News Archive 2013-2017





Some 40+ persons attended the meeting on Monday 27th November 2017 when Adrian Read, Chair of the North Yorkshire and South Durham DA, gave a presentation on Growing Onions for Showing. He gave this talk at the August Vegetable Masterclass weekend organised by the NVS in North Wales. Adrian does exhibit his produce but is perhaps better known for putting together vegetable exhibition stands at Harrogate and other major venues. He claims to have collected 32 Gold Awards from the 50 or so exhibitions he has put together, so far.

He used to use 400W sodium lights for 12 hour periods (24 hours during the first three weeks) but is now of the opinion that LED lighting emitting dark red and blue wavelengths is both cheaper to run and more effective in terms of producing firm leaf growth. No doubt there are numerous suppliers of LED lighting but many utilise Phillips technology and you can read more about it here. He also argues that keeping any form of artificial lighting on for more than 16 hours a day is unnatural, as well as unnecessary. During the early growth stages of growing onions he likes to keep a minimum air temperature of 50 degF and uses bottom heating set at 55 degF. In order to improve the chances of creating uniformity in shape and size, most growers now use pips produced from the mother bulb, rather than sow from seed. This mirrors what leek growers have done for many years. He is a great believer in providing adequate watering to his growing onions. Bottom heating can certainly dry out the compost and cause root damage, sometimes unseen.

Rather than risk overfeeding his beds with nutrients, he prefers to use slow release fertiliser and grows cauliflowers after his onions have been lifted in order to mop up any excess potassium and phosphorus in his polytunnel bed. He also uses Keith Singleton potting compost in the intermediate pot stages. He claims that a polyunnel can get very hot without adequate ventilation and mentioned an electrical heat extractor available from Northern Polytunnels that appeared to be very effective. He prefers to use a breathable surface membrane on his beds to suppress weed growth (chickweed in particular) rather than black and white polythene sheeting. Too much moisture retained can cause botrytis to form on the growing bulbs and foliage, As an added precaution, he uses Viresco Soluble as a one off application 2 weeks after planting out his onions, followed up by monthly sprays of Viresco Foliar thereafter. More details on these products can be seen here. He also favours the use of Hortiboost (an amino acid growth stimulant) and Horticron (a slow release N fertiliser). More details on both of these products can be found here.

Adrian also recommends the use of Perlka when growing cauliflowers since it appears to help growth as well as minimise the impact of any club root fungus present in the soil. The cauliflower variety shown in his slide was Concept. In the case of both pink root and white rot infestations he suggested that soil sterilisation was the only effective method that could be used to eradicate the disease.



An audience of about 50 persons attended the meeting on Monday 30th October 2017 when Hilary Dodson, Chair of the Northern Fruit Group, gave a presentation on Growing Fruit in the North. Details of the organisation can be seen here. Hilary's talk focused mainly on apples and pears enhanced by her use of potted examples to show the effect of pruning. There were also examples of various apple cultivar fruits for people to try. She grows 150 different varieties of apple, 20 of pears and 20 of plums in her Otley garden. An interesting Yorkshire Post article about her can be read here.

Commercial apples are all produced by growing desirable varieties on certain rootstock which has the prefix M (for East Malling Research Station) or MM for Merton Malling. Some numbers are more vigorous than others and the rootstock selected determines the size of the eventual tree. M9 is said to have brittle roots which means it can blow over easily without strong staking supports. Hilary said that rootstocks should be not less than two years old before grafting on the variety desired. The tree will then require a further three years of growth in order to produce a decent crop of fruit. Branches allowed to remain vertical will grow rapidly upwards whilst branches which are kept horizontal will make little growth. Shaping a tree by allowing the branches to grow at about 45 degrees will strike a happy medium of containing growth and producing fruit.

Hilary also discussed the merits of summer and winter pruning. Summer pruning encourages fruiting whilst keeping the same overall tree size, whereas winter pruning allows the tree to grow and opens up the centre to avoid tangling of branches. The trick with summer pruning is to wait until the terminal bud has formed fully. Pruning too early will promote soft new growth which may suffer frost damage and lead to a lack of fruit. Further details of summer pruning can be found here, and winter pruning here.

One thing I had not realised before (although it's obvious when you think about it) is the appearance of the occasional apple tree along road verges in the middle of nowhere. The answer, of course, is discarded apple cores thrown out of passing cars!

Early fruiting apples will not keep and should be eaten straight away before they turn soft and mushy. Late maturing apples, on the other hand, should be stored over winter in order to allow the characteristic sweetness and flavour to develop befor eating. Family trees, featuring two or more varieties growing on the same rootstock, are quite common now but Hilary said to avoid any Bramley variety as it was a very vigorous grower and tended to take over the whole tree.

Pears tend to grow more vertically than apples and, therefore, the side branches need to be shaped to about 45 degrees in order to encourage fruiting. Some interesting background on the Hessle pear can be read here, although Hilary says it is called Hazel Pear west of the Pennines!

Question time covered a range of subjects related to diseases and pests; lichen growth denotes good clean air and moss is not a problem provided it is not at ground level. Meths applied with a paint brush is good for killing woolly aphid because it removes the waterproofing layer from the surface of the insect. Winter Tar Oil Wash, in common with other Phenolic compounds used for insect and fungal control, is now banned from use. Hilary had achieved good success with alternative garlic-based washes as well as soap/washing up liquid sprays. Hilary does not favour the use of grease bands to protect from caterpillar attack as, in her experience, too many earwigs are caught and she considers these useful predator insects for eating aphids. She prefers Pheromone traps which exist for both Codling and Plum moths.


An audience of some 35 people attended the meeting on Monday 25th September 2017 when Julian Davis,  Head of the Agronomy section at Stockbridge Technology Centre, gave a slide presentation on Growing Media.

With the continuing pressure on reducing or eliminating peat from our growing composts there is much interest in developing alternative media which can match the qualities of traditional peat compounds. Peat-free compounds have actually been around for 40 years or so and, of the growing media commercially available to growers currently, about 50% are classed as peat-free and use substitute materials such as coir, bark, wood chip/fibre, and green compost.

