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Our AGM was held on Monday 30th January 2023. The existing Committee was re-elected for a further year.

It was felt that Insufficient consideration and encouragement was given by NVS to catering for the showing needs of younger, less experienced growers or those with limited growing opportunities. Concern was expressed that with the natural passing of elite national growers, a vacuum of expertise might be created and continuity of succession would be lost. The Committee was invited to raise this collective concern at the next Northern Branch AGM in March.

Traditionally, East Yorkshire and West Yorkshire DA Shows are held on the same weekend to enable members to exhibit their produce at both events. West Yorkshire DA will shortly lose access to their former home at Paxton Hall, Leeds and will need to secure new premises in due course. The dates of the EYDA and WYDA Shows are therefore only proposed and not confirmed at this stage.

Discussion took place on the provision of buffets at our monthly meetings. It was agreed that a buffet would only be provided at the AGM, rather than at every event.

Following the buffet, we enjoyed a slide presentation by Gill Raven on her visit to Pakistan in her role as a theatre nurse in support of plastic surgery. She gave us a very interesting insight into the history of this country, cultural differences she witnessed together with an account of some harrowing experiences she encountered during her stay.


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 witha 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.


Our October 2022 Meeting, which featured Ian Sutherland (four-time National Dahlia Champion) 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 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.


We held our annual  DA Show on the first Sunday of October 2022.  The date was specifically chosen to accommodate West Yorkshire DA’s Show held on the previous day in order to allow exhibitors from both areas to display their produce on successive days.  A total of 17 exhibitors staged 109 entries.  There were no entries in the classes for gladiolii, cabbage and novice carrots this year and the extreme weather conditions this year were the likely reason for the lower than normal numbers of entries staged in some of our classes.  This year we dispensed with the award of most  of our physical trophies (except those awarded  to winners within the novice section) in favour of prize cards bearing an image of the respective trophy.  This idea appeared to be successful, especially with non-local exhibitors and those winning multiple trophies.

Note the unusual purple cauliflower staged in the one of each vegetable collection. If you look carefully, you can also see some of the trophy photo cards issued this year in place of the actual trophies themselves


On Monday 26th September 2022 there were three ‘In-House’ presentations given by Sue Rowe on Fertilisers, followed by Keith Abel on Preparing produce for Show, followed by Paul Neve on What the Judge looks for. With our forthcoming Annual DA Show in mind, it was deemed an appropriate opportunity to try and encourage new or novice growers to enter our Show this year, if only to have a go within the specific novice classes. Time will tell if we were successful!

Some interesting tips from all speakers were given. Sue has a Diploma in Horticulture and her presentation on Fertilisers was very detailed. I had not realised that the complete atomic bond structure of chlorophyll was not identified until 1967! Her tip about weighing a personal handful of solid fertiliser once as a rough guide to applying given weights fertilisers in the absence of a set of scales for every occasion that you need them, I found quite useful. Similarly, her visual description of how to recognise the difference between a plant’s iron deficiency (symptoms affect new growth first) and a magnesium deficiency (symptoms affect older leaves first).

Keith demonstrated the correct tying of dressed onions using raffia and stressed the need to avoid marking their bases through careful handling and the use of padded display stands rather than sharp-edged cups or lids. Use black cloth to hide your supporting structures from view. When staging a set of onions, aim to place your best onion centre front and try to ensure that they all appear to be the same height when viewed in a line from the front.

Beetroot and carrots should be washed in plain water carefully with a sponge (horizontally around the roots rather than vertically up and down the roots) in order to avoid scratches. Careful and gentle use of toothbrushes and wooden skewers, as well as the wearing of rubber gloves, can also help to remove blemishes and any adhering soil particles in order to optimise appearance without damaging your produce.

Paul talked about the role of the judge, the importance of the show schedule wording and the guidelines that a judge was required to follow. He explained the basic qualities of vegetables that were assessed when judging and illustrated these points using some personal slides and items from his judge’s toolkit. He explained the differences between judging single classes, various types of collection, baskets, flower and vegetable combinations and some of the pitfalls associated with the dreaded NAS card.


On the evening of Monday 25th July 2022 a party of our members visited the Pocklington Allotment site, said to be one of the largest in East Yorkshire. The visit was very enjoyable, despite the damp weather and we wish to express our thanks to the Allotment Committee for welcoming us and showing us around.

Thanks also to Mike and Sheila Smith and friends for hosting and entertaining our group at their lovely garden afterwards. The gazebos proved very useful as well as offering some additional picnic entertainment 😉


On Monday 27th June we welcomed Nick Smith – Director of Harrogate Shows – to our meeting where he presented his talk The Show Must Go On.

The Harrogate Flower Shows are organised by the North of England Horticultural Society. All profits from the shows are returned to the charity and used to promote gardening and horticulture in the North of England. Typically, grants totalling £350-400,000 are generated and handed out annually. The Charity was started in 1911 in an attempt to bring a Chelsea Show experience to people based in the north of England who might not otherwise be able to travel to London and experience such an event. However, due to the Great War, the first Spring Show was not set up until 1925 inside Harrogate’s Winter Gardens. The event subsequently moved to Valley Gardens where it remained until the 1990s.

The Autumn Show emerged in the 1970s in response to a collective need expressed by various societies and groups for a suitable stage to display their horticultural exhibits. Initially, it was held at the Exhibition Halls up until the 1990s when it moved to the main Showground along with the Spring Show. However, By 2018/19 it was recognised that the cost of staging the Autumn Show was becoming cost-prohibitive. It was not breaking even and relied heavily on supporting subsidies generated from the more popular and lucrative Spring Show event. However, a new venue was found at Newby Hall and the first Autumn Show was held here in 2021 which did actually generate a small surplus for the first time in many years.

Nick heads up a small team of staff who draw up initial plans for each Show some 18 months before each Show with more detailed planning taking place from six months before each Show. The weather remains unpredictable, of course, and flooding, wind damage and snow have all happened at some time in the past. Building of the indoor show marquees starts some 3 weeks before each Show, including 4 days of arranging benches and tables and covering them with waterproof fabric.

The Spring Show is said to host the biggest Floral Art event in UK and includes exhibition stands created by local flower arranging societies and college students as well as competitive classes for individual exhibitors. The Show gardens are not on such a grand scale as Chelsea but they afford young designers and college students an opportunity to show off their talents and inspire others.

Promotion of the Shows to as wide an audience as possible and with a special newsworthy twist is critical to their success and income generation. Nick recounted examples of various press events that his team had organised over the years including bringing in a dressmaker from New Zealand who had created twenty dresses to mimic various flowers. Quite expensive as an outlay to organise but press coverage of Harrogate Show subsequently reached as far away as New York, South China and Australia. Similarly, the classes featuring the heaviest and longest vegetables might not be as visually attractive as the conventional exhibition classes but they generate tremendous press interest and therefore help to promote the Show and bring in visitors and revenue.

Despite the relatively low attendance, it proved to be a very entertaining and interesting talk about the history of the Harrogate Shows and the ‘behind the scenes’ work that goes into bringing these events to life.


