Showing And Judging




New to Showing? - Here are some hints to get you started.

Read the Show Schedule and the rules carefully.  Note down exactly what is required for each class you plan to enter.  There may be restrictions on size, weight or colour of produce and each class will state exactly how many specimens are required.  If you don't comply with the rules you will get the dreaded NAS card (not according to Schedule) and your entry will be disqualified.  If you need to submit your entry form before the Show day, make sure you do so.  Harvest your produce as near to Show day as possible so that it is in peak condition. Clean and prepare produce carefully so as to remove soil but not destroy things like roots if they are required to be shown still attached.

When you visit Shows, make a note of how the winning exhibits are displayed and what varieties of produce do well.  For example, classes for stump-rooted carots are nearly always won by the variety Sweet Candle which has all the qualities needed for showing.  Pack your exhibits carefully in your car so that they are not damaged in transit to the Show.  Vegetables can be wrapped in (damp) cloths or protected with sponge or newspaper.  Flowers travel well if inserted individually in bottles held upright in old milk crates.  If display materials such as vases and plates are not provided, make sure you take what you will need with you.  Paper plates are usually satisfactory; two piece 'bikini' vases are made of plastic or metal alloy and stack easily for transit and storage and can be bought online but any simple or plain vase will usually suffice.  You will also need a pen, scissors/knife, cloths, oasis and a water jug/can if you are exhibiting flowers.

Allow plenty of time to stage your exhibits.  It always takes longer than you think and the Show Schedule has strict timings allowed for entries.  Ensure that you stage your entries in the correct class.  If there appears to be no more space availaible in your class then ask a steward to re-arrange the spacing in order to accommodate your exhibit.  Do not touch anyone else's exhibit - the steward will do this, if necessary.

Judging is made against an 'ideal' standard such as those established by Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) or National Vegetable Society (NVS).  Stating the variety adds interest for Show visitors but also informs the judge what your exhibit should look like which is important if you are showing an unusual type.

Sometimes exhibits are sold or auctioned off at the end of a Show.  If your exhibits are not intended for sale then make sure they are clearly marked not for sale and remove them as soon as possible after the Show is over.

If you are fortunate to win a trophy then please look after it and keep it safe until the due return date the following year. Silver and silver plated items will oxidise and turn brown over time. Minor tarnishing can be removed by washing the affected item in soapy water with a non-abrasive cloth and then polishing it dry. If the item is badly tarnished then use a silver polish BUT please do read the manufacturer's instructions first! Exhibitors winning any of the Show trophies are solely responsible for engraving them at their own cost, should they wish to do so. The Committee will periodically examine all trophies for general condition and capacity for further engraving and will replace plain banding as appropriate.

For more information, consult:

The Horticultural Show Handbook (8th Ed, 2016) produced by the Royal Horticultural Society and covers the judging of fruit, vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants, gardens and allotments, hanging baskets and outdoor-planted containers according to RHS judging criteria. This publication also offers useful hints to exhibitors, judges and show organisers. Further details can be obtained from RHS Enterprises Ltd, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB -

Getting Started on the Showbench and The Judge's and Exhibitor's Guide are two useful publications available from National Vegetable Society -


The following selection of hints refers to the exhibition of vegetables under RHS rules. (RHS and NVS rules follow similar criteria but you should check the Show Schedule to see which organisation's rules are applicable) 

Ensure that all produce is clean, fresh, free from pest and disease damage and meets the number of specimens required to be staged.  Try not to mix small and large specimens and remember that 'biggest' is not always 'best'.  Include the name of the variety wherever possible.  The class may call for a 'dish' or 'plate' of whatever vegetable is named. A 'dish' is an exhibit of produce comprising one variety only.  A paper plate is usually satisfactory for displaying most items of produce but, if the Schedule states a specific size of dish/plate or tray, make sure your exhibit complies.

Beans, French and Runner should be long, straight, shapely, fresh and tender, of good colour with no outward signs of seeds in the pods.  Stalks should be attached.  One or more pods may be snapped by the judge to assess condition.