However, there are a number of issues surrounding the use of substitute materials associated with structure and consistency, nutrient lock up and contamination. Coir, for example, is derived from coconut husks and can possess a high salinity due to its natural coastal growing environment. Green manures may suffer from physical contamination but, more importantly, may contain sufficient residues of broadleaf herbicides (as used for controlling lawn weeds) as to render them useless for incorporation within growing media. Herbicide concentrations as low as 300 parts per billion have been found to have a serious impact on plant growth. Some composts also have a limited, or variable, fertiliser content which can restrict plant growth although this can be easily remedied by adding something like Chempak granular fertiliser at the rate of 1g/litre of compound.

Julian recommended buying new (not old) bags of composts, that are not heavy in weight ie water-logged, that do not smell strongly of decay and are of a recognised quality brand. His current peat-based growing media favourites include Miracle Gro All Purpose, Erin MPC, Verve MPC (available from B&Q), Wyevale MPC and ASDA MPC. His two current favourite peat-free composts are Sylvagrow and Miracle Gro All Purpose - Peat-free.

All in all, a very thought-provoking subject but I, for one, will be sticking to peat for as long as I am allowed to do so and I will not be touching anything containing green manure because of the weedkiller residue risk.

Our Annual Show was held on Sunday 1st October 2017 at Cherry Lane Garden Centre, Beverley and appears to have been well-supported by exhibitors from East and West Yorkshire and elsewhere. This is a new show venue for the EYDA but was used for many years by the currently defunct Beverley & District Chrysanthemum Society for both their early and late Shows. As promised, the Garden Centre prepared and erected a large advertising banner outside the venue to complement our own Show banner. The Garden Centre management team appeared pleased with the Show as a customer attraction and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them in 2018. The Show results together with a few photos can be seen here.


There was a great turnout of about 40 persons for our last indoor meeting before the summer recess on Monday 26th June 2017 when Graham Wagstaffe assisted by his wife, gave a slide presentation entitled Round and Round The Garden. Whilst being a keen and well-known exhibitor of show quality produce, Graham and his wife also maximise the use of their garden to produce sufficient vegetables for their year round culinary needs and this talk reflected this particular aspect of their gardening rather than growing for exhibition. He grows on the deep bed system which avoids having to stand on the soil and he also covers everything with fleece or enviromesh to avoid the use of chemical sprays.

He believes in avoiding gluts of produce by sowing in succession and only sowing/planting only small quanities at a time. He also argues that two Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants, rather than two rows, is enough for the average family! He also aims to get at least two, and sometimes three different crops, from every part of his ground over the course of the year. Plants from the legume family, like peas and beans, which fix their own nitrogen needs with bacteria in their root nodules, are harvested at soil level. The roots are allowed to remain in the soil to help the next crop of nitrogen-hungry brassicas, rather than dug up and composted. Another useful tip offered was to place a layer of chicken wire over your open sown peas seeds in order to prevent birds and rodents from digging them up before they have sprouted. His ground is also infested with club root disease but he overcomes this problem by growing his brassicas on in 5 inch pots before planting them out with a layer of lime applied to the inside of the excavated hole. By the time the infection has permeated through the lime layer, the plant will already have grown well beyond the stage where club root becomes a damaging influence.

He also uses his cold greenhouse and outdoor frames to full effect in order to bring on early crops but one of the secrets is to select only those varieties that are bred for early cropping. He grows early potatoes like Swift and Lady Christl in 5L pots, for example. He also grows mini vegetables that have been bred specifically for close spacing. Candid Charm will produce decent cauliflowers at six inch spacings rather than the conventional 18 to 24 inches. He also uses root trainers to great effect. He can grow early carrots to finger length in the 10 inch pot size by selecting the right variety such as Amsterdam. Similarly, globe beetroot can be grown in pots if you use a suitable variety such as Boltardy.

Where space is at a premium, the mini cob varieties of sweet corn will grow vertically and produce lots of fruit on a cut and come again basis. Similarly, picking peas from your plants regularly will ensure you get the sweetest peas to eat and will encourage further peas to fill out and flowers to set. Early runner beans can be grown in 5L pots in the herb garden which helps with insect pollination.



More than 35 people turned out on a wet May Bank Holiday Monday to listen to West Yorkshire's David Allison talk about Fuchsias. David is well known as a top vegetable grower but also has a passion for growing a few flowers, including prize-winning fuchsias. As with most plants there is an established specialist society with associated rules for showing and judging different classes of fuchsias. I found another useful website here. Both of these websites provide variety lists. Cuttings are normally taken in January and three leaf cuttings (if you can find them) are better than two leaf cuttings in order to produce lots of bushy growth and eventual flowers Generally speaking, two year old plants make the best show specimens. Save and grow on only the best and most vigorous cuttings if you wish to win prizes. Stopping stems in order to encourage maximum flower production in time for Show Day depends on the type of fuchsia being grown and can vary from 8 to 14 weeks. Never feed fuchsias with a high potash feed because this encourages the growth of woody stems which do not bear flowers. Use high nitrogen fertiliser at the start of the season and continue with a balanced feed thereafter. Fuchsias do suffer from a few pests but the biggest killer is overwatering and the use of non-free draining composts/containers. Waterlogging can starve the roots of oxygen which then die. David mentioned a product called Dynamec for the control of red spider mite. It is expensive and, in theory, only available to commercial growers rather than the general public. There is a local stockist of this product here.



