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Last Updated: Tuesday 7th March 2023


The final talk in this year’s series of Zoom presentations was given by Mark Hall who covered globe and long beetroot cultivation and showing.

Long beetroot are notoriously difficult to extract with their roots intact so he grows them in barrels which sit on a metal framework fitted with special trap doors which allow him to locate the bottom of each root, cut them off to identical lengths and to then extract them easily from above without damaging the roots. Mark grows his own selection of long beetroot originally derived from crossing Cheltenham Green Top (has good weight but poor colour) with Long Black (has good colour but poor weight).

Both types of beetroot need to be grown well and quickly to ensure optimum condition for showing and to avoid corkiness and hardening of the shoulders. Beetroot need regular watering, plentiful nutrients and prefer cooler growing temperatures which enhances both flesh colour and sugar content. Some form of shading in the Summer may be advantageous for optimum growth, even outdoors.

For the globe beetroot classes, Mark prefers Pablo for the earlier Shows and Cardeal for the later ones. He finds that Pablo can become ovoid in shape if left too long in the ground even though its skin condition is probably superior to Cardeal. He grows his globe beetroot in a special sand-filled bed at 6 inch spacings and with three separate sowing dates to cover his intended Shows. Beetroot can be harvested from 55 to 65 days after sowing although this can extend up to 75 days if Spring and Autumn days are involved with their shorter daylight hours and cooler weather conditions.

He uses the same growing mixture for both globe and long types of beetroot ie 7 parts of loam, 4 parts of peat and one part of sharp sand. To each bushel (8 gal) of this base mixture he adds 5 oz hoof and horn, 5 oz superphosphate, 2 1/2 oz sulphate of potash and 1 1/2 oz hydrated lime.

The 6 inch spacing helps to ensure the beetroot grow vertically as they do not like to be disturbed once they reach a certain size, otherwise their final body shape and orientation will be adversely affected.



Roger Burnett from Scarborough talked about growing and showing Pelargoniums at our meeting held on February 27th. There are 20 or more classifications of Pelargonium and he grows 1800 varieties which he exhibits at most of the major northern Shows. The major UK Pelargonium nursery for the supply of plants is Fibrex Nurseries Ltd.

He was full of praise for his Keder Polytunnel which he claimed kept his plants up to 5 degrees warmer than ambient temperature during the winter and up to 5 degrees cooler during the summer!

You can grow Pelargoniums easily from seed but serious showmen tend to propagate new plants from cuttings taken from healthy parent stock. Cuttings taken from flower-bearing shoots are said to be more vigorous. Cuttings should be taken taken just below a leaf joint as this is the site of the highest concentration of plant auxins which are responsible for encouraging root growth. March/April and July/September are the best months to take cuttings. He uses Darlac soft bow scissors for this purpose as they avoid cut thumbs which can happen when using a sharp knife!

Pelargoniums suffer from a number of pests and diseases. Whitefly thrive in hot dry conditions so maintaining a humid atmosphere is beneficial during the growing phase. Aphids can be attacked with the commonly-available proprietary insecticides but Roger has been impressed with SB Plant Invigorator which functions as both a pesticide and a mildewicide. Pelargonium Rust can be prevented by using regular doses of Roseclear or Provanto Fungus Fighter.

When showing Pelargoniums don’t let your plants rub against each other during transport to the Show. It is also important to ‘put your best face forward’ when staging on the bench. Use a clean, neatly-written label bearing the correct spelling of the variety shown and remove any dead or damaged leaves or flowers. Cleaning the pots with a handwipe tissue is also beneficial.

There was also some discussion on alternative growing media, their suitability and the validity of their eco-credentials with the imminent ban on the sale of peat to domestic/amateur growers. In his view and after various experiments, he has found very few suitable alternatives to peat-based compounds. Woodchip/fibre will take nitrogen out of the soil and so needs extra fertiliser to compensate. Coir has poor water-holding capacity and requires extra nitrogenous fertiliser to be applied after even just a few weeks. Green waste carries the risk of unknown provenance and therefore possibly toxic chemical content. The best peat-free media he has found so far are produced by Melcourt and Dalefoot although they are relatively expensive to buy.


An excellent and informative talk on Fertilisers was given by David Thornton. For those who missed it, it will be uploaded to the main NVS website and will then be viewable by NVS members only.

Who knew about RH value? Who knew that vegetable exhibitors use high nitrogen fertiliser to slow down maturation and high potash fertiliser to speed it up? Who knew that beetroot benefit from having a high nitrogen fertiliser?


