Med­wyn Wil­liams ex­plains how to have a go at breed­ing prize-win­ning veg

Have a go at breed­ing a prize-win­ning new veg­etable se­lec­tion from your own stock

Garden News (UK) - - Garden News -

You can have great fun sav­ing your own seed, par­tic­u­larly if you hap­pen to have grown a good spec­i­men of a cer­tain va­ri­ety. Bry­thon Sten­ner was a great ex­am­ple of this – he was a very ob­ser­vant plants­man and his re­s­e­lec­tion of an old show bean is still win­ning on the show benches to­day as ‘Sten­ner’. Bry­thon used to se­lect the best and most pro­duc­tive plants by ty­ing dif­fer­ent-coloured knit­ting wool to the plants and keep­ing records in his di­ary.

Keep­ing car­rot seed, how­ever, is dif­fer­ent as you need to be aware that many car­rots (other than long classes) are usu­ally F1 hy­brids. This means it would take you any­thing up to five years to re­s­e­lect back to an open­pol­li­nated se­lec­tion from a hy­brid. Long car­rots are usu­ally open­pol­li­nated va­ri­eties that have been re­s­e­lected over many years by keen ex­hibitors such as our­selves. I was very sur­prised to learn that the world record was bro­ken this year us­ing our Own Se­lec­tion Long Car­rot by Chris Qual­ley, with a spec­i­men weigh­ing in at a whop­ping 10kg (22.4lb).

Parsnips have im­proved so much since Dr Peter Daw­son bred the first F1 hy­brid ‘Gla­di­a­tor’ that’s still win­ning to­day at the high­est level. There are now more F1 hy­brid parsnips than ever, with other breed­ers reg­u­larly in­tro­duc­ing newer ones. When I first started ex­hibit­ing I used to grow the ‘Stu­dent’ and ‘Ten­der and True’, with the lat­ter be­ing the best avail­able at that time.

Onions for the un­der 250g classes are gen­er­ally F1 hy­brids as well, but the large ex­hi­bi­tion onions are usu­ally open­pol­li­nated, so you can save your own seed. You need to look af­ter the bulbs well in a dry, cool place and I usu­ally re­plant them around Christ­mas. Plant­ing be­fore then will in­duce early growth, with the flower head ap­pear­ing much ear­lier in the year when there are fewer pol­li­na­tors around.

The bulbs are sim­ply planted up in some good-qual­ity com­post. I mix Lev­ing­ton M3 to­gether with John Innes No 2 and the bulb just sits on top of the com­post in a 10-litre pot. Wa­ter spar­ingly, if at all, as there’s enough mois­ture in the onion it­self to start root­ing.

MED­WYN WIL­LIAMS

Plant up onion bulbs so you can col­lect seed next year

‘Sten­ner’ run­ner bean still wins on the benches

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