Keith Abel and Trevor Barningham attended the East Riding Food and Farming Schools Educational Day at Driffield Showground on Tuesday 23rd May in order to promote horticulture and growing your own quality vegetables. Over 1500 children from across the East Riding and parts of North Yorkshire attended. The object of this event is to educate the children and inform them where our food comes from and for the children to gain some hands on experience and to speak with the various organisations involved. Due to the sheer numbers of people attending, Keith and Trevor could only spend about 10 minutes or so with each group. They had two tables set up with various easy to grow vegetables and discussed with them their ability to grow vegetables either at home, at school or both. They received some excellent feedback from the children and the project proved to be a very rewarding, if demanding, day



Unforseen circumstances forced a change of speaker for our meeting on Monday 24th April 2017. John Mabbett from North Ferriby stepped in at short notice to talk about growing and showing Sweet Peas. According to John, the exhibition of Sweet Peas at specialist Shows appears to be declining. Anyone who wishes to find out more about Sweet Peas can do so from the National Sweet Pea Society website here.

John grows his crop using the cordon system on an open allotment at North Ferriby but, as with most produce these days, he reports that the best Sweet Peas are grown under cover in a protected and controllable environment. Of the three types of Sweet Pea (Old-Fashioned, Spencer and Grandiflora), it is the Spencer type that is almost exclusively preferred for show work as it will produce 4 flowered blooms of good quality and other desirable characteristics. John starts his seeds off in the late Autumn on a hotbed in the greenhouse. He sows 50 seeds per tray and the seedlings are potted on into 5" pots (5 per pot) once the stems reach the two sets of leaves stage and about 1 1/2 " in height. He trims a little off the main tap root to encourage better root formation and nips out the primary stem to encourage side shoots. The pots are placed in a cold frame until planting out time in March/April, being careful to avoid mouse attacks. He erects a timber framework over his beds with long canes spaced at 8" centres. The best shoot is selected for tying to the cane using a Max Tapener machine and only then are the other stems removed, in case of accidental breakages. During the growing season, he sprays against aphids and associated virus disease as well as foliar feeding with a seaweed-based fertiliser. Layering is completed when the stems are sufficiently long and the flowers removed from the horizontal length. John takes his stems horizontally along to the 5th cane on, before tying in the stem to begin its upward growth again. Spencer varieties first produce 2 and 3 flowered blooms but will eventually yield the desired 4 flowered blooms if the earlier blooms are removed. John usually grows five varieties (4 bankers plus one experimental) each year, normally including such varieties as White Frills, Valerie Harrod (pink) and Gwendoline (pink). For serious show work it is important that the oasis remains below the upper level of the bikini vase (to allow sufficent room for topping up with water, apparently) and to use the correct placement of foliage - a double leafed piece of stem in the oasis behind the stems with a similar piece placed in front with the upper section of stem split to allow the insertion of the variety card. Should you need to purchase bikini vases, I found this link and this link also.



On Monday 27th March 2017 some 35 people attended Peter Williams' talk on Wonderful Weeds. Some interesting background information on Peter Williams can be found here. It was an excellent presentation from a scientist to a lay group of gardeners and he explained the life cycle of annual, biennial and perennial plants very well together with the varying requirements for light, temperature stratification and dormancy to achieve seed germination. Some seeds such as Goat Willow remain viable for only a day whereas some of the poppies will still germinate after hundreds of years. I also did not know that we only have female Japanese knotweed in this country which is obviously a good thing in order to reduce the spread of this attractive, though harmful, plant. Similarly, I was unaware that the spread of 'wild' Rhododendrons should really be blamed on Victorian shooting estate holders who desired to improve vegetative ground cover in order to increase their populations of game birds. Peter made reference to a book: Collins - The New Naturalist Series - Weeds & Aliens, Sir Edward Salisbury, First Edition 1961. I acquired a decent copy via Ebay.




On Monday 23rd February 2017 more than 35 people attended John Robinson's talk about his early life in the world of professional horticulture. John told us that he was persuaded to enter the world of horticulture by his father Dick who was also a well-known local horticulturalist. Dick Robinson also donated the Robinson Cup to EYDA when it was first formed back in the 1970s. John spent some 18 years learning and honing his horticultural skills starting as an apprentice lad with local nurseries and moving on to Hull Corporation and the Parks Department. At the age of 20, he went off to Merrist Wood Horticultural College in Surrey to learn arboriculture. After completing his studies there he got a job in Lancashire with a garden centre which lasted only a few weeks whilst the owner went on holiday. He then spent some time back home driving tractors before landing an instructor's job at Waltham Forest College where he stayed for some nine years. An informative and amusing talk which was full of personal anecdotes and local knowledge which appealed greatly to our audience. At the end of the talk, we were asked to guess the purpose of a number of gardening implements which John had collected or inherited over the years.John is one of our local members who has recently retired from his second career as a railway signalman which might possibly form the subject of another amusing and informative talk on a future occasion.



Our AGM was held at the Conservative Club, Beverley on Monday 30th January 2017 with 34 people attending.  The Chairman advised us that Ron Bassett, a once staunch NVS member, exhibitor and supporter, had sadly died after a long illness.  The AGM minutes from 2016 and the Officer reports which had been circulated ahead of the meeting via email or post were accepted en bloc. The current Committee was re-elected with the following additions.  The new Newsletter Editor will be Lance Wardell and he takes over from Tony Featherstone who will continue as a Committee member.  Anne Augustyns was elected as a new Committee member.  A number of new or altered job roles were proposed but, in the absence of any volunteers, this issue will need to be discussed further by the Committee at its next meeting. The speaker and events list planned for 2017 was tabled and further suggestions for future speakers were invited from the floor.  Our Annual Show will be held on Sunday 1st October 2017 in order to accommodate other planned NVS Show dates but the venue has yet to be agreed.  It is unlikely that Coletta & Tyson will allow us to continue holding our Show within their Garden Centre and negotiations are currently ongoing with Cherry Lane Garden Centre, Hull Bridge Road, near Tickton.

At the close of formal business, there followed a short question and answer session including some of the questions asked at the 2016 NVS Judges' exam covering pests and diseases and the symptoms of their attack on various vegetables.



