Hints and Tips


Some of our members are a bit more 'professional' about their entries and here are a few tips and hints from them on what you can do to try and beat them !!

The Perfect Leek - Douglas Leslie


I grow Musselburgh leeks, I sow the seed around xmas on a hotbox mat, when they are about 2 inch high I move them on, into 2 inch cells.

Then putting them on a high bench in the unheated greenhouse at which pothey grow on slowly until they are well rooted, when Iint I then move them on into 6 inch pots. I use a peat compost.

In May they are planted in my tunnel on a raised bed which is about 2 feet deep, I soak the bed with a mix of Domestos at 1 part to a 100 to combat white rot and give a generous dressing of a good general fertiliser. Planting out at 15" / 40cm between them, I don't plant too deep but use 15 inch by 4 inch pipes which I put on them right away.

Keeping them well watered all the growing time, they get a drink of a high nitrogen fertiliser every 3 weeks. I also keep a good look out for pests and deal with them right away !

Be sure to water during hot dry conditions, preferably in the evening, and apply a balanced fertiliser at the manufacturer's recommended rate. In the early part of the season, from June through July a high feed in nitrogen is recommended e.g. Chempak No. 2. This will help promote healthy leaf and stem growth. From August onwards, switch to a high potash fertiliser such as Chempak No. 4 or even Tomato food. The higher levels of potash will help in flower colour, stem strength and root growth. Keep an eye out for aphids, caterpillars, earwigs, slugs and thrips good general purpose sprays include Liquid Derris, Bug Clear or Provado Pest Free, although there are many products available.


Disbudding to produce long stemmed quality blooms should commence as soon as shoots develop on leaf axils. As a general guide, the first pair of buds of buds or growths below the terminal bud should be carefully removed, for the larger flowers remove the next pair of buds. The number of growths retained or removed will influence the ultimate size of blooms, so you would do well to keep records for future reference, especially for exhibition purposes. Keep plants clean and well tied (we always get rough weather just as they are looking their best) remove dead flowers regularly.


If I can help with problems or growing then email me: alecparker133@btinternet.com

Competition Dahlias / Chrysanthemum's - Alec Parker


About two weeks before planting apply a complete fertilizer at a rate of 75 -100g (3-4oz) per square metre planting should be early May for Chrysanthemum’s and at the end of May or early June for Dahlias. Be sure the frosts have passed. I usually give a good watering in after planting then let them dry out before the next watering (depending on the weather). As soon as the plants are big enough, place three canes or stakes around the plant and tie as they grow. If growing for exhibition giant, large and medium flowered varieties are best planted in a two row bed 60cm x 60cm apart with a space of 1.2m (4ft) between the beds. The suggested spacing for small and miniature flowered Dahlias is about 50cm x 50cm (20”x20") with about 1m (40”) between the beds. This spacing should allow plenty of room for development and adequate access for attending to the plants as they grow.                          

Plants should be ‘stopped’ when established by taking out the growing tip, usually towards the end of June, although later flowering varieties may need stopping earlier to give them a chance to flower in time to exhibit. Generally giants and large should be stopped at four pairs of leaves, mediums at five or six pairs, and smalls, miniatures and pompoms at six - eight pairs of leaves from the base of the plant. This system should have the effect of producing sufficient stems from which the required number of blooms can be grown per plant, ie: giants - three to four; large - four to five; mediums - six to eight; and smalls and miniatures - eight to twelve. If too many stems are produced then carefully select the strongest stems and remove those over and above the required number. 




Vegetable Companion Planting - Ron Smith / Stephen Rickard/ National Vegetable Society/Thompson & Morgan
Why Companion plant?

Deter and confuse pests; some act as sacrificial/martyr plants

Attract pollinators

Improve the health of plants

Attract predators that control crop pests

Growing some companions together can also save space


  1. Avoid monocultures. This is where the same type of plant is grown en masse or in rows. Monoculture makes it much easier for pests and diseases to find their favourite plants and then spread quickly.

  2. Use tall plants such as peas or sweet corn to create partially shaded conditions for crops prone to bolting, such as corianderlettuce and spinach.

  3. Plant herbs throughout the garden and vegetable plot, as most have strongly scented leaves which help repel insects.

  4. Try intercropping. This is where fast-growing crops such as lettuce or radishes are sown between widely spaced rows of slower-growing crops such as Brussels Sprouts or parsnips. It utilises the space available and helps prevent weeds growing (weeds take nutrients, light and water, and spread disease).

  5. Plant lots of insect-friendly or bird-friendly plants, either amongst your crops or nearby. They attract natural predators such as birds which eat slugs, hoverflies which eat aphids and bees which pollinate your crops. 

  6. Take care with some companion plants such as mint - these are fast-growing plants and will quickly smother your crop. Grow mint in containers to keep it under control.




