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What’s Happening ?  

Last Updated: Wednesday 23rd November 2022


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) is undergoing a refit with new seating and decor in the process of being created. It will eventually look the same as the Committee Room which has just been revamped.


Four- time (2008, 2011, 2016 and 2022)

National Dahlia Champion

Ian Sutherland

Our October 2022 Meeting, which featured Ian Sutherland from Blackburn talking about Dahlias, attracted a record-breaking and wide-ranging audience of at least 64 persons and the venue possibly ran out of enough chairs to seat everyone who came! Amongst those who attended, we welcomed Bradford-based Andrew Cunningham – Chair of West Yorkshire DA and Dorothy Wilkins – Chair of Hunmanby & District Garden Produce Association.

Some of the products Ian talked about and displayed during his presentation were mentioned in the scattered Elixir Gardens table-top flyers. I have added the company’s website details to our Pest Control/Fertilisers page, for those who are interested.

Ian took us through his growing cycle beginning with tuber storage and preparing them ahead of cutting formation, removal and on-growing. Any tubers that show signs of leafy gall formation (caused by a specific bacterial infection) should be disposed of as affected tubers will never produce show quality blooms. He aims to propagate 3500 plants of which he keeps about 600 for his own use, donating or selling on the rest to help defray expenses. His growing benches are constructed using a polystyrene base insulating layer covered by an electric heat mat, pond vinyl sheeting, capillary matting and a fleece coat covering over the tubers which helps to increase the air temperature by up to 5 deg C above ambient. He believes bottom heating of 16 – 18 deg C to be most important, especially during the colder months of January and February when he aims to initiate the growth of new buds.

Ian starts to take cuttings in March but April and May usually produce the best cuttings which are softer and root more easily. Ian has a large greenhouse which is equipped with a Hotbox Sulfume sulphur vaporiser to reduce the risk of fungal diseases and pest damage. He aims for a cutting size of about 2″ in length and cut just below a leaf node which encourages rooting. If the leaves on the cuttings appear disproportionately large, he will trim them down as this will reduce water loss through transpiration, prevent wilting and and allow uninterrupted root growth. He also uses rooting stimulants such as Chryzopon Rose and Chryzotop Green. His rooting cell growing mixture is a 60/20/20 proportion of Clover Professional compost/ grit/ perlite. For the casual dahlia grower, smaller quantities of cuttings can simply be rooted in small pots sited on a warm, well-lit window sill and enclosed in a plastic bag to maintain suitable humidity levels.

Using the above rooting cell method, Ian expects to transplant his rooted cuttings into 7cm pots after about 8-12 days towards the end of April. The young plants are further transplanted into 9cm pots for 2-3 weeks before planting out at 18-24″ intervals into his final growing beds at the end of May/beginning of June. The beds are professionally-analysed for soil nutrients beforehand but typically receive a top dressing of 3 oz/sq yd EX4 (or equivalent general fertiliser), 3 oz/sq yd calcified seaweed, 1 oz/sq yd nitro chalk and a scattering of hen manure pellets which is all raked in about two weeks before planting. His growing beds are then covered with Mypex membrane sheeting which greatly reduces the need for weeding.

Some dahlia varieties will grow in the open but, for exhibition and show work, some form of protective covering is required. Even a simple umbrella can be used to keep the rain off individual plants! Apart from wind damage, the weight of heavy rain can cause petals to split which will render the blooms useless for show purposes.

Once planted out into their final growing positions the plants receive no further feeding for the first month. Thereafter and up to bud formation stage, Ian uses high nitrogen liquid feed at a rate of about 2 pints per plant, supplemented by foliar feeding with liquid seaweed. After bud formation, high potash feed at the same rate is used instead, supplemented with foliar feed and epsom salts. Apparently, he does not use any potash feeds on his Kiwi varieties and little or no phosphate fertiliser is applied to any of his plants at all. He has found that overfeeding tends to produce coarse blooms and increases the chances of tubers rotting whilst overwintering.

The three main dahlia pests to watch out for are red spider mite, western flower thrip and capsid/mirid bugs. Most of the really effective chemicals are now only available to purchase as a licensed user but some degree of protection is afforded by off-the-shelf products such as Provanto, KillerMite, Bug Clear and Decis.

According to the National Dahlia Society, there are 14 recognised classification groups of dahlia although Ian says that most serious exhibitors focus on Groups 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 only. His own particular favourites are Kenora Challenger, White Moonlight, Kiwi Gloria (does not like growing in the open though), Barbarry Surprise, Barbarry d’Amour, Skelmersdale Jayne, Blyton Red Ace and Blyton Softer Gleam. Of the single-flowering varieties which are more suited to general garden growing, he highlighted Sunshine, Tally Ho, Roxy and Bishop of Llandaff as being some of the best varieties available.

Overall, it was a very entertaining and informative presentation from someone who clearly knows how to grow and show dahlias at the highest level. However, there were plenty of tips available for even the casual grower and exhibitor to learn from and apply in their own garden.


Our next monthly meeting will be held on Monday 28th November 2022 at Beverley Conservative Club commencing 7.30pm. Peter Rogers will talk about The Seasons at Burnby Hall. This talk will form an introduction to our actual visit to Burnby Hall currently planned for June 2023.


Keith has arranged our speaker programme for the first half of 2023. You can see the updated list here. Just scroll down the page. The AGM in January 2023 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.


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 November

Did the number of audience members who attended the Dahlia presentation set a new record and were there any spare chairs to be found?

Will the extreme weather conditions this year 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 rear its ugly head again as Winter approaches?


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 decor and seating/table arrangement.

The pool table floats on a wheeled trolley base and can be moved to the side of the stage in order to leave the room clear.

The Music Room and Committee Room (in the background) as viewed from the stage area, showing the new decor and 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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