Our last meeting of the year was held on Monday 28th November 2016 when upwards of 40 people came to hear David Coop talk about 'What's happened to our composts'. Although originally billed as a representative of Westland Horticulture, David now works for Elsoms the seed specialists.  It was amost interesting and entertaining talk which closed with a fun quiz and an even funnier story about Charlie Dimmock! Did you know that there are over 48 different types of compost, or more correctly 'growing media', and that, as a nation, we buy over 70 million bags of the stuff over the course of a year!  Peat (particularly Irish sphagnum moss peat) is the normal base constituent of most composts but it is perfectly possible to use peat-free composts to produce similar results, although they may cost a little more to buy. A lumpy compost offers a good structure for growing plants to root in although it is unsuitable for sowing seeds in.  Larger plants are hungrier than young seedlings and therefore need a compost with more nutrients.  This is the reason why there are different types of growing media available for different stages of a plant's growth cycle as research clearly shows that one sizedoes not fit all!  The various varieties of John Innes composts all contain, loam, peat, sand, grit and fertiliser but the only difference between them is the amount of fertiliser contained.  John Innes ericaceous compost is merely John Innes #3 with the lime content removed. Caution was expressed over the use of green waste, often produced by local Councils,because of its lack of known provenance and variable content.  At the start of the year it may be wet and sticky because it is derived primarily from lawn clippings whereas, at the end of the year, it may contain all sorts of rubbish including weed killer and weed seeds.  It was pointed out that nettle seeds will survive any temperatures up to 90°C. The use of peat is a contentious issue for some because of the environmental impact and alleged loss of peat bog habitat but the Government's aim for the total elimination of peat-based composts by 2020 is a target and not a prescribed law.



On Monday 31st October 2016 David Thornton talked about Shallots. For those of you who were unable to attend this talk, a summary of the keypoints can be found on the Growing for Show page of the  NVS website. David does not plant his shallots until about mid-January.  The delay does not affect his end results and also helps to avoid the risk of rotting during the early dormancy period.  He skims the edge of the root plate to encourage roots to form and dips the cut surface in Benlate or Rovral fungicide before planting in 4 inch pots filled with multipurpose compost augmented with molehill diggings.  Do not overwater the bulbs.  Pickling-sized shallots (less than 30mm in final diameter), are grown in pots throughout their life cycle and restricted in their water and nutrient supply, if necessary. Planting out takes place mid-March/early April depending on the weather conditions. The site needs to be open and sunny and dressed with a base fertiliser at 2oz/m².  David uses Hydro complex 12,11,18.  Alternatively, Blood, Fish and Bone with additional P and K will work as well.  Top dress with calcium nitrate  at 2oz/m² if the season is wet in order to replace any leached nitrogen.Soft necks are normally caused by a mildew fungus.  White rot disease can be inhibited by digging in a crop of green manure like mustard before planting out the bulbs. White tip can be controlled by either culling (if severe) or spraying with fungicides such as Signum, Nativo and Rudis.  Purple blotching on the skins is thought to be caused by a fungus and Amistar can be used as a control.  Thrip damage can be prevented by spraying with Hallmark Zeon or Malathion. Bolting is normally associated with plant stress of some kind but a bolting rate of anything less than 10% ought to be regarded as acceptable.  On a more positive note, slugs are not considered to be a major pest problem of shallots. About 4 to 5 weeks before intended harvest time, the clumps are reduced to leave four daughter shallots (as equally spaced apart as possible) and the old dried motherbulb skin is removed. Give a high K tomato feed to help the daughter bulbs overcome the stress of thinning and grow towards their final shape.  Start looking to harvest the bulbs during the first week of June onwards. Sometimes it is better to harvest prematurely rather than too late in order to avoid misshapen specimens.  It is claimed that the bulbs will grow in size and improve their shape after lifting as the dying leaves feed back their nutrients into the swollen leaf bases which is what the bulb is formed from. When showing shallots for best visual effect on the bench, choose a dish/container which is in a suitable proportion to the overall exhibit, don't overdo the raffia and try to make your bulbs all look the same height.  Depending on the finished skin colour of the shallots, David also uses a matching colour of sand/vermiculite to stage his shallots upon.


Due to unforseen events, David Matthewman was unable to attend our September 19th 2016 meeting so, at short notice,  Tony Featherstone  and Paul Neve stepped in to give their talks on 'Small Spaces - Big Returns' and 'Judging the Any Other Vegetable Class' respectively. Both talks had been given in the past but many of the 30+ audience had perhaps not heard them before. 

Tony gave some useful advice based on his experience of growing in raised beds in his garden now that he has given up his allotment. 

Paul talked about the issues of judging vegetables staged in the Any Other Vegetable class, the 1 Flower/1 Vegetable class and, also, Baskets of Vegetables.  This was a timely reminder for intending exhibitors at our DA Show on the following Sunday.








On the evening of Monday 25th July 2016 we visited Howden Allotments site and spent a very enjoyable evening in their company followed by refreshments kindly provided by Pat and David Blee. Tony Featherstone, who judges their annual Allotment competition, gave the vote of thanks at the end of proceedings. It is always interesting to learn from others' activities and I have posted a few pictures on the Allotments page. Howden Allotments have their own dedicated website.






On Monday 27th June 2016 there was a visit to Martin and Jill Fish's Garden, Thorneycroft, Rainton, near Thirsk.  This was a glorious afternoon and the weather and our hosts were very kind to us. Martin gave a brief talk followed by a conducted tour of his garden. We finished two hours later with tea and cakes served by Jill. Martin Fish has his own website.



