Towering Achievements – Leeks And More With Medwyn Williams

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Spectacular, thrilling, unique; just a few of the adjectives used to describe Tryfan, one of Wales’ highest mountains, officially voted Britain’s favourite peak. Aptly dubbed, given it’s awe-inspiring height and beauty, Medwyn of Angleseys’ new blanch leek variety bears the same name as it’s Snowdonian near-neighbour. As with Tryfan the peak, Tryfan the leek looked sure to receive plaudits during the 2020 competition season. A dash of global strife later and, needless to say, the competition season, along with (disclaimer-disclaimer-disclaimer-more-important-things-that-this-text-does-not-concern) was ruined.

Above: The 18-inch collars producing the desired effect on Medwyn’s Tryfan leeks in 1Pot XL modules

The satisfying crunch and bounce of marquee carpet, the thrum of sweet summer rain on a tented roof, sadly the Tryfan has missed all this. Great Scott! Some of these alliums probably don’t even know what a trestle table is! True, more important things have transpired since spring, but that’s not what we’re about right here. Our mission, and we do choose to accept it, is to bring you up to speed on what you missed in the absence of a 2020 show circuit. Namely, a profile of how these exquisite leeks were honed, what else Medwyn had in store and what one of the U.K.’s preeminent growers been up to across these long uncompetitive months.

Above: In a leek of his own, 12-time RHS Chelsea Gold Medal Winner Medwyn tends to his veg

If you can’t read, firstly – well done for getting this far, and secondly, Medwyn’s progress with the leeks has also been perfectly documented via his Insta feed. This provides an unmissable, insightful, and easily absorbed panorama of goings-on in his greenhouses. A scroll back through Medwyn’s posts allows you to see precisely how the Tryfan developed. Sown in July ‘19, we see the young plants potted on from 9cm to 1 litre pots in mid-August. Throughout their growth the leeks were in CANNA Coco Professional, a 100% coco coir substrate with no soil or peat. The Coco Pro has come as a revelation to Medwyn over the last couple of years – helping produce root systems devoid of pinkness or other discolouration.

Above: AQUAvalve5-equipped modules in Medwyn’s polytunnel feeding
and watering leeks and onions via 16mm and 9mm pipe and fittings

About a month later the leeks went into deep 12.5cm / 5” pots to encourage a lengthy root system suitable for the next phase. That phase came in late November where the leeks were transferred to 25 L / 6.6 gal pots ready for use in an AutoPot 1Pot XL watering system. Three feet high and rising, with a diameter of approximately 2.5cm / 1”, the leeks then received 23cm / 9” collars. The pots were placed in the module trays of the watering system but initially there was no need to switch it on.

Above: Medwyn grows around 42 varieties every year to produce spectacular veg show cornucopias

First Medwyn wanted the roots to reach the bottom of the pots. Gauging this is possible by watering through the top of the pot to feed and adding a little water to the AutoPot module tray. Once the water in the tray is gone Medwyn knows that the roots are ready to receive water and nutrient solution via the watering system. By mid-January, with the system running, the leeks were towering and into 46cm / 18” collars, much to Medwyn’s satisfaction. Continuing on their impressive trajectory they’d have been quite marvellous to see by the time of RHS Chelsea in May. It was becoming clear by this time that things might not go as planned. But this wasn’t going to stop Medwyn, with the leeks or his other efforts – of which more below.

Above: Happier times in the world of garden shows – Medwyn (left) wins his latest Gold Medal at RHS
Chelsea 2019 and is joined by AutoPot MD Jason Ralph-Smith (right)

Cornucopias of immaculately grown, specimen vegetables are that for which Medwyn is best known. Therefore there’s always plenty more to see under cultivation at his greenhouses. Medwyn’s used the CANNA / AutoPot combination to great effect with potatoes. Tests in 1Pot XL modules have produced show-worthy examples with superb skin condition and uniform proportions. Also profiled in Medwyn’s Insta posts are his Peter Glazebrook and David Metcalffe onions. Planted in mid-July, these had graduated to 1Pot systems by January. Come March they’d attained 13 to 14 leaves per plant with a circumference of approximately 15cm / 6” – perhaps a third of their hoped-for final size.

Above: Try cancelling these! Covid-be-damned Medwyn took his veg to it’s immense natural conclusion

In the event the onions’ date with Chelsea-destiny was cancelled but Medwyn was unmistakably and justifiably proud of the end results. The onions blasted apart all expectations. Those of uniform size achieved around 53cm / 21” whilst some outliers went all the way to 64cm / 25” in circumference, tipping the scales at an average 3.75 kg. As Medwyn says, “big onion rings there”.

Down went the shows like dominoes. What to do with all this hard work – on the part of Medwyn and competition growers nationwide? Fortunately CANNA weren’t about to let it lie. They turned to a mobile solution and Medwyn immediately turned roadie as a travelling judge. Furthermore he sagely insisted on the inclusion of six quality-led categories.

Above Left: Medwyn’s biggest onion just pulled from it’s 15L 1Pot Module having reached 25.25” circ.
Above Right: Medwyn sets to work restaging Bohemian Rhapsody with onions

Entrant-only, covid-compliant weigh-in stations were set up across the nation to allow growers a chance to show off their goods. It proved just the tonic. A much-enjoyed conclusion to the year’s work. Fulsome thanks are due to Medwyn’s son Alwyn for coordinating and all those who hosted weigh-ins – not least great mates at Plantasia – another key AutoPot R&D Centre.

Above: The CANNA Roadshow Weigh-Ins provided a much needed chance for
U.K. growers to show of and compare the hard work of a hard year

As we speak Medwyn’s at it again1. Preparations for 2021 and show-business-as-usual are well underway. Who knows what the future will hold but a grower grows – what else can they do? As he says “the time is upon us once more…” and 42 varieties are already sown in time for Chelsea 2021. If you want to add a little of Medwyn’s magic to your plot or watering system get thyself across to Medwyn’s new website – from which he retails seeds of the very same genetic lineage as his gold medal winners – plus AutoPots to put them in!

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