Alliums                     Carrots - deter carrot root flies

                                    Tomatoes - deter aphids

                                    Roses - deter aphids

                                    Fruit trees - deter pest of some trees


Basil                          Cucumbers  - deter whitefly

                                    Tomatoes - deter whitefly

                                     Peppers - deter aphids and flies


Dill                              Brassicas - attracts predatory insects

                                     Attracts pollinating and beneficial predatory insects

                                     Deters aphids


French Marigolds   Potatoes - deters eelworms

                                     Sweetcorn - deter whitefly and aphids

                                     Melons - deter aphids, beetles and flies

                                     Attract bees for pollination


Nasturtiums             Brassicas - attracts cabbage white butterflies away from crops

                                     Cucumbers / Tomatoes  - deter cucumber beetles and attract predatory                                                 insects

                                     Attract predators that control pests

                                     French / Runner beans - Aphids love them and this will lure them away 


Rosemary                  Brassicas - deter cabbage butterfly

                                     Beans - deter bean beetles

                                     Carrots - deter carrot flies

Thyme                        Strawberries - deter worms

                                     Aubergine - deter garden moths

                                     Attract predators that control pests such as Aphids & Blackfly

                                     Attract bees

Mint                            Brassicas -  helps to deter flea beetles, which chew holes in the leaves

                                     Onions / Carrots - The aromatic leaves of mint help confuse carrot root fly,                                           who find heir host through scent    

                                     Tomatoes - The smell of mint deters aphids and other pests

Calendula                 Courgettes - Flowers are highly attractive to pollinating insects which will in                                       turn pollinate your courgette flowers.    

Summer Savory       Broad Beans helps to repel blackfly, a common pest of broads beans

Spring Onions          Carrots Sow spring onions amongst your carrots - the smell of onion deters    & Leeks                      carrot root fly. The smell of carrots also deters onion fly from onions.

Chives                        Chrysanthemum - The onion scent will deter aphids.

Garlic                         Roses garlic helps to deter aphids

Basil                           Reportedly improves tomato flavour and the strong scent of their leaves also                                      deters aphids. A perfect partnership in the kitchen too!

Floral Arrangements - Mavis Lawrence 


Flower Arranging as a Hobby

Have you ever considered entering the flower arranging section of the Bovingdon shows, If not, why not?


Some of the classes may sound difficult but there is usually one class for beginners and it doesn’t matter how simple your arrangement is.  Or you may wish to try the more imaginative classes. 


An arrangement is one just using flowers, foliage and natural objects but you can let your creative juices flow with the “exhibit” classes by adding other items to explain or add to the meaning of the title. Most designs use floral foam (oasis) to support the flowers but you could use a pin holder or wire netting.  It is said that the height of the design should be approximately 1 ½ times the height of the container but this could also be used lengthwise.  If using floral foam it should not be seen in the final design and can be covered either with leaves, moss or, indeed in an exhibit, with almost anything. The main or focal point of the design is best low down in the middle, this could be a bright, large or a group of flowers and draws the eye into the arrangement.


It is important to keep within the size given in the schedule as if you exceed this your entry will be disqualified.  A base to show off the design is also welcomed by many judges.


If you want to know more and improve your skills Dacorum U.3.A. will be running a beginners class from September or you could join a Flower Club such as the one in Tring (Tring Floral Art Society).  The U.3.A. meets in the afternoon but Tring Flower Club is in the evening and this has workshops where you can learn and practice new techniques and demonstrations from N.A.F.A.S. (National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies) Area or National Demonstrators.  Details of both can be found on the internet.

Pumkins - Duncan Heath


More to come

Hints and Tips for Growing Roses - Rod Pengelly


Preparation of the Rose Bed


The rose season starts in September and so you should have chosen the varieties you want to grow. They will need a 2ft gap between each bush and you should never have a bed with more than two rows of HT roses.  The plants need to have a good air flow or you will have mildew problems. Double dig the bed (if possible).  Dig in as much compost as you can (rose, tree and shrub is good) and a two year old manure.  Leave to settle.



Your new roses should arrive in November.  Soak the roots for 24 hours and then plant in the prepared bed.  Lightly "heel in" to get rid of air pockets.  I use "Root Grow" which gives the roots a good start.  If the ground is dry, water them in with at least a gallon of water per plant.  Check them during the winter, any which have moved or are loose "heel in" again (lightly).  You need to keep new plants watered, but not waterlogged. 



First prune should be in 2nd or 3rd week of March.  Count from ground up "4 eyes" and cut to an outward bud. Cut out any weak or broken branches and any crossing over.  Try to end up with a clear middle.  New plants for exhibition should have 3 or 4 strong stems (not easy when new).