On Monday 30th May 2016, Mick Poultney gave us an entertaining and informative talk on Composting. Mick maintains an ongoing diary of his activities called "Mick's Corner" on the main NVS website here. Mick is a firm believer in composting any suitable material to produce compost which can be applied as either a top dressing, or growing medium and claims that, with suitable attention to detail, preparation of raw material and plenty of worms, compost can be produced within three weeks. Things that he uses include leaves, kitchen/garden waste, worm casts, tea/coffee grounds, basalt rock dust, animal manures, straw, spent mushroom compost, spent hops and malt, top soil such as molehills, grass cuttings, seaweed, wine and beer dregs, softwood cuttings. He is a great believer in keeping the bacteria, fungi and worms happy and applies activators and sufficient water during the composting cycle. He does not compost hardwood cuttings because they take too long to break down, nor acidic materials such as citrus peelings and onions which the worms do not like.  Mick uses lime in the form of eggshells to counteract any acidic conditions and adds carbon to the mix in the form of  shredded toilet rolls, paper, egg boxes and the pages from old paperback books.  Mick, who is Chairman of West Midlands DA, has produced an educational DVD covering composting and raised beds and can be contacted here.  He is also a supporter of Perlka, Charge, Fishmix, Symbio micorrhiza and Flit Sprayer (the model he portrayed attaches to an empty 2L soft drink bottle and is available from various suppliers online for about £20 or less). Recyclenow explains more about home composting using plastic compost bins and reinforces many of the things that Mick covered in his talk.  Details of composting bins and other services available in the East Riding can be found here.



On Monday 25th April 2016 Martin Ford came to talk to us about the benefits of Organic Gardening. He is a firm believer in avoiding unnecessary chemicals in the form of artificial fertilisers and pesticides on the grounds of personal health
and ecological well-being.  Not all fungi are bad and cause diseases, it seems.  Some help to break down organic matter in the soil while others help plants to take up soil-based nutrients.  Many plants develop relationships with mycorrhizas which are beneficial fungi growing in association with plant roots, and exist by taking sugars from plants 'in exchange' for moisture and nutrients gathered from the soil by the fungal strands. The mycorrhizas greatly increase the absorptive area of a plant, acting as extensions to the root system. 

Nature doesn't dig and Martin believes that over-digging destroys soil structure and that bare soil results in compaction through the action of rainwater.  He recommends the growing of green manure and the use of square beds separated by paths which avoids the need for heavy digging, causes less damage to soil structure and increases crop yields.  When using organic manures, make sure that they come from a trustworthy 'organic' origin. Green manures, especially those based on nitrogen-fixing legumes, are beneficial.  Blood,fish and bone and pelleted poultry manures are also fast-acting and readily available.  Bonemeal (phosphorus) and hoof and horn (nitrogen) tend to be slower-acting and more useful for flowering plants and shrubs than vegetables. Potassium can be delivered organically using diluted wood ash. 

Martin also mentioned two new products shortly to become available to the market Biostim and Biolift.  Further details can be obtained from here.  He also mentioned Charge and Carbon Gold. Organic pest control is more problematic and relies more on keeping plants healthy and adopting a 'prevention is better than cure' policy.  Martin mentioned the use of biological controls such as nematodes, the adjacent planting of certain flowering plants to attract pest predators, natural insecticides like pyrethrum, the use of physical barrier materials such as fleece and enviromesh, beer traps and copper tape deterrent for slugs and snails (apparently they receive an electric current whilst traversing copper!)



On Monday 28th March 2016 (Easter Monday) an audience of more than 30 attended a very professional presentation by Mark Hall who talked about growing and showing Millennium Class vegetables covering potatoes, tomatoes, small onions, globe beetroot and stump-rooted carrots.  There was a wealth of information provided on growing these particular vegetables so, for those who forgot to take their own notes, I have decided to add a special section to the Growing Hints page rather than take up space here.  Suffice it to say that the dates and timings provided by Mark are what works for him, on his ground, in
his local environment in the West Midlands. Mark is also a strong advocate of keeping growing diaries which enable him to modify his sowing dates with respect to his anticipated Show dates and also allow comparisons to be made with his experiences of previous years.







On Monday 29th February 2016 an audience of nearly 40 were entertained by John Bailey - the Gadget Man.  It was a most interesting and entertaining talk and he ably demonstrated a vast range of cutting implements and other tools some of which he had constructed himself to meet particular needs. Simple solutions such as how to protect your wheelbarrow's metal tube feet with old bicycle tyres and how to avoid splits and cracks by using a soldering iron to cut holes in plastic pots rather than a conventional drill and bit. There were lots of ideas suggested for future Christmas and birthday presents. The MaxTapener machine, which allows you to tie up plants without running out of fingers and thumbs, is available from Amazon for about £50. Ebay is selling them slightly cheaper but, even cheaper still, is the Douself machine which is available from Amazon for only £12.99 and free postage!







We held our Annual General Meeting at the Conservative Club on Monday 25th January 2016 which attracted an audience of 25 members and guests. The existing principal officers were re-elected en bloc, Roy Simpson stood down and Messrs. Brett, Smits and Wardell were appointed to serve on the Committee. Discussions were held on proposed promotional activities, refreshment provision at meetings for the coming year, speakers for 2017, the Plant Sale and the Annual Show. Unfortunately, after the main business had been concluded, there was very little time remaining for the planned general question/answer session.



We held our last meeting of the year at the Conservative Club on Monday 30th November 2015 when an audience of more than 40 members and guests welcomed Mike Kinnes from Kilham, near Driffield, who talked to us about Soil Structure and Improvement. He explained the features and benefits of the four basic soil types - clay, sand, organic and silt, and the interaction of top soil, sub soil and parent rock. He explained that vegetable and animal manures contained very little nutrient value but were useful for soil conditioning. The application of too much fertiliser, on the other hand, can poison micro-organisms and lock up other nutrients. Mike warned of the dangers associated with unknown provenance of local manure supplies and stressed the need to allow manures to compost thoroughly before use. Organic fertilisers are slower acting than their equivalent inorganic variants. Bonemeal, for example, will not release much phosphorus until several months after application whereas triple superphosphate will act within a few days. Mike cited results of taste tests conducted by researchers with potatoes which suggested that organically grown potatoes were tastier than those grown inorganically. Apparently, the science behind this shows that organically grown produce contains more fibrous material and smaller plant cells which retain their nutrients better.  Brown spots on cauliflower curds and bitter pit markings on apples are apparently caused by boron deficiency.  This can be remedied by the application of fritted trace elements.  More details can be found on the Viresco website.