Cabbages should have fresh solid heads with outer leaves intact.  All foliage should be clean with natural bloom intact.  Roots are normally trimmed to about 75mm.  Any type may be exhibited unless otherwise specified.

Carrots, Beetroot, Parsnips and Turnips should be smooth-skinned and well-coloured throughout their length.  Beetroot and turnips may be cut by the judge to assess flesh colour and disease.  Roots should be intact (but side hair-roots may be carefully removed).  Foliage should be trimmed to approximately 75mm.

Cauliflowers, Calabrese and Broccoli should have solid curds with even heads.  Foliage should be trimmed back evenly and neatly to expose the curd.  Roots are normally trimmed to approximately 75mm.

Celery should be large, well-blanched and crisp.  Foliage should be attached and roots trimmed back to the root plate.

Courgettes should be tender with uniform shape and colour.  Optimum length is 150mm.  Courgettes may be shown with or without the flower still attached.

Cucumbers should be fresh, tender and straight.  They should be uniform in thickness and colour with short handles.

Leeks should have firm white, straight, non-bulbous barrels and foliage should be turgid.  Roots should be washed but not trimmed.

Marrows should be young and less than 350mm in length.

Onions and Shallots should be dressed (roots/foliage removed and the necks tied with natural raffia) with clean, unbroken well-ripened skins free from ribbing or discoloration.  Try to ensure that all bulbs are matched for size and shape.

Potatoes should be unblemished, of good shape and with shallow eyes.  Optimum weight is 200-250g.  White potatoes should have no colour on the skin (including eyes).  Potatoes showing full or partly coloured skin should be exhibited in the Other than white/Coloured potato class.

Sweet Corn should have fresh, well-formed cobs with a good eeven grain set and good tip fill.  Cobs should be staged with the silks attached and peeled open to 1/4 of of their width.

Tomatoes should be ripe, unblemished and well-shaped.  Optimum size is 60mm diameter for standard varieties and not more than 35mm for small-fruited varieties.  Calyces should be fresh.



Apples, Pears, Plums and Cherries should be of optimum size for the variety, shapely with eyes and stalks intact and with clear, unbroken skins of natural colour characteristic of the cultivar.  Bloom, where present, should be intact.

Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries and Currants should be large, ripe, of good colour, free from blemishes, in good condition and with stalks attached.

Any Other Fruit should be presented with stalks attached.  Ensure that the natural bloom, where present, is maintained.



A vase is defined as a vessel for displaying cut flowers in water and having a height greater than the diameter of its mouth.  Flowers are judged on the quality of blooms.  All cut flowers ahould be staged in water but floral foam (oasis), or other packing material may be used to hold blooms in place.



Some vegetables are more difficult to grow to perfection than others.  There is a 'league table' of vegetables which states the number of points they are worth when exhibited.  This only really matters when staging a collection of vegetables where the judge will award marks for each type against the maximum that the vegetable in question attracts.  For example, the judge may award 12/20 for a potato of only fair quality and 11/12 for a near perfect radish.  However, the prize will go to the exhibit gaining most points and the 'fair' potato will beat the 'excellent' radish.  You should therefore try to include as many high-pointed vegetables as possible. in your collection.


The following is the RHS list of vegetable maximum points values:

Aubergine                    18

Beans - For shelling     15

Beetroot - Globe           15

Beetroot - Long             20

Broad Beans                 15

Broccoli - Spears           15

Brussel Sprouts             15

Cabbage                        15

Calabrese - Heads         15

Carrots - Long                20

Carrots - Stump-rooted  18

Cauliflowers                    20

Celery - Blanched           20

Chilli Peppers                 15

Courgettes                      12

Cucumbers                      18

Cucumbers - Outdoor      15

French Beans                  15

Garlic                               15

Leeks                               20

Marrows                           15

Onions - Large                 20

Onions - under 250g        15

Onions - Salad                 12

Parsnips                           20

Peas                                 20

Peppers                            15

Potatoes                           20

Pumpkins                          10

Radish                              12

Runner Beans                   18

Shallots - Large                 18

Shallots - Pickling              15

Squash - Winter                 10

Swede                                15

Sweet Corn                        18

Tomatoes - Standard          18

Tomatoes - Small                12

Turnips                                15


Click here and here to view or download the original printed document.


