Once a year Malvern is a-hubble and a-bubble with something so pure it puts nearby the natural mineral springs to utter, utter, utter shame. On the last weekend of September pure autumn swells up and gushes forth in all its warm russety-amber majesty. The wellspring? The Three Counties Showground; home to the Malvern Autumn Show, 70 acres of harvest-time horticultural hoo-ha.
We all love autumn, sure, but how exactly does Malvern embody the season? At the heart of the show is harvest, the pinnacle of many a grower’s year, and an opportunity to show the fruits of a year’s labour to a frequently astounded public.
Like a very big squirrel, the spirit of the Malvern Autumn Show roams the country in the pre-winter weeks gathering bounties incessantly. It enters the minds of the nation’s finest growers and compels them to bring forth their incredible fruit and vegetables. If you’ve ever sneezed in September it’s likely the Malvern Autumn Show brushing your nose with its big spiritual bushy tail. If this sounds pagan it is (in that it’s made-up).
Two of Malvern’s arena for these climactic exhibitions of fruit and vegetable delights are the NVS Harvest Pavilion and the NVS CANNA National Giant Vegetable Championships. We’re chuffed to announce that, once again, a swathe of prizes fell to AutoPot growers in both this year.
In the NVS Harvest Pavilion AutoPot 1Pot impresarios Gareth Cameron, Ian Stocks and Scott Hodgson all scooted off with high card finishes for their entries. Gareth’s improbably beautiful and remarkably onion-shaped onions bowled (not literally) the judges into a cocked hat whereupon they peeped over the brim and issued him First Prize in the 250g-1.5kg category. Red cards continued to flutter down to our growers. Ian triumphed in pot leeks category, closely attended in 2nd by Scott, 14-year-old grandson of the aforementioned Gareth. If you think the leeks look good enough to eat you’d be damn right. These stunning alliums have since been served as soup at the high table of AutoPot MD Jason Ralph-Smith, who has deigned to give them his seal of approval.
For those who grow all-out, aspiring to giant fruit and veg, Malvern hosts the NVS CANNA National Giant Vegetable Championships. Here things are getting properly tasty as year-on-year more cutting edge science and tech comes to bear. Nutrients, substrates, additives, supplements, lighting and watering systems are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. For some this may sound like an arms race, anathema to the genteel, pastoral gardening world. However the innovations do yield valuable lessons in terms of how to manage crops at extremes using alternative growing methods. As techniques and technologies are perfected here they trickle down, become viable in terms of yield vs cost and may be used to help expand the mix of sustainable farming methods in future.
Having saved the world with our tech (no need to thank us) we set out to smash the planet with a cantaloupe the size of a dangerous asteroid. Who could produce such an orb? Who else but Dale Toten. He mastered the easy2GO / PlantSkirt growing technique first time with a UK Record shattering 13.05kg effort. Hotly pursuing Dale was Gary Cooper AKA GeordieGiantVeg with his second-placed cantaloupe. Both melons (the fruit) had the benefit of Mills on the feed and substrates, including their sensational new organic line, along with Ecothrive Charge, Hydroponic Moonshine and Dimlux for supplemental lighting.
Using the same combinations but with AutoPot AQUAbox Spyders Dale and Gary also pulled off a one-two in the heaviest carrot category, Dale’s topping out at 4kg. The Spyders offer truly responsive irrigation and feeding. Other systems, often relying on pumps, supply water and nutrients uniformly over a given area. This creates a problem if different plants within the same bed require differing amounts of water at any given time. The power-free, pump-free, gravity-fed Spyder has twelve strips of capillary matting running outwards from the central AQUAbox. Each strip draws water from the AQUAvalve in the AQUAbox only as required by the section of the bed that it is supplying. It was these very same devices that propelled Dale’s 2018 Malvern Show Giant Veg winning Giant Squash to giant glory by responsively feeding the plants 500sq ft root zone exactly as and when required.
For more Spyder dominance one had to look no further than Dale and Gary’s category crashing giant bell peppers which came 1st and 3rd respectively. Mr Toten’s champion capsicum weighed in at an extraordinary 602g. Also marshalling the forces of Mills, Ecothrive, Moonshine, Dimlux and AutoPot was a true master of all veg growing forms. Sebastian Malinowski-Suski’s incredible AutoPot 1Pot grown chilli pepper reached new heights and indeed lengths – of 447mm, a UK Record to take out his own UK Record of 2018. In some respects such personal bests are as important as the awards, representing as they do, a yardstick of how growers are progressing as cultivators year on year. Attacking on all fronts Sebastian also grabbed 3rd in heavy celery, 4th in long beetroot and 4th in heavy radish – some heavy salad right there. Not letting up for a moment he also took 4th in heavy potato and 6th in aubergine.
This year we wanted to allow the AutoPot growers to share the techniques they’d employed as fully as possible. Bludgeoning the public with awe-inspiring veg is all well and good, but it’s nice to be able to demonstrate how giant, show or regular veg are cultivated with ease using our systems. Hence we sent not only our growers and reps but also a deliciously vibrant trade stand featuring the whole range of products employed to such devastating effect by AutoPot growing entrants. Our team had the privilege of chatting with an enlightening cross-section of the horticultural cognoscenti. Amongst interested parties were MuddyBootz Allotment Channel who absolutely without question definitely twisted our MD Jason’s arm into an interview. Check it out here. Time to leave and a slight twilighty-twinge as Sunday eve rolled in early. No tears though, we’ve picked up as much as we shared and very much look forward to putting it to good use, with plans germinating in our minds eyes (yuck) ahead of a return visit next year.
All images copyright. Selected images copyright Malvern Autumn Show. Selected images used with kind permission of The Malvern Autumn Show.