Another excellent Zoom talk organised by NVS, this time by Ian Simpson on Growing and Showing Peas. The presentation will be uploaded to the main NVS website and will then be viewable by NVS members only. Ian has very kindly provided a hand-out with summary notes from the pea talk which can also be downloaded from the website library.

Analysis of data suggests that higher elevation and cooler climate provide the best growing conditions for top-quality peas. Ian grows mainly Show Perfection as his chosen variety but Turners Spring is nearly as good. Dorian is less favourable for showing but has the advantage of much better resistance to mildew.

When staging his peas he uses a drinking straw cut to a desired length. This is then placed over each pea stalk in order to ensure that each stalk can be cut to the identical length which enhances the overall appearance of the exhibit on the show bench.

The next Zoom talk will be at 7.30pm on Wednesday 22nd February when David Thornton will talk about Fertilisers for the Kitchen Garden.


Excellent Zoom talk in January on growing parsnips by Simon Smith – National Champion for the last two years. If you missed it, it has been recorded and can be viewed by NVS members only, via the NVS website.

A few keypoints he mentioned were assume a growing period of between 22 to 24 weeks for optimum root condition. Sowing pre-chitted seed works best but don’t let the radicles get too long otherwise you may end up with distorted roots. Use ‘washed concreting sand’ to fill your growing barrels as this provides sufficient porosity to allow optimum root growth Keep watering steady throughout the growing period, keep the soil moist but not over-dry or over-wet. Store and show parsnips in dry condition in contrast to carrots which should be kept moist to maintain their appearance.

I have added details of his growing mix to the Growing Hints page.

The next Zoom meeting will be delivered on Tuesday 7th February by Ian Simpson who will talk about Growing and Showing Peas. Further information on the winter series of Zoom events is available from the EVENTS page on the website


The Adrian Read Zoom talk was held a day later than planned due to technical difficulties but has been recorded and can be viewed by NVS members only, via the NVS website.

Adrian works at Earley Ornamentals, a major wholesale plant producer supplying most of the UK with up to 200 million young plants per year. As to be expected, they have some very clever and expensive machinery to help them fill the growing trays with compost, sow the seeds and even to check the germination rate and identify empty growing cells. They have a number of germination chambers and ongrowing zones with 7 1/2 acres available under glass on their 12 1/2 acre site. Great care is taken with lighting, watering, aeration, temperature control, feeding and sanitation in order to ensure optimum production levels. They are under pressure to move on to peat-free composts when the new legislation kicks in and they have done various trials with different componds. However, it has to be said, apparently with mixed results so far. The key thing I took away from this talk was the attention to detail given to looking after their plants on a daily basis. Admittedly, there are commercial reasons driving this level of care but, even for us amateurs, the key message is to inspect your plants regularly and give them what they need only when they need it. Overwatering or feeding can be just as dangerous as insufficient applications.


Merry Christmas to all our members and we look forward to seeing everyone again next year. Our next monthly meeting will be our AGM to be held on Monday 30th January 2023 at Beverley Conservative Club commencing 7.30pm.

This meeting will also include a presentation by our Secretary on her recent visit to Pakistan and, in addition, will include a buffet provided by members of the Committee.


The second of the NVS Winter Zoom talks was delivered in December by Geoff Wilson to an audience of up to 65 attendees. If you missed it, don’t worry because it was recorded and has now been uploaded to the main NVS website library as a member-only benefit.

Geoff’s interest in soil structure and its associated organisms began when he noticed that his newly-acquired allotment appeared to contain very few earthworms. He subsequently discovered that New Zealand flatworms (first discovered by DEFRA in Scotland and Northern Ireland in the 1970s) were responsible for devouring most of them. He also mentioned Amy Stewart‘s book The Earth Moved which provides lots of interesting information about earthworms.

He is a great fan of Dr Elaine Ingham and her theories on the importance of root exudates together with the maintenance of proper soil ecosystem balance for effective plant growth. Elaine Ingham is arguably the world’s greatest soil expert and has produced a myriad of books and scientific papers on this subject.

Some interesting facts that I picked up from Geoff were that common potato scab is caused by Streptomyces scabies, a commonly-occurring bacterium in the soil. Geoff says that potato scab can be prevented by keeping the tubers damp during the first six weeks after planting. He places layers of newspaper below and above his tubers in his potato trenches before covering them over with soil.