Nearly 40 people attended our May 2022 meeting which featured Pat Inman who presented her talk – Plants that earn their Keep. Pat is a member of the Hardy Plant Society as well as the RHS Committee.

With the aid of a slide show, Pat talked about the various plants that she feels are worth growing either because they are attractive or long-lasting or suit particular aspects of her garden. She highlighted several tall-growing varieties which were self-supporting and which did not require staking. She also cautioned against some plants which tended to ‘run’ and cover large areas quite quickly. For example, small-leaved bamboo varieties are said to be less invasive than the large-leaved varieties.

Euphorbias (of which the commercial Christmas Poinsettia is a member) exude a white milky sap when the stems are cut or broken which can cause skin irritation and blistering unless care is taken and protection worn. Other plants such as Geranium macrorrhizum are strong-smelling which deters rabbits (and presumably other animals) from eating it. She also emphasised the need for proper plant trialling by highlighting the case of the first-launched orange Echinacea variety which was very attractive in appearance but died after a year in her garden. Pat claims that the pink varieties last much longer than the yellow ones.

She generously provided us with a list of the plants mentioned in her talk. For those who did not attend, it is reproduced here below together with suggested growing conditions and a list of plant websites who may stock at least some of the plants she mentioned.


Our April 2022 meeting featured John Bebbington (ably supported by his wife Coral) who came to talk about Allotment Growing for the Show and the Kitchen. Hailing from Worleston, a village situated between Nantwich and Crewe, John regularly exhibits at Tatton and other major venues using produce grown primarily on his allotment site situated some two miles from his home where he also has a few greenhouses in his garden as well as a spare bedroom dedicated to raising leeks and onions under lights.

The allotment site is divided into about 100 plots and backs on to open farmland which means that wildlife in the form of foxes, rabbits, badgers, pigeons and the occasional cow can be a problem if suitable protective measures in the form of netting are not taken. The soil is also very sandy which means that green manuring, animal manure and collected fallen leaves need to be applied in order to raise the humus level. He inherited a plot affected by club root which has proved difficult to eradicate so he chooses to plant out his brassicas only once they have grown to a sufficiently large size in pots since he feels this gives them a better chance of success.

Some of the other useful tips he mentioned were the success of the max tapener machine for the ease and convenience of tying up his plants, the use of chains suspended from his greenhouse roof to him to gradually raise the horizontal tubes supporting his leek foliage as the plants grow in size, transporting show parsnips in a dry condition to prevent brown discolouration of the skin from appearing but keeping show carrots moist under polythene/clingfilm sheeting in order to retain their colour. He is also a great believer in successional planting throughout the year in order to maximise availability of produce for both the kitchen and the show bench. For example, he only grows ten cauliflowers at a time but sows them throughout the period from mid-April to mid-June.


Our March 2022 meeting featured Graeme Watson who came to talk to us about the world of growing giant gooseberries. Graeme is perhaps better known for his prize-winning carrots and other vegetables at all the top Shows but he now seems to have moved over into the specialist world of gooseberry growing. In the photo above, Graeme is seen proudly displaying his Guinness World Records Certificate for growing the heaviest ever single berry which was shown at the Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show back in 2019. Graeme is the current chairman of this Show which can trace its origins back to 1800 and is always held on the first Tuesday in August each year! The website gives further details of the various classes available to contest, useful background information as well as a history of this event.

Gooseberries need to be grown with roughly 1.5m spacing because they have extensive root systems and they also need sufficient air circulation around the plants to help avoid the dreaded mildew attacks. They prefer a soil pH of about 5.5 to 7.5. In March, Graeme feeds his plants with a basic blood, fish and bone mixture together with some added Q4. He grows his plants in cages which offer protection from mice and birds. Other important pests are gooseberry sawfly larvae and wasps. Frost in his part of the world can still occur up until early June so he uses fleece protection for the leaves and flowers. Graeme maintains that the earlier the flower forms, the bigger the fruit is likely to grow which is why protection of the flowers is considered vital. He uses foliar feeds based on liquid seaweed and potash but great care must be taken to avoid berry burst caused by overfeeding and watering. Careful thinning of the berries is also important in order to achieve maximum potential size.

Growing giant gooseberries requires certain special varieties and not the normal culinary forms. Graeme advised that Rogers of Pickering could offer some varieties but a newcomer to growing and showing heavyweight gooseberries would probably do better to obtain a cutting or young plant from a club member. There are four different colours available for showing. Varieties to look out for are Woodpecker and Millennium, both yellow; Lord Derby, Lloyd George and Kingfisher, all red; Bank View, a green and Belmarsh and Newton Wonder, both white.

It was a fascinating look into a different world for most of our members and anyone interested in competing is invited to contact Graeme as they are always keen to attract new competitors to their Show and visitors to their village and surroundings.


Our February monthly meeting at Beverley Conservative Club was held on Monday 28th February 2022 when Peter Williams presented – A Year in a Woodland Garden.

A very interesting talk about what will grow in the acid soils of his garden at Weathervane House, Seaton Ross near York. He talked about the various plants that will provide seasonal colour and interest in this habitat together with lots of anecdotal information. Of particular benefit to those who had not brought pen and paper with them, was the handout sheet of all the Latin names of the plants that he covered, in chronological order beginning with Summer and ending with Spring highlight varieties. This will make searching for seeds and plants so much easier for our audience members! He also mentioned that he opens his garden to the public as part of Castle Howard’s Arboretum Trust T/A Yorkshire Arboretum. This year, his open day is planned for mid-May(possibly the 18th) 2022 but check the website for details.

Of the many gems of information given by Peter one or two stand out in the memory. Firstly, Yellow-rattle is an annual plant that thrives in grasslands, living a semi-parasitic life by feeding off the nutrients in the roots of nearby grasses. For this reason, it was once seen as an indicator of poor grassland by farmers, but is now often used to turn improved grassland back to meadow – by feeding off the vigorous grasses, it eventually allows more delicate, traditional species to push their way through. Secondly, lily beetle larvae cover themselves with their own excrement to deter predation by birds. Thirdly, for some species of plants, seed dispersal is carried out by ants who harvest the ripened seeds to feed their ant colonies. They do not actually eat the seed itself which remains intact and is eventually discarded but feed on the nutritious fat/oil body surrounding the seed called an elaiosome.


Our first meeting of 2022, the AGM, was held on Monday 31st January 2022 at Beverley Conservative Club commencing 7.30pm and was attended by 25 people. The key issues discussed and decided were:

1. To retain the existing Committee in their current appointed posts.

2. To change banks if possible in order to reduce our banking charges.

3. To defer decisions on buffet provision and plans for monthly speakers beyond August following a review at the end of July 2022 of relative costs and attendance figures.

4. To raise meeting attendance ‘donations’ from £2 to £3/individual per meeting as from February 2022 to help defray the increasing cost of speaker fees. This increase would be reviewed in due course following a review of relative costs and attendance figures.

5. To hold our Annual Show on Sunday 2nd October 2022 at Cherry Lane Garden Centre subject to the owners’ approval and avoidance of date clashes with other major Autumn Shows around this time.