We held our second meeting at the Conservative Club on Monday 26th October 2015 when an audience of about 35 welcomed Martin Fish from North Yorkshire who talked to us about MY GARDENING LIFE - SO FAR! Martin gave us a very entertaining and informative presentation about his life over the last 40 years, starting from his position as apprentice gardener at his local Parks Department in Nottinghamshire, his nursery and garden design work through to local radio and TV presenter activities. He has also been closely involved with Garden News over many years. He started out by submitting occasional articles for which he got paid only if Garden News liked them! This evolved into the development of a dedicated Garden News garden on his own six acre site supported by weekly written articles in Garden News and, eventually, an invitation to sit on Garden News' panel of judges and 'Roadshow' team attending various flower shows around the UK. The personal flooding disaster of 2000 in no way dampened his spirits and within months he was up and running again combining radio and TV work, writing for and conducting growing trials for the RHS and carrying on his new trials garden project for Garden News where he was joined by his wife who completed nearly five years writing supporting recipe articles.The Garden News 'Roadshow' allowed him to visit many of the UK's top shows and, in 2008, he was persuaded to take on the Show Director role for North of England Horticultural Society's Harrogate Show.  He was instrumental in introducing new features such as children's activities, cookery demonstrations and the Giant Vegetable Autumn classes but decided that the demands of being an 'office-based' Show Director did not suit his long term aims so he vacated this role in late 2013.Martin and his wife now live in North Yorkshire where they have a smaller garden but continue with their trials work, radio shows, judging and writing but now also entertain visitors to their garden which we are planning to visit in the summer of 2016.If you wish to find out more about his adventures, Martin has his own website and a dedicated Facebook page which you can 'follow'.  


We held our first meeting at the Conservative Club on Monday 21st September 2015 when an audience of about 35 welcomed Adrian Reed from North Yorkshire who talked to us about Pests, Diseases and Disorders of Vegetables.  Adrian also offered a pest spotter poster from Provado which is a registered trade name from Bayer Garden for their garden pesticides.  If you missed a copy, you can download it from the Bayer Garden website.  I got the impression that prevention of problems, for example by using enviromesh, growing in the right environmental conditions and using resistant strains of plants, is better than cure, especially since amateur gardeners are no longer able to access some of the commercial chemicals used by the farming community, due to health and safety and environmental concerns. Some of the simpler solutions I noted were 1) A spray mix of 7 parts milk to 1 part warm water to tackle mildew on cucurbits. Contrary to popular belief, mildew thrives in dry, not damp, conditions which is why gardeners attempting to grow cucumbers and tomatoes in the same greenhouse often encounter this problem.  2) A spray mix of 5ml of Domestos in 1 gallon of water as a general bactericide/bug killer. 3) A mix of 2 teaspoons of coffee per litre of water as a whitefly retardant.  Adrian also suggested that diluting the pesticide to 25% of the manufacturer's recommended rate and augmenting the mix with sugar solution would both save on costs and improve effectiveness by increasing the 'stickability' of the chemicals to the plant tissue.

We had a packed house for our meeting on Monday 30th March which featured David Thornton giving us an illustrated talk on Fertilisers and Pests & Diseases. There was an awful lot of significant stuff said and I will select just a few of the many interesting facts that emerged.  

Plants can only take up nutrients in liquid form so large-granule fertilisers will be slower acting than smaller particles or liquid feeds.   Because of the leaching effect, we probably underfeed our plants with nitrogenous feeds; leafy plants such as brassicas, and even potatoes, need an awful lot more than you think. Peas on the other hand need no nitrogen feed because they make their own through nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their root nodules. David also thinks there is no advantage to be gained by storing farmyard manures until they are well-rotted; the nitrogenous components will simply leach out and be lost.  You can feed using organic compounds only but David believes that some supplemental feeding with inorganic fertilisers, particularly nitrogen-rich ones, will be necessary to ensure sufficient nutrients are available to the plants. pH determines the availability of some nutrients to plants depending on whether they prefer acidic or alkaline conditions. RH, or redox value,  is a measure of pH and the ORP (oxygen reduction potential).  Basically, low values indicate low soil oxygen which inhibits growth and high values may indicate too much oxygen which can cause humus to be destroyed.

PERLKA, which is a calcium cyanamide fertiliser, is reputed to have disinfectant qualities and, over several years use, has been shown to cure club root infected soil.

For onion growers, do not exceed the recommended doses of nitrogen feed because, if the leafy tops get too heavy and cause the necks to break, the bulbs will not usually increase very much further in size. You must keep the growing leaves vertical for as long as possible to enable the leaf bases to provide maximum bulb growth.

Blossom end rot in tomatoes is caused by calcium deficiency.  This can be prevented by spraying calcium nitrate solution against the underside of the leaves because the stomata (or pores) are more numerous on the underside of the leaves compared to the upper surface which tends to be more waxy in order to help disperse rain water.

Be aware that unprotected and unshaded rain water butts may heat up significantly in sunny weather causing heavily-laden bacterial soups to develop within.  A few drops of bleach added to each water butt can significantly reduce the danger.

At our February 2015 meeting Doug Stewart gave us a very informative and entertaining talk on Soft Fruit covering raspberries, apples, pears, peaches/nectarines, currants, strawberries, huckleberries and wineberries. Doug likes to feed his fruit plants with liquid Tomorite (or equivalent) only when they are growing in containers or pots, never in the open ground where he believes they should be able to extract enough nutrients from the soil.  He also recommends Seasol, an Australian type of seaweed fertiliser.  To combat the threat of aphids he thinks that garlic extract works well, as does Quassia which is extracted from a certain tree bark.  Doug always believes in buying certified virus-free stock and advises people to exercise caution when buying from bargain outlets.