Showing vegetables can be great fun and a means of comparing your efforts against those of your fellow competitors but there are certain rules which need to be followed. The Show Schedule will usually specify basic rules such as staging times, entry fees, whether plates for staging will be provided and any restrictions imposed on the number of entries that may be staged.  The NVS Judges' Guide forms the essential reference work for vegetable exhibitor and Judge alike but join our group and you will learn a lot more.


                One Flower and One Vegetable is a very popular class
                with exhibitors. At some Shows, this class may also be
                extended to One Flower, One Vegetable and One Fruit


                               Shallots must pass through a ring of a certain
                               (currently 30mm under NVS rules) in order to qualify
                               for pickling shallot class status


                 Shallots are usually staged on a dish of dry sand for
                 best effect.  Do not use wet sand otherwise you may find
                 that roots will start to grow!


                           Great care is taken with handling and staging exhibits
                           and, especially, in
protecting them from damage whilst
                           in transit to and from the Show


            Show day begins with the Show Secretary
             - a very important job


                                                                    Olly the Onion is the mascot of East Yorkshire
                                                                    District Association and attends every Show



          Judges will examine leek barrels and foliage to ensure that
          they are undamaged and show no signs of seed head formation


Top quality beetroot should not be woody or coarse. Globe Beetroot
may be cut by the Judge to examine the
colour and condition of the
flesh although NVS Judges are advised not to cut any beetroot,
especially Long varieties. 
A contentious issue for some, perhaps,
especially since colour is one of the judging criteria scored



               Judges weigh individual bulbs to ensure that they do not
               exceed the 250g maximum size stipulated for this particular
               onion class


shape, condition and uniformity are all
                                   important factors when judging a set of onions



                  Celery is prone to heart rot and seed head formation.
                  The Judges have cut the raffia used by the exhibitor to
                   bind the celery stalks together in order to check inside


                        The dreaded NAS (Not According to Schedule) card
                        awarded by the Judge for an exhibit that does not
conform to the Show Schedule requirements. In this case,
                        one bulb exceeded the 30mm maximum diameter
                        stipulated for the small (pickling) shallot class



                   The Judge's score card for the winning Collection of 4 Vegetables
                    - one of each kind.  Note that cucumber and stump-rooted carrot
                    are scored out of 18 rather than 20 points maximum. A risky
                    strategy for the exhibitor but sometimes there is no choice if other
                    crops fail to produce Show-quality specime



                              The second-placed entry in the same vegetable collection
Note that, even though four vegetables each with
                              20 point values were staged, the quality of some was
                               judged to be inferior and consequently downpointed


                     The winning entry for a Collection of 4 Vegetables
                      - one of each kind, as scored above


                                          Exhibition celery should be clean and bright with no

                                          evidence of slug damage or dreaded 'heart rot'



      A Collection of Vegetables - one of each kind is often
      premier class at any Show and one which every exhibitor
      would like to win


                                       Exhibits should always be clearly labelled with the 
                                       exhibitor's number and class number. In some cases,
                                       the Show Schedule rules require the name of the
                                       individual varieties staged to be identified as


            A fine red cabbage specimen will nearly always win a
            'One Cabbage' class but try to preserve the 'bloom' by
            handling it as little as possible before staging


                                   Cauliflowers and potatoes are normally covered to
                                   exclude light for as long as possible and to prevent
                                   'greening' on hot sunny Show da


         Runner beans are normally kept flat and straight overnight
         in damp cloth before staging on Show day


                              Matching a pair of cauliflowers for uniform
                              size and
shape is very difficult