6. To discontinue the award of physical trophies apart from a suitable Novice Cup, NVS Plaque and NVS Silver Medal and, in their place, issue trophy cards bearing images of the named trophy to be awarded for selected classes. Further discussion on Schedule classes and trophy selection and disposal would take place at a later date.

7. To hold plant sales at the March and April meetings as well as a North Cave car boot sale event, provided members were able to donate/provide/acquire sufficient material.


Our last meeting of the year on 29th November 2021 featured Sarah Owen-Hughes who gave a presentation on The Secrets of Soil. The few who did attend enjoyed a truly professional performance. For those who missed it, we hope to arrange a repeat visit at a later date when perhaps even more people will be tempted to bring along some soil samples for testing.

For those of you with access to Facebook, Sarah produces a monthly podcast at Trowels and Tribulations. The link is here.

About half of soil volume is composed of solid particles and the rest is pore space filled by roughly half water and half air. Organic matter makes up only about 5% of soil. Understanding your soil composition helps with cultivation timings, application rates for fertilisers and lime, the choice of plants to grow, the soil improvement choices available as well as developing strategies to help reduce your workload. With reference to the Soil Triangle, soil testing seeks to establish the soil structure and texture ie the relative proportions of sand, silt and clay particles. Sarah also demonstrated a simple test which involved placing a small sample of soil in a jam jar with water, shaking the contents vigorously, waiting for the contents to settle and then visually estimating the relative quantities of the heavier sand, the medium silt and the lighter clay particles. A soil analysis laboratory such as our local Beverley Analytical Laboratories Ltd at Tickton would perform a more accurate version of this test by kiln drying a known weight of soil and then shaking it through a stack of three different mesh sieves and weighing the resulting quantities of sand, silt and clay components retained.

First commenced in the 1970’s, Cranfield University’s Land Information System (LandIS) has provided the basis and repository for holding the digital representation of the soils information collected for England and Wales over the past 60-70+ years. This soil portal provides you with a range of means to access this information.

Soil pH has an important influence on nutrient availability to growing plants. Further details from here. Extreme alkalinity and acidity will both lock up nutrients and severely impact their take-up by plants. Generally, a neutral pH of 7 is desirable but across the UK the natural pH varies between 6.5 to 8.

The Soil Association asserts that arable soils are degrading with some UK soils containing as little as 1-2% of organic matter. Increasing the organic matter content will improve the water-holding capacity of the soil, help to reduce surface run-off/floods, protect against droughts and soil erosion and stabilise yields of produce.

The Soil Association suggests that there are seven ways for farmers (and gardeners) to improve their soils. 1Increase the amount of plant and animal matter (manures) going back into the soil. 2Undertake regular soil analysis and monitoring of soil organic matter levels. Responding positively to health checks has been shown to lead to improved crop yields of up to 15%. 3Encourage soil organisms – both those that build up soil and those that release nutrients. 4Cover up bare soil with continuous plant cover. Plant roots hold soils together, reducing erosion, and allowing air to penetrate in spaces around roots. Roots also encourage healthier soil communities through plant-fungal interactions. But benefits spread beyond the farmed area – huge gains can be seen in terms of biodiversity, carbon storage, flood and drought control,and water quality. Where appropriate use cover crops, green manures and under-sown crops, with the added benefit of improving soil fertility. 5Plant more trees, particularly on vulnerable, steep-sided fields or areas of rough grazing. 6Reduce soil compaction from machinery and livestock. Soil compaction is a major problem in the UK – it can lead to increased surface run-off as well as drought stress, fewer grazing days, poor root growth and reduced yields overall. 7Design crop rotations to improve soil health. Carefully design your crop rotations with more crop varieties and longer gaps before going back to the same crop. Put more emphasis on crops that help protect soils and that build soil organic matter such as legume catch crops. Grow crops with different rooting depths to take advantage of the soil’s varying nutrient profile.

The soil food web is an important concept to understand. The variety of life in our soils is amazing. Just one teaspoon of soil contains around 10,000 different species. This variety of life is essential to life on Earth and human prosperity. Whilst plants are essential in capturing the energy from the sun, it is the soil life which ensures the burial and breakdown of plant litter (old leaves and dead plants), releasing that energy for root uptake and transfer back to the plant. In this way, life in soil is an essential part of the web of life. The major groups of soil organisms include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods and earthworms, though there are many more. Further details can be seen here.

Mycorrhizal fungi, for example, help to bind the soil, tend to wrap around the roots of plants and can increase the active root surface by up to 700 times, thereby increasing the plants’ ability to take up water and nutrients from the soil. They are also said to assist in the establishment of new roses and apple trees in those sites from which old plants have been removed. Roots also exude waste products and sugars. These feed the mycorrhizae and attract the microbes needed to fix nitrogen, or decompose organic matter. A well-balanced arrangement of soil, air, water and organic matter creates a healthy network in which soil microbiota can survive. This also enables roots to put their energy into establishing, rather than spiralling around large air pores. Remember that fibrous roots take up water and nutrients, lateral and tap roots are mostly for anchorage.

Sarah’s final tips for us gardeners were mulch, mulch, mulch. Create as much organic matter in your soil as possible and minimise all forms of digging.

Sarah then analysed two samples of soil which had been brought by one of our audience members, using soil texture observations and a simple pH testing solution. Simple soil testing kits can be purchased online for £15-20.

Questions from the audience completed the evening. She said that garlic acted as an antiviral and was useful as a deterrent against lily beetle attack. The calcium provided by crushed egg shell was useful to worms. Aspirin dissolved in water could enhance the flavour of tomatoes. Seaweed extract contains lots of useful plant nutrients such as iron and iodine. Coir does not hold nutrients together like peat so leaf mould may offer a better long-term peat replacement in the future. Peat-free composts can be as good as peat-based composts provided the nutrient/fertiliser levels are sufficiently high. Sarah stressed that the popular John Innes composts have evolved commercially over the last 50 years so it could be some time before a really suitable peat-free compost replacement comes to market.


On Monday 25th October 2021 David Allison presented his talk on Growing Fruit. Unfortunately, only 20 people attended and it would appear that the fear of Covid infection within an indoor setting is still a major concern for many of our members.

David provided a whistle stop tour of the latest fruit growing techniques highlighting the supermarkets’ requirements for perfect specimens which means that most commercial fruit are grown in soil-free conditions and under protection from the elements. He talked about the new varieties and the interspecific breeding of plums and apricots in particular. He remarked that new varieties are sometimes non-traditional in colour and flavour eg lemon-coloured blackberries tasting of pineapple, black raspberries and white strawberries.

He covered all aspects of growing fruit and what temperatures they grew best in. He also covered pests and diseases and how to control them given the minimal pesticides available to the amateur grower. He gave information on pruning fruit, in particular apples which can be pruned at varying times of the year depending on what you are trying to control.

One of the highlights of his talk was the fact that he had brought free samples! He had several trays of produce, apples in particular, to which we were invited to help ourselves. This provided a chance to try some of the lesser known apple varieties which are not in the shops. At the end, there were questions from the audience about pests and pruning which he had not covered during the talk and these were answered fully and knowledgeably.