He is also in favour of avoiding the overuse of chemical fertilisers and prefers the use of various compost teas based on mixing home-made compost with liquid seaweed, sulphur-free molasses and rainwater (full details are shown in his presentation slides which NVS members can access from the NVS website). Similarly, he has found that black coffee is a very effective insecticide against whitefly provided a second application is used to kill any hatching egg larvae laid by the previous generation of adult flies.

The next presentation is now planned for Wedesday 11th January 2023 when Adrian Read will talk about the secrets of Commercial Growing. Further information on the winter series of Zoom events is available from the EVENTS page on the website


Our November meeting (and last meeting of 2022) featured Peter Rogers – Assistant Estate Manager at Burnby Hall. With the aid of powerpoint, he gave us a presentation covering The four seasons at Burnby Hall.

He started with a brief history of the Hall and the development of the lakes (originally built for fishing parties) and the rock garden. The lakes are now home to a national collection of water lilies numbering some 100 varieties and also stock impressive numbers of roach, rudd and carp as well as some resident herons.

Autumn provides vibrant Fall colours (the deciduous redwood is particularly impressive) as well as the opportunity to repair pathways and to trim hedges. It is also time to plant the spring-flowering bulbs; 18000 tulips comprising 130 varieties are planned for 2023. Autumn also enables the following year’s programme of visitor events to be planned and promoted.

Winter snowfall is rather rare and the reduced vegetation cover enables the various sculptures within the grounds, such as the metal giraffe family, to be shown off more clearly.

Spring flowers commence with snowdrops of which there are over 60 varieties present, mainly in the rock garden. Bluebells come next and are grown in the Stumpery, an area of old tree trunks at the far end of the lake and based on a similar design found at KIng Charles’ Highgrove House. The Tulip Festival forms the biggest floral event of the year and takes place at the end of April/beginning of May. Areas dedicated to growing native wildflowers have been a recent addition and provide extra colour and opportunities for pollinators.

In the summer, the water lilies typically appear from mid-June until the end of August; each flower lasting only a few days. Summer is also the season to stage a variety of themed visitor events. To reflect the Hall’s visitor profile, the aim is to create a balance between quiet reflective days and more lively, dedicated event days featuring live entertainment of interest to both children and adults.

An interesting overview of what to expect throughout the year and we look forward to visiting the Hall and grounds next June. Further details of the Hall can be found on their website as well as their Facebook page.


The first of the NVS Winter Zoom talks was delivered by David Metcalfe to an audience of up to 110 attendees. If you missed it, don’t worry because it was recorded and has now been uploaded to the main NVS website library as a member-only benefit. I have also posted details of the potting and growing mixtures which David uses for his onions, under our Growing Hints page.

One or two tips that I picked up included the need to ensure that all leaves grow perpendicularly upwards in order to avoid distorted or offset bulb formation and this is why it is important to support the leaves in a vertical growing position all the way through until harvest time. The advantage of using airpots to improve rootball formation was also visibly demonstrated in his slides.

David also uses magnesium/Dolomitic lime because he believes it persists longer in the soil than other forms of lime. He uses Py Dust in puffer form and domestic flyspray as his insecticides of choice and yellow sulphur dust as a fungicide. Most of the really effective chemicals are now either impossible to obtain or very expensive to acquire although he suggested that certain ‘specialist’ hydroponics shops might stock a range of suitable chemicals for the amateur grower.

When preparing his onion bulbs for show, he dips the necks in hot water for a few minutes in order to soften the skins before tying them with raffia but first squeezing any introduced water out of the necks. Rather than using talcum powder to enhance the drying process he prefers climbing chalk which is coarser in consistency and easier to remove from the bulbs before staging. Note that, under NVS judging rules, any artificial enhancement of the bulbs may render the exhibit liable to disqualification. He finds that his bulbs take from 5 to 6 weeks to ripen in his garage. He avoids exposing them to sunlight and doesn’t bother to turn his bulbs as he finds that they will ripen uniformally regardless.


NVS has posted the following information. These events are apparently open to all, presumably to attract new membership of the NVS. Further information on the winter series of Zoom events is available from the EVENTS page on the website

Dear Member,

We are delighted to share our exciting line up of speakers and topics for our Winter Zoom Talks 2022/2023. If you would like to join us, please go to the events page on our website to book tickets (which are free).

Once booked, you will receive an email notification to confirm your place. Instructions for joining the event on Zoom will be sent by email closer to the date of each talk.

November 22nd – 7.30pm

David Metcalfe on Growing Large Exhibition Onions

David is one of the top growers of Large Exhibition Onions within the NVS and will give an illustrated talk and share his methods for growing for exhibition with success. Seeds are usually sown in December so it’s perfect timing for anyone wishing to try a different approach for the next season.

