Less Hot News

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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)

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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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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