After a gap of two years because of Covid restrictions, we held an excellent Annual Show at Cherry Lane Garden Centre on Sunday 26th September 2021. A total of 21 exhibitors (including members of West Yorkshire DA) staged 190 exhibits which made a very impressive display on the day. This year, we dispensed with a formal prize-giving ceremony but the trophies were displayed alongside the appropriate winning exhibits for everyone to admire.


Our first proper meeting since February 2020 attracted some 29 persons to John Smiles’ September talk on 50 Years In Horticulture. Having retired fairly recently, his talk focused on his observations of practices at his agricultural workplace as well as his personal growing and showing experiences. He is a knowledgeable and witty speaker who is always popular with our audiences. His last place of employment concentrated on growing strawberries and rhubarb under cover and he explained the demise of smaller growers and the economic realities of commercial growing for the retail trade.

He remarked that animal manure and green compost contained very little nutrients and that their chief value lay in their ability to improve soil humus content and water-retaining capacity. Fresh as opposed to well-rotted manure may actually remove nitrogen from the soil and should therefore be avoided if at all possible.

Commercial strawberries are grown hydrologically inside polytunnels on elevated benches using growbags containing a mixture of peat and coir, automatically watered with nutrient solution several times a day, sprayed regularly against pest attacks from red spider mite, thrips and aphids. He questioned the energy-saving and carbon-offset value of several current practices including coir importation from Asia but believed that many chemical sprays had now been developed to remain effective but less hazardous to non-target species than in former times. One notable exception is 2 4-D which is often combined with glyphosate and sold under the Kyleo brand name. Once considered a human health risk and subsequently banned, it is now available to tackle the increasing resistance shown to other herbicides by invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam.

Hydroponics are used commercially to grow much of the produce we currently buy from our supermarket shelves. For example, 8kg of strawberries per year can normally be obtained from eight plants placed in one growbag which is a far greater yield than can be obtained by growing the same number of plants in the open ground. However, growing in enclosed polytunnels can lead to problems with such things as pests, diseases, pollination, excessive damp, water acidity levels (pH) and lack of trace elements unless appropriate measures are taken, usually with the aid of computer-controlled, automatic monitoring and application technology.

John is a keen and successful showman having won recently at the NVS National Championships. However, he stressed that it was not necessary to spend huge amounts of money in order to enjoy exhibiting at vegetable shows and to achieve success, especially at local and regional level. His advice was to target those shows within your reach and capability and to grow accordingly. He grows leeks and onions from his own saved stock plants but sprays the developing seed heads regularly against aphids, the main spreaders of virus diseases. He advised against purchasing seedling plants such as leeks from growers with a history of supplying virus-infected plants since, in his view, a virus-infected plant would never produce a show-quality specimen.

In conclusion and perhaps mindful of our upcoming DA Show, he expressed the view that Show trophies were a nuisance to many exhibitors, particularly those who travelled regularly to numerous shows around the country. A controversial view perhaps but, nonetheless, food for thought and an idea worthy of further discussion by our Committee in due course!


East Yorkshire DA held an AGM/open meeting on Monday 26th July 2021 for the first time since February 2020. It was agreed that we proceed with plans for our Annual Show to be held on Sunday 26th September 2021 at Cherry Lane Garden Centre, Beverley, subject to venue confirmation in due course. This is an open show and anyone is welcome to exhibit, or simply visit and ask questions. The NVS Plaque this year will be for the class of small-fruited tomatoes.


Our February 2020 speaker was Ron Mawer of Roanne Nurseries which specialises in fuchsias. He attracted 45 guests and members and gave us an interesting insight into his world of fuchsias although his nursery also grows a wide range of cottage perennials. He demonstrated his technique for pruning stems, just above a leaf axil, in order to obtain shapely plants. Standard fuchsia stems can be protected from frost over winter by using pipe lagging around the main vertical stem. He favours high potash fertiliser all year round as he feels that too much nitogen produces soft leafy growth which entices more disease possibilities. He prefers small-flowered varieties, especially for showing, because the plants should still have lots of flowers remaining should some be lost or damaged in transit to the showground. He keeps his hanging basket fuchsias for a maximum of two years before replacing them with cuttings taken from parent plants. He believes that the second year plants probably flower more vigorously than in their first year.

When taking cuttings, he cuts the stem just below the leaf axil and uses a mixture of two thirds top quality growing compost and one third perlite which provides warmth and better drainage. Ron advises watering the perlite before pouring from its bag in order to reduce the effect of dust storms. Vermiculite, he feels, is better used in seed trays and helps to prevent ‘capping’ caused by drying of the compost surface and so allows easier emergence of the seedlings. Ron warned against the use of green composts available from Council recycling centres because of the variable and unknown content. He cited the instance of lawn cuttings commonly being recycled after being treated with weed and feed mixtures which still contained enough remaining herbicide to seriously affect the growth of seedlings.

He finished off the evening with a brief discussion on pests and diseases such as vine weevil, rust, botrytis, capsid bug and red spider mite. It was pointed out that many of the chemicals used by commercial growers to fight pests and diseases are either not available to the amateur grower or require the buyer to hold a special certificate of competence to meet the health and safety implications of spraying chemicals. Even Provado and Bugclear are scheduled to be removed from sale in the near future although Amazon does have some stock remaining.

Bayer Group sold the Bayer Garden business to the French life sciences company SBM in October 2016. After a transition period, the former ‘Bayer Garden’ products were relaunched as ‘Protect Garden’ products with newly-registered tradenames. As an example, Provado is now called Provanto, although you can still buy remaining stocks of Provado online via Amazon and Ebay. Since early 2018, European regulations have banned the external use of any insecticides containing neonicotinoids in order to help stem the global decline of pollinating bee populations.  Newly-manufactured insecticides will therefore contain different active, and some may say less-potent, ingredient chemicals to their older equivalent products.

Sue Rowe has very kindly produced a folding card notelet which lists the full programme of our monthly events for the coming year.

The top three prize-winning teams of the January picture Quiz were announced with first place going to the Lincolnshire Poachers.


Our AGM held on Monday 27th January 2020 attracted some 35 people. The papers and Officer reports for the previous year had been emailed out to the majority of members ahead of the meeting.

A number of personnel changes took place as some previous office bearers decided to step down this year.

Volunteers were sought to provide supper offerings at future meetings against an agreed revised budget of up to £40 per meeting.

The speaker programme for 2020 was outlined although a replacement speaker for June will need to be found due to the receipt of a recent cancellation notice. (New speaker is Graeme Watson)

Plant Sale opportunities for 2020 were discussed for our April Meeting and a North Cave Car Boot Sale in early May.

The DA Show will be held on Sunday 27th September 2020. Cherry Lane Garden Centre, has confirmed the availability of their venue again this year. Judges have been booked and this year’s NVS plaque will be requested for the class of onions weighing between 250g and 1kg.

Following the close of formal business there followed a short pictorial fun quiz organised by Val Young to round off the evening. The winners of the Quiz will be announced at the next meeting once Val has had a chance to mark all the sheets.


Our last meeting of 2019 was held on Monday 24th November when David Allison talked about New Innovations and breeding of Fruit and Vegetables. David is a member of the RHS Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Committee which gives him access to trial sites and commercial plant breeders not available to the average grower and his talk was designed to highlight some of the new varieties and emerging changes taking place.