         Selecting a recognised 'Show' variety is critical.
         Note that the outdoor 'ridge' variety of cucumber
         has not won a prize in this class


                            Stump-rooted carrots should have a pronounced round,
                            rather than tapered, end to the body otherwise they will
                            be downpointed by the Judge



                Table Dainty
is a popular variety of Show marrow.
                Big is not always beautiful - Show marrows should
                be not more than 400mm (15") in length


                                    Five Potatoes - other than white is a common Show class.
                                    This Show-winning variety is called


        The 'novice' collection class is normally reserved
         for exhibitors who have never won a first prize in
         the open section of our Show



                                            A black base cloth is normally used to provide maximum

                                            colour contrast effect. Sometimes, parsley is used as a
                                            garnish to add extra colour and textural contrast


          Judging is a very important role and should be carried
          out by experienced growers who are qualified to judge to NVS standards


The Steward plays a very important role in assisting
                                                         both the Judge and the Show Secretary



A Taproot Collection class. Long beetroot, like parsnips, are worth a maximum of 20 points but, as a result of new Society guidance, are not cut by NVS Judges


                        Stump-rooted carrots should show a definite round
                        stump at the root end.  Only the right-hand carrot
                        of these three shows proper definition



          This carrot has been heavily downpointed because it shows
          evidence of 'greening' on the shoulders where it has been
          exposed to the light whilst growing. The leaf stalks should be cut
          as late as possible in order to maintain freshness and to avoid
          drying out


                         A basket of vegetables is judged on the three criteria

                         of quality, variety and presentation of produce


             Peppers, though botanically a fruit, are regarded as
             vegetables for showing purposes. Rhubarb, though
             basically a leaf stalk and normally used as a fruit for
             culinary purposes, is also regarded as a vegetable
             for showing purposes


                               The Top Tray class is sponsored by a National Seed
                               supplier with medals and prize vouchers and is fiercely



      The equivalent Top Vase class attracts some fine entries as well


                                              Clearly, a man who knows his onions. Not only winning
prize in this class but also the NVS Silver Medal for
                                              most meritorius exhibit in the whole Show


          Trophies are awarded for best exhibit in a particular
          class or most points in a section and prize money is normally
          given for exhibits gaining 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in each
          class. Note the Bronze Onion trophy which has been cast from
exhibitor's former prize-winning onion. We believe this to be

                This class calls for Three Carrots (type unspecified).
                Note that the 3 carrots on the left, though quite
                short-bodied, are considered long-pointed carrots and
                would not score highly in a class
specifically for
                stump-rooted carrots


    This class calls for "5 a Day" - One each
     of 5 different fruits and/or vegetables

     Rhubarb can be entered (as a vegetable)

     but the judge has had to use discretion
     select a single specimen
of some of the fruits
     staged in order to help the competitor comply
     with the class wording and assist the judging

Any Other Fruit
- sometimes a difficult class to judge when you
are faced with three pears against a single peachNote that the
judge has removed the peach foliage from the fruit and has also
selected a single pear in order to
provide uniformity in the


            Corn should be well-ripened and fully-formed to the tip of the husk
            when well-grown.  The kernels should also be similar in size and
            appear in neat straight rows and columns

When staging courgettes try and ensure that they are similar in size,
shape and colour.  Leave the flowers attached if possible, even if
they appear old, dry and unsightly


          Herbs should be clean and fresh with no insect damage and
          preferably labelled by name.  The ends of the cut stems should be
          immersed in water in a simple vase.  An ornate pot or other
          container is not required and may detract the eye from the foliage!


Leeks should be well blanched for exhibition purposes like the three
on the
left.  The central set are pot leeks whilst the set on the right
have not been blanched properly during their growing phase

            Three poorly-presented parsnips which have dried out and lost
            colour as a result of being improperly stored after harvesting. 
            Although appearing harsh to some, the judge only awarded this
            exhibit a third prize, despite it being the only entrant in this class

Community Web Kit provided free by BT
Cookies and Privacy | Charity Number: 1088979