For those who forgot to take notes, here are some of the varieties Doug prefers: Raspberries - Glen May (summer), Leo (late summer), Polka (early autumn) and Autumn Bliss (autumn)Apples - Cox's Orange Pippin/Queen Cox, Egremont Russet and Ellison's Orange. Look for grafted rootstock MM106 (large trees) and MM27 for smaller ones. Pears - Doyenne du Comice (very sweet), Verdi, Conference and Beth. Peaches - Peregrine, Duke of York and Avalon Pride (leaf curl resistant)Red Currants - Junifer (July), Laxtons #1 (mid-season) and Redstart (end-season and resistant to disease). White Currants - White Versailles and White Pearl (late)Black Currants - Ben Gairn (early), Ben Sarek (mid-season) and Ben Tirran (late)Strawberries - Cambridge Favourite, Kiss and Symphony.

Our AGM and Gardeners' Question Time held on Monday 26th January 2015 attracted a reasonably-sized audience of both members and visitors. The Chairman reported that East Yorkshire DA is now the second largest within the Northern Branch.  Our move to Beverley and improving contacts with local Allotment Groups and gardening
organisations had helped greatly in attracting new members.
Following the AGM, members and visitors were invited to seek answers to their gardening questions in open forum. Topics raised covered enviromesh, armillatox, potato blight, inactive allotments, raised beds, coriander, pH testing, perennial aubergine plants, grafting tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and germinating carrots and parsnips.

There was a very large turnout for our final event of the year held on 
Monday 24th November 2014 when David Metcalfe from Nelson, Lancs
explained how he grows Exhibition Onions.  David is the current NVS
National Onion champion and previous National Leek champion so
obviously knows his stuff!  With the aid of slides he took us through his
annual cycle of tasks.  The recipes for his potting and growing mixtures
(plus some of the other things he uses) can be accessed on the
Growing Hints page.

David likes to grow organically as far as possible and I was interested to hear him say that he never uses tap water for growing vegetables because
the dissolved chlorine kills off useful as well as harmful bacteria. The way to get a good skin is to lift your onions at the end of July/early August whilst still showing some growth, remove the roots and chop the top to about six inches and let them dry out gradually in a cool location like a garage. This process can take five weeks or more to achieve properly for shows in September which is why you need to lift them well ahead of show date.

At our 27th October 2014 Meeting, John Smiles gave a most
interesting talk entitled “A year growing under glass” He took
us through the twelve months from erecting a new greenhouse
to winning first prize at Harrogate Show with the exhibits grown 
that year.

Congratulations go to Yvonne Stone who was awarded the
NVS Silver Medal for outstanding service to the Society over
many years.

Our Annual Show was held at Coletta And Tyson's Garden Centre, Woodmansey on Sunday 29th September 2014.  I have posted some photos and the list of trophy winners on a new page - Show Results 2014.  Keith reported that the classes for local NVS members were not as well supported as he would have liked and, at their next meeting, the Committee will consider how best to improve this situation. Please note that you do not have to be a member of NVS to compete in this Show; only one class is reserved for NVS members.  

Paul Neve presented an "Evening of Oral Flart" on Monday 30th September 2014. He explained the background to the subject title and gave an illustrated talk to an audience of more than 20 on general design and display principles which apply equally when staging flowers, vegetables or floral art exhibits. After the break he created three simple and topical floral art arrangements which were raffled off at the end of the evening.

On 30th June 2014 a group of about 35 visited the Pocklington Allotments site on The Mile, just outside town to the north. This site consists of about 160  allotments all of which seem to be
    fully taken with a waiting
list in operation.  Half plots cost £20
per year which includes water
rates.  There is running water
provided but no hosepipes are allowed. I
was told that you are allowed to erect up to 25% of your allotment area with
'permanent'  structures like greenhouses and sheds.  If you
guttering to these structures, you are then provided with a
huge cubic
water butt (free of charge) to which you can attach a hosepipe to water all parts of your allotment.  This is a lovely
open site with two road
entrances which provide individual car
parking spaces and a few left
over for visitors. 


At the May 2014 meeting David and Olive Peel  presented a talk 
on The Allotment - The Story So Far and highlighting their activities in their greenhouses and 200 square yard allotment. David focuses on potatoes
grows approximately 150 bags on the allotment whereas Olive has her

own vegetable raised bed and specialises in miniature roses.

In the space of 
five years they have progressed from relative obscurity to
National Potato
Champions in 2011. They have also achieved notable
success at Harrogate and several NVS National Championships.

In 2013, they were invited to appear on BBC2's Gardeners' World.

David believes in growing vegetables quickly and considers that the faster they grow, the more tender they will be when fully grown.  Perhaps his success with potatoes, French and Runner Beans proves his point!



There was a further big attendance for our April 2014 meeting when Peter  Booker presented his talk on Pinks and Carnations.  Peter is an active breeder, exhibitor and judge and provided us with a slide show and lots of practical growing hints.  It would seem that, unlike chrysanthemums, flowering time cannot be calculated with much precision so, for exhibition purposes, you need to grow a lot of plants in order to maximise your chances of getting sufficient numbers of blooms. 

There was a good turnout for our March 2014 meeting when Tony Featherstone
presented his talk Smalll Spaces - Big Returns.  Tony has a small allotment but
utilises his garden space to a maximum to produce flowers, fruit and vegetables
sufficient for his needs.  he has constructed three raised beds and  also uses a
variety of containers for growing various things.  Tony has produced a leaflet on
this subject which you can buy from him for 30p which merely covers the paper
and printer ink costs.  If you have an email address, he will send it to you for

Just a few interesting gems I picked up were - use a hot soldering iron
rather than a drill for creating holes in plastic pots and place them in the lower
sides to assist drainage rather than through the bottom.  Car boots and private householders' skips (seek permission first otherwise it's considered theft) are
useful sources for plastic tubing and growing containers.  And perhaps the most importantly of all, don't bother growing stuff for food that you can buy cheaper
from the shops!



Our February 2014 Meeting took the form of a Quiz in
which three  teams of four competed for the honours. 