Prime Ark 45 is a superior-cropping blackberry to Reuben and Black Cascade is a suitable variety for hanging baskets. Polar Bear is a white blackberry possessing a slight lemony-pineapple flavour with a two-year or floricane fruiting cycle. However, the fruits do not last long after picking.

Livingstone rhubarb has been bred to remove the summer dormancy gene which allows for an extra six weeks or so of cropping. Poulton’s Red is similar to Poulton’s Pride but with less of the characteristic rhubarb sharpness which means that little or no sugar needs to be added in the cooking process.

New strawberries include Grandee, Maxim and Sweet Colossus. Snow White and Pineberry are white cultivars with a pineapple-like flavour, white colouring and red seeds. Used florists’ buckets, which you can buy cheaply from supermarkets, have a rounded lip compared to the sharp edge of conventional plastic pots and avoid cutting into strawberry runner stems if growing in a cascade style. Toscana, Fragoo Hot Pink and Fragoo Rose are everbearing varieties which will provide fruit up until the first frosts arrive. Malling Centenary is set to become the dominant new strawberry variety grown commercially with runners bought in each season from specialist suppliers of ”misted tips” held in chilled storage and then allowed to root in small pots before planting out in rockwool beds. Bumblebees are often bought and introduced in to the greenhouses or tunnels in order to improve pollination and crop production. Malling Centenary has large sweet-tasting berries and is set to replace many of the imported and somewhat tasteless varieties found on the supermarket shelves.

Framberry or Strasberry is a strawberry and raspberry cross which looks like a raspberry but grows like a strawberry. Mieze Schindler is the first named variety. Charlotte Russe is an edible mulberry which is self-pollinating, dwarf and highly compact and crops in the year after rooting.

Polka is a primocane raspberry which will crop in Autumn up until November, All Gold is a yellow primocane variety while Valentina is a floricane variety which is orange-coloured and bears fruit in its second year of growth. Glen Coe is a purple raspberry while Black Jewel is almost pure black in colour.

Turning to other fruit, the Red Love range of apple cultivars possess pink-coloured flesh while Surprize combines bright orange skin with pink-marbled flesh. The flesh of Eden does not oxidise to a brown colour when the flesh is cut so it is good for dishes such as fruit salads. Honeycrisp has been bred to combine tartness, sweetness and crispness with a distinct fizz. Interspecific crops of plum and apricot such as Aprium (apricot dominant) and Pluot (plum dominant) really need the protection afforded by a polytunnel for success. Avalon Pride shows good resistance to peach leaf curl and Peche de Vigne has blood-red coloured flesh. Blueberrries are available in other colours with Pink Lemonade and Pink Champagne being two such examples. Brown Turkey figs have a maroon flesh whereas White Marseilles has white/pale green flesh. The apple-sized melon Pepino Trio has a mild fruity taste, like a cross between melon and pear, with a slight freshness of cucumber. The kiwi fruit variety Issai is self-fertile and produces small, hairless fruit with a smooth, edible skin.

Turning to vegetables, the ‘egg and chip’ plant (aubergine grafted on to a potato plant) has been around for a few years. David’s experience with this plant has been great for aubergines but very poor for potatoes. Aubergines are now available in a range of colours but they all need a long growing season and benefit from early heat when sown in February.

The so-called ‘black’ tomatoes such as Black Jewel are really deep purple although they take a long time to develop their full colour. This variety has a very high level of lycopene which is a carotenoid pigment with antioxidant properties and beneficial to our health.

The long-pointed variety of carrot SS (developed by Select Seeds) looks set to rival the best of the New Red Intermediate strains currently available and Discovery is the latest celery variety to attract attention on the show bench.

Unlike the normal white varieties, coloured cauliflower varieties such Graffiti (purple) Sunset (orange), Trevi (green) do not need protection from sunlight to develop their curds. Cornell and Fairway are two new promising white show varieties and Clapton, like the new cabbage Killaxy, is said to be club root-resistant.

Spring Blush is a unique, tall-growing, high yielding pea with attractive bi-coloured purple/pink blooms and lots of rose-blushed and pure green pods. It can be picked as mangetout or snap pods and the plants also produce loads of hyper-tendrils which are equally delicious to eat.

Kohlrabi variety Vienna comes in both white and purple-bodied forms. Supermeltz can grow to the size of a football.

Runner Bean Firestorm is a cross between a runner bean and a french bean. It is red-flowered, self-fertile and will set well in cold weather. Moonlight is a new white-flowered variety which will also set well in cold weather.

Radish Bacchus is a new deep-red, round variety and Giant Butter will grow to the size of a tennis ball

Kalettes (formerly known as Flower Sprouts or Brusselkale) are a hybrid plant brand name for kale sprouts. Bred using traditional breeding techniques, they are a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. The plant is touted as being a highly-nutritious vegetable which may be eaten raw or cooked.

Sarpo Mira was the first maincrop potato to be bred with late-blight resistance. As well as its ability to shrug off even the worst blight, Crimson Crush and its cousins Cocktail Crush and Mountain Magic will provide great yields of exceptionally fine-tasting, large, round tomatoes

Santero is a superb early maincrop onion with excellent resistance to downy mildew.


On Monday 28th October 2019, we were entertained by Roger Burnett‘s talk – Around the Flower Shows. This proved to be very informative and an opportunity to see what happens at a number of major UK Shows through the eyes of a RHS trade stand judge and occasional trade exhibitor. Roger described various stands and showed us photos taken at Chatsworth, Harrogate Spring, Malvern, Chelsea, Gardeners’ World, Tatton Park, Hampton Court, Great Yorkshire, Moorsholm, Southport, Scarborough, Harrogate Autumn, Dundee and Malvern Autumn Shows.

Roger sometimes exhibits Pelargoniums and pointed out how exhibitors maximise the space available to them and the ingenious staging methods and paraphernalia used to try and win the top prestigious awards. Generally, trade stands are judged out of 25 points, typically – 10 for plant quality, 10 for display quality and 5 for educational quality. At some Shows, endeavour (difficulty of cultivation) is also one of the judging criteria used. RHS trade stand judges typically operate as a panel with moderators in attendance to ensure fair play. Judges are also subject to a re-accreditation process every three years.

We learned that Harrogate Spring Show attracted 65,000 visitors last year compared to only 30,000 for the Autumn event and the financial implication of this, in large part, is the reason why Harrogate Autumn Shows will transfer to Newby Hall for the next five years. Harrogate Spring Show is famous for its daffodil displays and we learned that you can keep daffodils for up to eight weeks by maintaining their storage temperature at 2°C but you need to trim the stems regularly to enable them to take up water. Once out of refrigeration, they will only last for a few days in top condition and this is the reason why, at longer Shows, the blooms need to be periodically replaced overnight in order to maintain an immaculate stand appearance for the next day’s visitors. He also reported that the tips of gladiolus spikes tend to bend in response to light and sometimes also need to be replaced. Significantly, Roger reported that any plants used for show stand display purposes tend to succumb to stress and rarely recover their initial vigour.