In late March/early April feed one handful per plant of fish, blood and bone or Q4 (I prefer Q4).  You need to do this when the ground is wet or rain is due.  Then mulch with at least 2" deep, two year old manure.  Try to leave a 1" gap between the manure and new shoots, too deep and too close and new shoots may rot.  Do not use bone meal on its own after March.  You can give one handful per plant November to March, every two years, as it stays in the soil so it easy to overdo it.

You have to know your soil. Whilst my plot has been well used with 40 years of compost dug in over this time,  Good drainage is important; you need to keep new plants watered, but not waterlogged and it is worth noting that Roses also take in food through their leaves. Unless you keep up the feeding you won't have large blooms through the season.


In late May feed one handful of fish, blood and bone around each plant, then late July feed one handful of Q4 around each.  Unless wet, always water in. Try not to dig around plants.  If kept moist, lots of small tiny feeding roots will grow out from the plant and will be destroyed by prolonged dryness or digging.  If the mulch was deep enough there will be few weeds, but they must be removed when seen.


There is a very old book "The Rose Expert by Dr D G Hessayon, very out of date, but has good section on rose care.  Get hold of one (available on Amazon), it will help.



As soon as new leaves are showing, spray with Rose Clear and every 10 days spray with "Uncle Tom's Rose Tonic" (used at the Royal National Rose Society Garden, St Albans); this is a 100% natural product.  Always pick up all fallen leaves in future winters, as this helps to stop black spot.  As soon as you see mildew (caused by cold nights or dry soil) soak the plants with Rose Clear and repeat again within 2 weeks.  Don't remove new dark red shoots, but keep an eye on the plants for weak shoots and insect damage.  Get a routine going for spraying, spray the whole plant, under the leaves as well as this is where the insects hide.

Exhibition roses are large, high centred and must be clean.  Most insect damage occurs when the rose is tight in bud. As it opens the damage is noticeable, which is too late. 



Anyone can grow roses.  Start with one bed of maybe 3 varieties and look after them.  Go on the internet.  There are good growers of roses.  Ask - What is good for exhibiting?


Good starting roses :-

Red -  Red Devil or Loving Memory  /  Yellow -  Tom Foster, Elina (Peaudouce)   /  Pink - Pink Favourite, Andrea Steltzer, Savoy Hotel, Barbara Streisand (smell)


There are lots of good roses. It's unfortunate that they have to like your soil.  I've tried lots that have won, but they don't grow well in my conditions, that is why I suggest 3 varieties to start.  A rose will even grow well in one garden, but not just down the road.  After all you are competing against the weather.  If it was easy, where is the challenge?

Growing in 50 cm Pots

Also I have lots of 50 cm pots that grow top roses.  Just ned a little more food, but must never dry out.  Roses in pots cannot go looking for food and water. I put 2" of manure in the bottom with a handful of bone meal.  Fill with 50/50 mix of compost and rose, tree and shrub compost (pre-soaked).  Plant, firm down and water well.  Then add 1" of manure around the rose. Don't waterlog, but don't let it dry out.  Pots need to drai so need to be clear of the ground and will need a little extra feeding when in full growth.

Show Roses - Rosa HTs

You need all the energy going into the main bud so remove side buds and side shoots down to at least 12" as soon as large enough to handle. 


Take care not to damage the leaves. If you don't do this or don't feed, the second flush will have short shoots. Again, the weather plays a part.  As it has been cold, my second flush shoots have been too thin.

Showing for a Saturday

Cuts blooms less than half open Friday am.  Cut with long stems (well grown roses should have good stems).  Stand in a bucket full of water and keep cool.

Saturday - take spare blooms.  Try and keep stems moist and don't let blooms knock against each other.  Cut oasis to fit vase and soak.  Cut at least 1/2" off each stem to take up water.  Try and keep blooms uniform.  In a single bloom class get the bloom front facing.  In a 3 bloom class try to get the top bloom 12" to 14" in height.  The 2 other blooms need to be lower, but the same height to each other. 


Showing in General

When I was learning to paint, I was told to paint trees with holes in, to let the birds fly through (not blobs).  I have seen many entries at shows where the presentation has let down an otherwise good exhibit, i.e. squashed in or higgledy-piggledy.  The entry needs to look uniform, with space between each bloom, not touching, but not too far apart in relation to the entry.  If the blooms are good, the display could turn a 3rd into a 1st.  Artistry and condition are the basis of the overall effect.


None of this should put you off showing.  It’s only by “having a go” that you can learn. Without exhibitors the tradition of the horticultural show will die out and, as most people have a garden which they tend, that would be a great pity. I have been registered as partially sighted for 9 years and cannot see much for 5 months of the year but I am able to still look after my roses. I have personally only been growing exhibition roses for five years with great success. So if I can do it, so can you !!.


Rod Pengelly

Good luck and enjoy.

With thanks for the help from Bovingdon and District Horticultural Society and Dianne Prutton of Chalfont St Giles Gardens Association

Growing Blueberries

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