Dream Team eventually hauled out as winners with
Two+Two in  second place and Propagators third.

Dream Team
also won in 2013 under their A Team moniker.

Our Annual General Meeting was held on Monday 27th January 2014. Keith Abel was elected as Chairman with Yvonne Stone stepping down to the position of Vice-Chair.  Trevor Barningham takes over as Secretary from Keith and Roy Simpson was appointed to serve on the Committee.  Joan Abel was appointed as our second DA representative on the Northern Branch Committee.   The full list of Committee Members to serve for the coming year will appear on the updated Committee page in due course.

Mike Abel has organised a full programme of events for the coming year which will appear on the Programme 2014/5 page in due course.  Monthly meetings will commence promptly at 7.30 pm; members and guests are kindly requested to obtain drinks and to be seated by this time. 

It was agreed that the Mini Show competition usually incorporated within each monthly meeting would be discontinued in 2014.  The prize winners for the 2013/14 series of Mini Show competitions  were First - Janet Abel, Second - Joan Abel and Third - Peter Medley.

It was also agreed, in principle, to provide support to the local branch of Groundwork a national charitable organisation established to encourage and support self sufficiency amongst  local needy communities.  Keith Abel undertook to investigate how best this support might be offered by our DA.

The annual DA Show is provisionally planned for Sunday 28th September 2014 at Coletta & Tyson's Outlet Garden Centre

, being the Christmas holiday season, is traditionally devoid of any planned activities.

Our November 2013 Meeting was attended by about 40 or so members and visitors.  Our speaker was David Metcalfe (National Leek and Onion champion 2013) from Nelson, Lancashire who gave us a very exhaustive slide show on the benefits of Growing with Straw.  David showed us various 'chemicals' at the start of the meeting:

Garlic Wonder Concentrate - available from LBS Horticulture.  David reckons it is useful for deterring carrot fly under mesh covers.

Bug Clear - available from many stockists and manufactured by Scotts Miracle-Gro Company - contains natural permethrins.

Growing Success - Slug Killer - organically-based and does not contain metaldehyde.  Widely available.

Provado Ultimate Bug Killer - produced by Bayer - available in concentrate and ready-to-use forms.  Widely available.

Plant Vitality Plus
- said to be excellent for red spider mite control - widely available from hydroponic shops and Ebay.

Domestic Fly spray - used by David as a general knock-down insecticide in his polytunnels.  No particular brand was said to perform better than any other.

He also mentioned Dalefoot Compost which is used by top potato growers for bag-grown exhibition potatoes. This compost is a mixture of bracken and sheep's wool.  The bracken provides potash while the wool breaks down slowly to release nitrogen.  According to the company's website, wool is used in the rhubarb growing community. 

At the September 2013 Meeting  more than 40 members and guests welcomed Dr Derek Maitland who gave us a splendid presentation on growing and showing Dahlias. I feel that he has more to tell us on this subject and I hope that we can get him back again in the future.  The National Dahlia Society has its own website and sells various publications about growing and showing dahlias.

, being the summer holiday season, is traditionally devoid of any planned activities.

A packed house welcomed 'Westie' David Allison to our July 2013 Meeting.  David is currently NVS National Vice-Chairman as well as National Editor. He provided us with a fabulous talk on a huge variety of soft fruit, including a few vegetables that are botanically fruit as well as rhubarb which, though normally eaten as a dessert, is usually shown and judged as a vegetable!  This talk was particularly well-timed seasonally because David managed to bring lots of different examples of real fruit from his own garden and allotment.

A sizeable party of visitors attended the Albert Cottage Allotments site on Kenilworth Avenue on the evening of Monday 24th June 2013. Fortunately, the weather was kind and we were able to walk about with ease. Afterwards, we were entertained in 'The Hut' and treated to a spread of home-made delights and lots of tea. The trading hut now features a lending library and is open for trade on Saturday and Sunday mornings and the price of all commodities is considerably cheaper than you will find in your local shop or supermarket.

Compared with previous months, the May 2013 Meeting attracted a disappointingly low number of 12 visitors for the talk on Driffield Flour Mill by Stuart Bradshaw.

A packed house for our April 2013 Meeting saw a talk on Kitchen Vegetables given by Graham Wagstaffe assisted by his wife Jane.  Turnout was even greater than last month and the change in location has clearly had a hugely beneficial effect on visitor numbers. Graham explained how he managed to cultivate a a 100 square feet plot of club root-ridden ground in his garden and maintain a year round supply of fresh vegetables for the family's needs.  Clearly you need the right varieties which are designed to be grown with short spacing and most of the major national seed suppliers now offer suitable varieties of 'mini veg'.  He grows his vegetables under 'Enviromesh' the whole year through.  Though initially expensive, he claims that it is long lasting and will pay for itself in a few years and, better still,  you do not need to spray against pests. The mesh has a shade factor of only 7% and allows rainwater or watering can irrigation to pass through easily. To overcome attack by club root, he grows most of his brassicas in 5 or 6 inch pots initailly before planting them out.  This provides each plant with a large rootball surrounded by sterile compost which offers some defence against attack from the fungal spores in the soil.

The March 2013 Meeting was the first to be held at our new home in The Catholic Club, Beverley.  This appears to be a splendid establishment equipped with a downstairs bar and a large upstairs meeting room offering plenty of space and seating for our needs.  The Council (not to be confused with the Station) carpark opposite the venue is free after 6pm and is only a short walk away.  Graeme Watson's talk on carrots attracted over 30 visitors, including some potential new members who were attending one of our meetings for the very first time.  Although Graeme grows carrots mainly for showing at the very highest level there were plenty of learning points for all types of grower.  It is clear that you need either a lot of luck or a lot of carrots in order to find a perfect set,as well as an awful lot of sand!  Also, the importance of external protection from the elements and pests in the form of covers or fleece was evident.  Climate change and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns may make this protection even more essential in the future.  On a sadder note, David Drayton, a long standing friend of the Association, speaker and flower judge passed away recently.

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