Roger described Chelsea Show gardens as representing pure theatre with budgets stretching from £80,000 to £250,000 in the case of the last year’s winning Welcome toYorkshire Garden which featured dry stone walls, flowing water and genuine lock gates. Apparently, all these gardens need to be dismantled at the end of the Show and the area fully restored to its former natural state. We learned that the immaculate vegetables which feature in some Show gardens are almost all grown by Terry Porter of Bristol in individual pots, transported to the Show and then buried in beds of peat to hide the containers from public view.

During the question and answer session afterwards, Roger warned us about the residual chemicals that might be present in any composts purporting to contain recycled Council green manures. In his opinion, the cheaper composts available from the likes of Lidl and B & Q offer excellent value for money as well as a high peat content which he considers hard to replace with satisfactory alternative material.


Our 45th Annual DA Show was held on Sunday 29th September 2019 at Cherry Lane Garden Centre, Hull Bridge Road, Beverley.


Unfortunately, due to plant failure at his Goole farm, Jamie Gutteridge of M. H. Poskitts Ltd was unable to attend our meeting on Monday 23rd September 2019 to talk about Professional Vegetable Production. The message arrived at the 11.9th hour and we were consequently unable to arrange an alternative speaker for the evening so, instead, the Chairman led an informal question and answer session on growing and showing matters in an attempt to salvage the evening


We enjoyed a lovely evening in warm weather and pleasant company at Leven Allotments on Monday 29th July 2019. Our party of 30 wandered around most of the 50 or so allotments which are located in a hidden site between two sets of houses with a gated entrance at either end, We marvelled at the quality of some of the exhibits and the dedication required to achieve this standard. One particular plot holder (believed to be Chinese) was growing a range of exotic vegetables which had most of us wondering what some of them were!

Many thanks also to Ken and Jean Hammond and son-in-law Rob Howbridge who provided us with tea and biscuits afterwards at their garden which backs directly on to the allotment site. (Group photo appears courtesy of Mike Smith)


Driffield Show in July 2019 – NVSEYDA promotional stand. (photo appears courtesy of Mike Smith)


Hardy Perennials, Keith and Paul, judging Pocklington Allotments on a wet and wild Friday afternoon in July 2019.


45 members and friends attended our Monday 24th June 2019 meeting to welcome David Thornton back again to talk ‘All about Seeds’. David has held various roles within NVS circles. He grows and show excellent vegetables and has been a National Champion. He is still employed in an agricultural consultancy role and over the last 3 years has, along with his wife, taken over the running of Select Seeds. He lives in Shropshire at 800 feet above sea level which is challenging for the range of vegetables he grows. His presentation is summarised under the following 8 headings below.

1) The main seed suppliers for vegetables are Commercial Seed Breeders and Suppliers, many of whom, operate internationally and possess facilities world-wide including Elsoms, Tozers and Moles in UK, General retailers such as DT Brown, Marshalls and Kings, Specialist seed suppliers such as Medwyn’s of Anglesey, Shelley, Select and Exhibition Seeds, and Online traders who generally sell discontinued lines on behalf of the main players. He highlighted several seed varieties which seem to be particularly successful including Sweet Candle carrots from Swakata.These seeds can be used for up to 5 years if stored correctly; Apero a new cherry mini plum variety tomato and Bejo a beetroot bred from Pablo but which germinates more quickly.

The priorities for vegetable seed breeders are ‘high yield and lower inputs’ such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, limited fertiliser requirements, ability to grow in high temperature environments, flavoursome with long shelf-life for supermarkets and householders.

2) Vegetable Seed Management. Seed specification is critical to the breeders and the elements they look for are:
Standard seed size for each variety for precision machine drilling, Primed seeds with about 2% moisture content added before packaging to stimulate early germination, Pelleted seeds especially for small seeds and machine drilling, Colour coated seeds for visual benefits when drilling and some may contain a protected pesticide, Seed Treatments including fungicides, pesticides and hot water treatment to destroy pathogens, Quality control to ensure cleanliness, purity of seed and long storage potential and Testing for speed and uniformity of seed germination and field trials.

3) Seed Terminology. Relating to the history or preparation of the seeds prior to presentation to the market including definitions such as F1, Filial 1 or 1st cross with characteristics of vigorous growth, uniformity of product and disease resistance.

4) Personal experiences as a seed supplier covered his aspirations and research for including new products into catalogues which includes meeting and receiving feedback from all growers on how the product performs, attending company field trial events to assess crop achievements for potential seed orders. From a personal perspective, he grows and trials all the varieties featured in Select Seeds catalogues together with selected additional varieties for possible future inclusion. He identified varieties which he has found successful including Skywalker cauliflower, Nazareth carrots and Bejo beetroot.

5) Popularity – the 25 most popular varieties bought from Select Seed catalogues:
Salads; Meccano; Apero; Pablo; Boltardy; Diana (lettuce).
Alliums; Toughball; Kelsae; Chico; Porbello; Warwick.
Brassicas; Raleigh; Skywalker; Brigadier; Cabbice; Marathon; Crispus.
Roots; Sweet Candle; Exhibition long carrot; Gladiator; Victor.
Legumes; Stenner; Moonlight; Giant Exhibition; Show Perfection; Stereo.

6) Key elements for germination – Depth of sowing in relation to the size of seed, temperature – bigger seeds require higher temperature to break dormancy, Moisture – good watering at sowing and again once the seedling emerges through the compost, Air and Light. Some seed varieties such as leeks and parsnips benefit form vernalisation and keeping in the fridge for up to 10 days prior to sowing. The compost mixture for ideal germination includes 75% fine grade sphagnum peat, 25% medium grade vermiculite which retains moisture, a small quantity of superfine dolomite lime and Blood (organic nitrogen), rock phosphates and sharp sand. Seeds are best sow in cell trays or modules to provide individual plants for easy onward transplanting and growing on. Seal seed trays/modules with cling film to retain heat and moisture and remove when shoots emerge. Ensure adequate hardening off prior to transplanting.

7) Storage of seeds – Shelf life for most seeds is quite long provided they have been carefully stored. Fridge temperature should be around 5 degrees or lower in an air-tight container. Tomatoes can be stored for up to 7 years in the fridge. The shortest life is for parsnips, leeks and onions.

8) Predictions for future vegetable varieties and trends – More coloured vegetables, more club root-resistant brassicas, Kale and Broccoli, Pesto basil, Peppers for stuffing, Aubergines that do not discolour, snack-size Cucumbers, Cloudy day tomatoes (ripen with lack of sun), Small vegetables as growing space becomes limited, Leafless peas, Edible shoots and the greater use of green manure for enriching soils.

The presentation concluded with a short question and answer session to clarify several points and to seek his opinions on growing styles and pests.


