By its very nature, competition growing makes specialists of many gardeners. In order to get the competitive edge it is often necessary to invest time exploring the minutiae of one or two plants. All the more impressive then to meet a grower who cultivates and succeeds with a vast array of crops. We’ve been much enamoured of Sebastian Malinowski-Suski’s rip-roaring success for some time. He has a blazingly impressive partnership with Mills UK and, over the last few years, he has cherished countless competition curtain calls – collecting classy crowns, capturing choice championships, compiling capital commendations, and congregating celebrated citations as one of the U.K.’s finest AutoPot growers. This month we burrow deep down to take a look at his latest developments and burrow back up again to ask him about the secrets of his success.
2020’s roster of horticultural shows and veg championships has been blighted by Covid-19 but the season is far from a write-off. Virtual shows and social media have lent some exposure to growers exploits and, if anything, expanded popularity and awareness. Small, socially-distanced, members-only weigh-offs and competitions are mooted for later in the year – although certain plants will admittedly be done by then. Most productive, however, is the work that Sebastian and growers like him are doing in the development of their plants.
Across his home and allotment plots Sebastian has aubergines, long chillies, peppers, and tomatoes in 1Pot Modules, all tilted at U.K. or World records. Naturally he is hopeful that these will be seeing their huge and colourful selves reflected in a trophy or two – with record verification to boot. If they can’t make the competition tables there’s still the development of new techniques and the cultivation of seeds to attend to – advancements that promise to make 2021 a blockbuster year. Very much a key part of any plant, seeds are of course GOLD in competition veg growing. Careful sourcing and preservation vastly enhances chances of further success.
Sebastian is a dyed-in-the-wool seed saver, keeping the precious pips of his season’s crops to produce prodigious progeny. The only way to do this, in his his view, is by allowing nature to take its course. Whilst inexperienced growers might consider prying open a fruit directly after collecting it from a competition table, wise horticultural owls know better. Allowed to decompose naturally the fruit offer up seeds of far greater wealth – with vastly increased chances of germination and, arguably, resulting in stronger, more fruitful plants. For marrows or squashes Sebastian would wait two weeks minimum. Where chillies are concerned he typically does not extract seeds until just before Christmas.
Results speak for the powerful lineage of seeds growing in Sebastian’s allotment and garden. His long chillies are just one example of the success he’s enjoyed thanks to seed preservation. Grown in 1Pot these have held consecutive U.K. records, the latest being for a 447mm-long fruit which is the direct descendant of Sebastian’s previous title-holder. Similar successes at Malvern in 2019 came in the shape of a 3rd place for heavy celery, 4th for long beetroot, 4th for heavy radish, 4th for heavy potato and 6th for aubergine. Credit for these and other past awards is also attributed to his personal take on feeding.
Along with rich, specially prepared soils from his pumpkin patch, blended with Mills Top Mix or DNA Soil with Cork, Sebastian adds chicken pellets to the lower reaches of the pot. By his reckoning this acts as an excellent slow-releasing nutrient supplement. This in-pot feeding technique is complimented by the Mills A/B and C4 nutrients that Sebastian supplies to his plants via the reservoir and pipework of his 1Pot Modules. Along with the aubergines and tomatoes, currently basking in the sun at home in 1Pots, he has cucumbers in 1Pot XL. These are another length-orientated crop, this year in Mills CocoPeat alone and on A/B feeds.
A chat about the fortunes of his three bushel gourds raised an interesting point. The plants are doing well but were already pollenating before he considered Dale Toten’s advice about using the AQUAbox Spyder to irrigate and feed. No matter, up to a certain point the Spyder can be added to the bed later with the capillary matting strips curved or curling around the roots if necessary in order to minimise disturbance.
Not content with being the horticultural bees knees Sebastian also keeps the bee knees, approximately 1.2 million bees knees to be, well, approximate. These knees are attached to around about 200,000 stripy sky tigers (bees) of which Sebastian is rightly proud. Three huge colonies across hives at his home and allotment proving, once more, that the best way is nature’s way. They provide visual spectacle as they emerge en masse and are highly productive. Another string to bee’s bow is their effectiveness as natural predators against pests – keeping Sebastian’s plants in tip-top shape.
Come what may this year you can count on further exciting ideas executed to perfection by Sebastian. Check out his insta feed here to find out more!