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.


This article was sent to us by Joey Miller at  Jen Reviews. in New Zealand !! and they asked if we would feature it on our website, which of course we are happy to do. As our climates are not that dissimilar this info should be of use to our readers. - See we have an international readership !!


Growing potatoes in containers is a great idea if you are short on space. Not only is this an easy process, it is also one of the most rewarding. Even the smallest container will yield a pleasing crop of potatoes.

Growing potatoes in containers is ideal for container gardens. Their lush green foliage is a perfect partner for more showier ornamental plants. It is also a great way to make the most of an empty corner of your balcony or patio.

Easier than growing tubers in the ground, growing potatoes in containers requires little digging or manual effort. You also don’t need perfect soil to enjoy fresh, home grown tubers. This process will also help to protect tubers from soil-borne diseases and pests such as scab and eel worm.

There is nothing quite like the taste of freshly harvested, home grown food. Growing potatoes in containers is not only suitable for gardeners with limited space, it is also less labour intensive than other methods.

This guide will take you through everything you need to know about growing potatoes in containers. We will discuss everything from selecting the best varieties to preparing your container through to plant care and harvesting your crops.

Selecting Varieties For Container Growing

All varieties of tuber are suitable for growing potatoes in containers. Ultimately your choice is down to your own personal taste.

Many gardeners find, when growing potatoes in containers, that the best results are delivered by first and second early varieties. These are types that will mature early. First and second earlies will usually mature in 70-90 days.

Planting first or second early varieties also enables you to harvest your crops before blight arrives in the summer. The variety Swift is a particularly early tuber that is well suited to this process. Nicola, a second early variety,  is another popular choice that continues to grow if harvested late.


While early maturing varieties are preferred, all varieties are suitable for container cultivation. This allows you the freedom to select whichever variety you prefer. You can even grow different varieties in separate pots.

Salad varieties also work particularly well. Varieties such as the Charlotte, Rocket, Lady Christi or Anya are all popular choices.

Whichever variety you decide to grow make sure that you select certified seed varieties. Your chosen variety should also be disease free.

Selecting a Container

You can purchase purpose made Potato Planter Bags. These make harvesting the crop a simple process. Each bag will accommodate three to four tubers.

Alternatively, any large container can be used to grow tubers in. You can use a number of small pots, planting one plant in each or you can use a larger container. You can even use an old dustbin or water barrel. Heavy burlap bags make an ideal container because the material breathes and drains well.

While you can purchase purpose made bags, old burlap sacks provide the ideal conditions for tuber plants. Breathable and well draining, the material is also sturdy enough to safely hold the soil and plants.

The container rarely affects the size of your crop. Cultivating several tubers in small pots will yield roughly the same size crop as cultivating the same number of plants in a large container such as a dustbin. The only noticeable difference is that the smaller containers will require less compost.

When it comes to growing potatoes in containers the choice over what container to use is up to you and what works best in your space. Just make sure your chosen container is clean and has drainage holes in the bottom.

How Many Plants Can I Fit in a Container?

Over planting a container will lead to small or deformed fruit. Plants will struggle to thrive and may even fail to produce a crop.

Each plant needs around 2.5 US gallons of soil to grow in. This equates to roughly 10 litres.


Large containers, such as old barrels, will provide up to 4 plants with enough room to grow and flourish. However using a large container will require more soil than cultivating the same number of plants in 4 separate, small containers. 

Containers 1ft in diameter will hold one plant. 2ft containers can hold up to 3 plants. A purpose made potato growing bag will comfortably hold 3-4 pants. A larger bin or bucket will hold 4-5 plants.

Your chosen container should have enough room for the soil to be built up around the plants as the plants grow. This is key to encouraging more tubers to form.

Preparing Your Potatoes

Before you begin you will need to prepare the tubers. The preparation process for growing potatoes in containers is similar to cultivating in the ground. Basically, before planting the potatoes need to chit or sprout.

To chit your tubers place them in an old egg box with their eye or eye facing up. Place the egg box in a cool but light location. The eyes will grow into stubby, green shoots. These can then be planted.


Before planting, allow your chosen varieties to chit. Once the sprouts are strong and noticeable you can plant the tubers in the soil. 