Our May 2019 Meeting attracted an audience of more than 40 who listened to John Smiles supported by Olive Peel talking about Roses and Sweet Peas

Some of the key points about roses were as follows. Having reduced the size of each rose bush plant by half before the winter winds, he prunes in early to mid-March to leave each plant with about seven branches each bearing three buds. Cutting stems on an outward slope is said to aid water dispersal away from the cut stem surfaces. Roses suffer greatly from black spot disease but prevention is far more effective than cure and so he always uses fungicidal sprays in advance of any infection. The leaves represent the lungs of the plant so he applies four separate fungicidal sprays before the end of May. The first rose buds typically form about the third week in May and the first flowers appear in June. He has one Silver Jubilee plant which is 28 years old. John claims that, with proper feeding and healthy care, roses can remain in good flowering mode for many years. He feeds his roses with fish, blood and bone in March and then with a high potash feed when the buds are forming. When dead-heading, he always removes the last 10 inches of flower stem, not just the flower itself. He protects developing blooms with beer tumblers fastened to the stems with clothes pegs. If you plant a new rose where an old rose has previously grown then your new rose may experience rose ‘sickness’. To help overcome this, John recommends applying slow release fertiliser like bonemeal and using lots of potato mix/peat mixture around the new rootball which should be treaded in firmly to secure the roots. Never put raw fertiliser near the roots themselves as they burn easily and this will negatively affect subsequent growth.

As far as sweet peas are concerned, John sows his seeds about the third week in January in a propagator. As soon as they have germinated he transplants them to larger pots which are placed into a cold greenhouse to continue growing. In March he takes out the centre growing tip from each plant in order to encourage side shoots to form and because they tend to go ‘blind’ if this procedure is not done. There are two ways of growing sweet peas: as a bush form where all the sideshoots are allowed to grow and form flowers, or in cordon form where only a single stem is allowed to form flowers. John lets two form initially (in case of damage to the main stem) but removes the second once the danger of slug or bird damage has passed. The cordon method method produces fewer but sturdier blooms. John grows his sweet peas in rows in a trench bed equipped with watering pipes and covered with a membrane. The seedlings are planted out in April but not watered for the first three weeks in order to encourage strong root growth. The pH of the bed needs to be 6.8 or higher for best results and the growing medium needs to contain plenty of organic matter and calcified seaweed. He uses a tapener gun to tie the stems securely to the canes at regular intervals and also removes all tendrils as soon as they are formed to avoid distorting the growth of the flower stems. By mid-June, his sweet pea plants are about 4 ft high growing vertically on 8 ft canes and, at this point, he commences ‘layering’ which involves loosening each stem from its cane, laying them along the ground and then retying them to the next appropriate cane to continue their vertical growth. This process lowers the height of the stems,reduces the danger of wind damage and makes it easier to cut blooms for showing. Select only four-flowered blooms for show purposes. Sweet peas are commonly staged in a 2 1/2 inch bikini vase. A common class calls for a vase of nine blooms with five blooms forming a fan at the back with a fan of four placed at a lower height in front. When staging, look for naturally left and right-handed stems, select fan members accordingly and, for ease and convenience, cut all fan members to the same length. John finds that his first blooms tend to be available for cutting and staging about three weeks after completing the layering process.


On Thursday 23rd May 2019 Trevor Barningham and Keith Abel attended the Schools Food and Farming Education Day at the Showground, Kellythorpe, Driffield. This has become an annual event which has been running for the last four years and is in keeping with the Society’s objective of advancing the education of the public in the cultivation and improvement of vegetables.

Schools from across the East Riding of Yorkshire and Hull City enjoy an open day full of activity to enable them to understand where our food comes from. Ages range from 7 to 11 years old and many have possibly never seen the type of equipment on show throughout the day. There was all the latest high technology agricultural equipment; a number of farm animals as well as demonstrations from farm safety, road safety and fire safety experts The NVS remit was to encourage children to ‘grow their own’. Trevor and Keith were able to show the pupils how our food is produced from seed to maturity. They displayed a wide range of home-grown vegetables and even had a selection of produce from the supermarket shelves to compare like for like. With over 1600 children to engage in continuous small class groups, it proved to be a very successful, if somewhat intense, day. Further details from here. Trevor and Keith appear twice in the associated video footage taken at this event.


The early birds catch the worm (or the best sales pitch) at the car boot sale ground in North Cave. Intrepid booters Anne, Jon and Val braved the crowds and the weather on Sunday 12th May to get there for 5.30am in order to set up our stand!


Our April 2019 Meeting attracted an audience of nearly 50 who listened to Simon Crawford talking about Breeding Vegetables for Gardeners with an emphasis on Tomatoes. Simon is a plant breeder who works for Burpee Europe and specialises in the development of new varieties. Simon also spoke at Medwyn Williams’ Vegetable Masterclass Weekend held in Anglesey last November

Tomatoes originated from the western side of South America with their centre of diversity focusing on Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. They were introduced to the rest of the world by 17th century European explorers, although it took nearly 100 years before they became fashionable to eat. Red is generally the preferred colour for tomatoes but the original natural colour of the fruit was yellow, gold or pale orange.

Most household tomatoes tend to be indeterminate or semi-determinate in growth form whereas bush tomatoes are determinate in growth pattern and normally require no staking or stem support. Two of the key features sought in a tomato are taste and texture. The taste is determined by a combination of sweetness (as measured by the Brix value) and acidity based on the concentration of malic and citric acids. Moneymaker, for example, has a 4% Brix value compared with the much sweeter Sungold which has an equivalent Brix value of 12%. Flavour during consumption is also determined by the relative crispness or juiciness of the flesh, as well as the fragrance of the volatile chemical compounds which are released through the skin and flesh. Thin skins are preferable for eating quality but, for commercial purposes, thicker skins assist with extending fruit shelf life and the prevention of damage during transportation.

Tomatoes are a rich source of essential minerals like potassium and carotenoid compounds. Tomatoes have made news in recent years because they’re rich in lycopene, a heart-healthy antioxidant that scientists say may also help reduce the risk of stroke and cancer. Orange tomatoes contain a different form of lycopene, known to scientists as “cis-lycopene,” that’s easier for our bodies to absorb. Drinking only one glass of orange tomato juice will give you the same health benefits as drinking eight glasses of red tomato juice. This advantage is maintained when the tomatoes are cooked, too. But the popular ‘Sungold’ cherry tomato like most yellow-fleshed tomatoes, is low iin cis-lycopene. Instead, its yellow-orange colour comes from beta carotene, another important nutrient. A bright-orange hue is the best indicator of a cis-lycopene-rich tomato eg Amish Yellowish Orange Oxheart, Hawaiian Pineapple and Moonglow.

Tomatoes can be categorised by size and shape : cherry, cocktail (35-55g fruit), classic (55-75g fruit), small beefsteak, large beefsteak and plum. The foliage of plum tomatoes may droop and appear to have wilted but this is not normally a problem and is merely the unintended result of plant genetics.

Tomatoes may suffer from a number of fungal and mould diseases including Alternaria, Phytophthora, Septoria and Fusarium, as well as various viral diseases. The latest virus threat appears to be the Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (TBRFV) which originated in the Middle East but has now appeared in mainland Europe and USA. Although similar to Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV), there are currently no tomato varieties which are resistant to this new virus. Some of the best blight-resistant tomato varieties include Mountain Magic, Oh Happy Day, Philona, Philovita, Crimson Crush, Cocktail Crush, Rose Crush and Honeymoon.

