea has a really sweet flavour with, hopefully plenty of twigs around the island they could grow really well.
At the end of a hard day’s gardening, what beverage do you reach for?
Malt Whiskey, in particular Penderyn.
To visit Medwyn’s vegetable display at this years Chelsea Flower Show, head on over to stand GPE223. He’ll also be launching ‘Y Ddraig Goch’ (or The Red Dragon) F1 hybrid tomato.
For more information on Canna’s plant nutrient range, click HERE