Selecting the Best Growing Medium

Your chosen soil should be well draining. You can use garden soil or purchase fresh, general purpose compost. Perlite can also be used.

Where to Position Your Container

The ideal position will be a full sun location. This will allow the plants to receive 6-8 hours of light a day. The temperature should average around 60℉ or 16℃.

Growing Potatoes in Containers

You can begin growing potatoes in containers as soon as the last local frost date has passed. If a late frost does threaten, you can move the containers into a sheltered location. You can also begin growing potatoes in containers undercover and move outside once any danger of frost has passed.

Place a layer of drainage material such as broken up polystyrene or crocks on the bottom of your chosen pot.

Mix a handful of slow-release general purpose fertiliser into your soil. You can also mix in some homemade garden compost, if you want to enrich the soil. Moisten the soil and place it in the container. You are aiming to create a layer roughly 5 inches deep.

Place the chitted tubers on the surface of the soil. Larger seed varieties with multiple eyes can be cut in half or into 2-inch sections. Smaller varieties can be planted whole.

Cover the tubers with a layer of soil and water well.


After a couple of days you will notice that the chit or sprouts are continuing to grow, emerging through the soil. When the sprouts reach 4 inches above the soil add more soil, covering all but the top tips of the leaves. This is known as earthing up.

Continue to earth up the plants as they grow. Keep the soil moist during this period. This process, of covering and watering, will need to be constantly repeated until the plant comes close to the top of the container.

Caring for Your Crop

Growing potatoes in containers is far less labour intensive than cultivating them in the ground. You will not need to dig or weed the crops at all. If weeds do appear they can be pulled up or treated with an application of homemade weed killer.

Watering and Feeding

Growing potatoes in containers requires more water than the same crop growing in the ground. This is because the root system of the plant is unable to work though the ground seeking moisture. When the plants reach the top of the container and their foliage begins to thicken out they will require even more water. Harvesting rainwater, to reuse in the garden, is a great way to keep plants well watered without racking up your water bill.

As the plants thicken out be careful to ensure that they receive enough water. As plants flower they will require more water. Use a watering can to penetrate the foliage, ensuring water reaches the soil. 

The plants will also benefit from an occasional application of a liquid feed as they grow. Well balanced organic fertilisers such as seaweed extract are ideal. Alternatively you can try making your own.

Don’t apply nitrogen rich fertilisers. These will encourage the formation of foliage, often at the expense of a large, healthy crop.

Harvesting Your Crop

Continue to water your plants until they begin to flower. Once the plants have flowered and the foliage is starting to yellow cease watering. After a week you will be able to harvest the crop.

New potatoes can be harvested before the plants flower. Watch the foliage carefully for the sign of blooms emerging. When you see buds harvest your crop.

The emergence of flower buds is a sign that your crop is nearing maturity and is almost ready to be harvested. For small, new tubers harvest before the buds can flower. If you desire large tubers allow the plants to flower and begin to die back before harvesting. 

Flowering is a sign that the plants are ready to harvest. This is the most difficult part of growing potatoes in containers. You will need to dig through the soil looking for any tubers that feel the right size. These can then be harvested.

If you are growing a variety such as Nicola the process will be slightly different. Carefully feel through the soil, disturbing the roots and soil as little as possible. After you have harvested the crop the plant will continue to grow, producing more potatoes.

Alternatively you can harvest the entire crop in one go. To do this cut away the remaining foliage. Then empty the soil, picking out your tubers.

Storing Your Crop

Once harvested, clean the tubers. If you are keeping the crop for use during the summer or winter months, cure for two weeks before storing. Stored correctly tubers will keep for up to several months. However if you do find yourself with some extra tubers why not try using them to root rose cuttings?

Little tastes better than freshly harvested, home grown tubers. Growing in containers enables gardeners of all abilities to enjoy this experience, even if space is at a premium. 

Growing potatoes in containers is a great solution if space is at a premium. Like no dig gardening, it is also far less labour intensive than other methods. A great way of making use of potatoes that would otherwise go to waste growing potatoes in containers allows everyone to enjoy the lush foliage and great taste of home grown tubers.

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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