New and recent tomato varieties that have started to appear on the market include Bountiful, Rugby, Cherry Baby, Honeycomb and Patio Plum. Y Ddraig Goch (aka Red Dragon) is a Medwyn Williams introduction resulting from crossing the parents Goldstar and Cedrico. Medwyn also plans to introduce a new variety at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show named Maisey.

Grafting is used extensively in commercial tomato culture. This technique provides a good strong rootstock which improves disease resistance and the uptake of silica and other key elements which assist in plant growth. Grafting also allows for related Solanaceae vegetable types such as potato and aubergine to be grown from the same rootstock.

Burpee is constantly seeking to make improvements in vegetable flavour, disease resistance and environmental tolerance, particularly in the face of climate change. However, the various stages to be followed and time frame required for developing new varieties from concept to full market launch are both long and complex and the whole process can take up to 8 years to complete. It is also an expensive process; registration costs of up to £2000 per new variety plus an ongoing maintenance cost of £250pa are typical and, post-Brexit, tandem registrations might well be required in both UK and EU.


Our March 2019 Meeting attracted a record audience of 52 people who came to listen to Trevor Legg‘s talk about Growing and Showing Gladioli. It was a thoroughly entertaining and informative evening and as well as being a Gladiolus expert, Trevor is also a champion vegetable grower so perhaps we can persuade him to come back again next year!

Gladioli are classified using a worldwide-recognised three digit system based on floret size, colour and hue. Full details can be seen on the British Gladiolus Society web page here. Of African origin, there are more than 250 species and 2500 cultivars in production and available in every colour except black. For serious exhibition purposes, the best blooms come from USA, Czech, Canadian and Australian corm stocks. Less expensive Dutch stock is available from supermarket and garden centre outlets and is perfectly adequate for general garden border use. The 400 series is currently the most popular category for show purposes. Although the initial outlay can be quite high at £3-£4 per corm, the stock can be multiplied by growing-on the cormlets that are produced from the parent corm at the end of the growing season. Cormlets should produce full-size corms after one year’s growth. To better guarantee vigour, Trevor normally replaces his parent corms every three years.

Trevor grows some 10 cultivars and a total of some 6-800 corms under polytunnels because show quality blooms need lots of sun, water, food and shelter from the elements. He applies well-rotted manure to his beds at the end of each year after first flushing out any excess salts remaining from the previous year. At planting time he will apply blood, fish and bone to the top 4 inches of soil and, later in the growing season, some extra potash and Vitax Q4 if he considers it necessary.

Depending on variety, gladioli corms have a growing time of between 80 and 140 days. Typically, the larger the corm, the longer the growing period required to achieve an optimum bloom. It is important to stagger planting to improve your chances of bloom availability for your particular Show as the blooms do not remain in peak condition for very long. Corm planting normally commences in mid April through to June. Corms are normally laid on, and subsequently covered with, a bed of sand in order to improve drainage and prevent rot. For exhibition purposes, the corms are planted some 9 inches apart and 4 to 6 inches deep but general garden border plantings can be made much closer together.

At the end of the season the corms are dug out, labelled, dried, dusted with sulphur and stored under dry, cool and frost-free conditions as they may not survive the winter if left in the ground. The corms are dug out some 4 to 5 weeks after the flower spike has been cut which allows sufficient time for the corm to have recharged its energy store for the following year

After winter storage in cool, dry conditions, the basal plate will start to show rootlets which are an indicator that it is time to plant the corms out. On the top of the corm, several buds may show and it is important to pick the strongest one which also points upwards, and to cut out the other buds completely in order to ensure full vigour is channelled into the one straight stem. Lateral buds will not produce a straight-stemmed bloom. The stems will start to break through the soil surface some 12 – 18 days after planting and will need about one litre of water per plant per day. At the four-leaf stage, typically in mid-June, Trevor will start to apply a weekly high potash feed such as Chempack 4. The blooms are staked as soon as the spike is fully formed and great care with tying is required daily to ensure that the stem remains straight without damaging the buds and emerging florets. Gladioli suffer from lots of pests and diseases including thrips. Trevor sprays his plants every 14 days with Provado as well as a variety of fungicides.

For exhibition purposes, Trevor stages blooms in standard bikini vases and prefers newspaper to oasis as the supporting material as it allows better manipulation opportunities to ensure that the stems are arranged in the optimum position. Correct floret position on the stem and proper petal overlap are important judging criteria and dressing of blooms for exhibition can be a time-consuming business. It can be done at home before the Show but it must be done carefully under warm (not cold conditions which risks floret breakage) using cotton buds. He claims that after an hour of cotton bud support, a floret will then remain unaided in the chosen position and the cotton bud can be removed. Timing is critical as blooms will not last long in peak condition after cutting. The rules regarding judging criteria are also different between the BGS and the RHS so it is important that you are familiar with both sets of rules and which criteria will apply at your chosen Show venue. If you wish to explore whether Trevor has any spare gladiolus corms remaining for sale, he can be contacted on 07805282510. Otherwise, the best commercial sources for exhibition quality varieties are Show Glads .


Our February 2019 Meeting featured Trevor Barningham, our Secretary, who gave us a look at Yorkshire seen through the eyes of a young lad born and bred in the village of Low Row, Swaledale. Using a series of photographs, stories and anecdotes, he gave us a fascinating insight into the history, geography and social culture of his local childhood communities in what are now part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Lead mining and agriculture were the key occupations of the day but, as has happened in so many of our rural communities, tourism in Swaledale has had a major economic impact on modern life and house prices in particular . The second half of his talk included clips of two videos showing the various parts of Yorkshire visited during the Tour de France 2014 and the Tour de Yorkshire 2015. A beautiful part of the country still and well worth a visit before the rest of the world discovers it.


Our AGM held on Monday 28th January 2019 attracted some 30 people. The papers and Officer reports for the previous year had been emailed out to the majority of members ahead of the meeting. The key changes in officers and functions for 2019/20 were that Paul Neve takes over as Chair from Keith Abel, Andrew Brett becomes Vice-Chair, Anne Augustyns becomes Show Secretary and Peter Booker and Val Young now join the Committee. Volunteers were sought to provide supper offerings at future meetings against an agreed budget of up to £30 per meeting.

The speaker programme for 2019 was outlined and a tentative list of suggested speakers for 2020 will be distributed at the next meeting for members to consider and support.

Plant Sale opportunities for 2019 were discussed. It was agreed to invite members to produce seedling plants for subsequent sale at our April Meeting and a North Cave Car Boot Sale in early May. A list of desirable varieties will be presented at the February meeting.

In the wake of David Peel‘s recent talk on Potatoes, Keith Abel invited members to express their interest to him with a view to submitting a bulk order for potato sacks.

The DA Show will be held on Sunday 29th September 2019 but, in view of recent management changes at Cherry Lane Garden Centre, further discussion will be required before the availability of this venue can be confirmed.

Discussion also took place on the new car parking arrangements at the Conservative Club. It was agreed that the Chair and Secretary would investigate whether there were any compromise possibilities available from the Club regarding future car park charges.

Following the close of formal business at 8.50 pm, there followed a short pictorial fun quiz organised by Trevor Barningham to round off the evening.

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