December 6th – 7.30pm

Geoff Wilson on “Invading the root Zone”

Join us for what promises to be a very informative talk. The presentation is called ‘Invading the root zone’ – basically it is a visit to the soil and in particular the crucial area of soil for plant growth (Rhizosphere or root zone), and what exists there. The presentation poses the question that a more organic approach to gardening is better than the use of Chemicals?

January 10th – 7.30pm

Adrian Read on the Commercial Side of Growing

Adrian’s presentation will take you through the commercial side of growing with cross-referencing to the amateur side. Adrian talk will showcase his experience of working in a commercial nursery for the past six years .

January 24th – 7.30pm

Simon Smith on Growing Parsnips for Exhibition

Join us for what promises to be a very informative and witty presentation on growing parsnips for exhibition. Simon who hails from Loughborough has been growing and exhibiting for a long time and is the current National champion with parsnips. Join us to hear how his journey has evolved and how he grows them.

February 7th – 7.30pm

Ian Simpson on Growing and Showing Peas

Ian’s presentation will take you through the full cycle of growing & showing peas from ground preparation, sowing, germination, growing, planting out, maintenance, show preparation then right through to saving seed for the next year.

February 22nd – 7.30pm

David Thornton on fertilisers for the Kitchen Garden

Join us for what promises to be a very informative talk from David Thornton on fertilisers for the Kitchen Garden. David is a long-standing member of the NVS and a very successful grower and exhibitor.

March 7th – 7.30pm

Mark Hall on Growing Beetroot

Mark is a master at growing beetroot and will share his years of success and knowledge with us. An Illustrated talk for anyone who wants to get better beetroot out of the ground and onto the show bench or kitchen table.

Hopefully within the programme you will find something of benefit and that interests you. If you have any problems booking please don`t hesitate to contact us by email on

We hope you can find the time to join us for some of the talks.

Kind Regards

The NVS Team


Members will note that the Music Room (where we hold our meetings at the Conservative Club) has now completed its refit with new seating and decor.

Keith has arranged our speaker programme for 2023. You can see the list of events planned here.


Interesting article on Giant pumpkins here


The metaldehyde slug pellets ban comes into force in the UK as from March 31st 2022. It is therefore illegal for gardeners to use pellets containing this organic compound.

Professional and home gardeners must now turn to more environmentally friendly and humane methods for how to get rid of slugs in the garden.


What you are wondering in February

Will I be visiting Pakistan any time soon?

Will the extreme weather conditions of 2022 be repeated in 2023 and will Show dates and related events have to be reviewed in light of continuing climate change?

Will I try and stockpile as much peat as possible ahead of the proposed ban on peat sales in 2024?

Will Covid or other respiratory diseases rear their ugly heads during the Winter period?


Please note that the car parking arrangements at BCC have changed. EYDA members and guests are now able to park on the premises for FREE provided that they sign in with their vehicle registration as soon as they enter the Club’s entrance door. There is a wall-mounted device into which you type your registration number but please wait for a confirmation sign to light up on the screen otherwise you could receive a fine for illegal parking from the company that operates the car park. Further details can be seen here.


In view of the national Coronavirus rule relaxations announced I have outlined the principal changes below and have posted a few photos to show the current internal seating plan.

I have also updated the car parking arrangements which can be seen here.

The Music Room as viewed from the front entrance door, showing the new seating/table arrangement.

The pool table has now been moved to a different room and the internal decor has been altered.

The Music Room and Committee Room (in the background) as viewed from the stage area, showing the new seating/table arrangement.

Gaining front door entrance to the Club using a numerical password no longer applies. BCC members have been provided with individual cards which can be scanned to open the internal entrance door automatically. For our meetings, the Club Manager has agreed to keep this door unlocked between 7pm and 8pm to allow us to enter unhindered. Exit from the premises at the end of the evening will be gained by pressing the green electronic release door button only. Do not attempt to push the door open manually.

There are two hand sanitiser stations available, one near the front entrance and the other in the corridor leading to the toilets. There are no house rules regarding the wearing of face coverings and maintaining fixed social distancing but, given the nature of this environment, it is recommended that you practise common sense in connection with both of these behaviours.

Bar service, rather than table service, will now be available. Access to the Snooker Room is not allowed unless you have a BCC member’s card to scan the entrance door from the corridor.

Of course, the rules may change over time but this is the current information available. Those of you with Facebook accounts can also find the relevant BCC page which may show any further rule updates.


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