Monthly Meetings

Scroll down to see meetings from previous months

‘Creating Movement whilst Frozen Still’
Ben Pope

Wednesday 13th December

In line with our new format, refreshments will be available from 7pm
with Ben’s talk starting at 7.30pm.
Visitors are always welcome.

With 25 years of horticultural experience, Ben has spent the past 15 years as head gardener of a private estate near Midhurst, maintaining the large garden to a very high standard, whilst growing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers (as featured in Gardeners’ World). In addition, Ben teaches at West Dean College and the Chelsea Physic Garden.

We can look forward to an interesting talk – last year his hands-on knowledge shone through when talking to us about getting the best out of any plot.

Separately, Ben has set out to develop a sustainable market garden from scratch. Find out more from his website:
The Working Garden

‘Garden Tips from the Head Gardener’
Mark Saunders

Wednesday 11th October

Preceded by the Autumn Flower Competition

Mark has been Head Gardener at Fittleworth House for 26 years now, and this was his 5th visit to LHS.
This time his talk gave pieces of useful advice covering a wide range of problems in the garden.

His first tip was that it is essential to ensure that secateurs are really sharp – they should be able to cut cleanly through the card of a breakfast cereal packet.
If they are not sharp enough they will also crush a stem when they are cutting it, damaging the adjacent cells, leaving those that remain on the plant prey to disease, causing die-back.
For those who might not have a very strong grip for the conventional one, he demonstrated ratchet secateurs, which grasp the item being cut firmly between the individual grasps until the item is cut through.
Anvil secateurs are more difficult to use effectively as both sides of the blade need to be sharpened properly.
He also demonstrated the Max Tapener, ideal for quickly and securely fixing the stems of climbing plants to their support.

Yoga was his second tip to recommend to maintain fitness of the gardeners’ body with the passing years.

The importance of compost
Mark could not stress this enough – even a small garden should devote a space for composting.
The great advantage of compost is that it is full of life, including mycorrhizal fungi that helps plants access nutrients in the soil. It can be used to supercharge borders and beds.
He warned against “hot-boxing”. The high temperatures of “hot-boxing” will kill off all the life that is so essential in compost. “Hot-boxed” compost should only be used for seed trays and pots, where you actually need an inert growing medium.

Poor cropping fruit trees can be given shock treatment by removal of a large branch.

Weeds. Mark ran through some candidates for the title of the worst weed:

  • Ground elder – in fact, if grown where it can be contained, produces very attractive flowers;
  • Bindweed – again, can produce a profusion of flowers;
  • Mare’s tail – can look good in flower arrangements;
  • Creeping thistle – this is the worst weed according to Mark! Impossible to remove all the spreading roots and the smallest part left behind will give rise to new growth. It will take several years to get rid of it and the spines make the work particularly irritating.

Organisation is key
Firstly in the garden shed:
Mark showed a photo of his, with a massive amount of clean pots, sorted by size and ready to use; all the other essentials in their right place, leaving a clear potting bench.
Then in the garden itself:
it is essential to create a planting plan that can be worked to.

Winter vegetables should be grown all adjacent to each other, so that the rest of vegetable patch can more easily be prepared for the spring.

Group pots together so they shield each other from sun, reducing need for watering.

Avoid leaving bare patches of soil. The more the soil is covered with plants, the less the need for watering.

Dry garden – plants with small leaves or silvery foliage that don’t lose moisture easily.

Winter garden
Sarcococca confusa – should be planted by door, so that fragrance can be appreciated.
Edgeworthia – again useful for its fragrant winter flowers.

Growing vegetables
The real reason for growing your own vegetables is the taste.
A wide variety of shapes and colours of tomatoes can be grown – for flavour, Mark mentioned specifically ‘Sungold‘ and ‘Green Zebra‘.
Mark emphasised the advantages of sowing vegetables in modular seed trays. In this way the seed can be started off in optimal conditions, without the risk of the seedlings being eaten by slugs as soon as they appear.
Avoid using trays with very small modules, as the seedlings can then dry out very quickly. Even if they are saved before they die off, this set back can continue to affect them in the later stages of their life and make them more prone to bolting.
The healthy plants can then be planted out with the right spacing at the right time. The best times for planting out are March, April and May, and then September and October.
Mark strongly advocated growing onions from seed, rather than sets.

Statement plants: (just a few of the plants Mark mentioned)

  • Ricinus, the castor oil plant, with the warning that all parts of it are highly poisonous;
  • Euphorbia melifera;
  • Acers

Mark considers that the best hedging plant is yew. It grows relatively quickly and can be easily shaped. Together with beech, it is one of the two hedging plants that when cut back severely into the old wood will still produce new growth.
In spite of problems with box moth, Mark is persevering with box hedging. He finds that spraying it 4 times a year with ‘Xen Tari’ controls the box moth.

These can be used very effectively to give colourful displays complementing perennials and shrubs, including filling in whilst these are developing.

Fittleworth House is featured in the December issue of ‘The English Garden’.

‘Late Summer Flowers’
Marina Christopher

Wednesday 13th September

Marina’s experience as a nurseryman covers almost 40 years. She runs Phoenix Perennial Plants near Alton, which supplies some of the top garden designers with unusual plants for the Chelsea Flower Show that have won ‘Best in Show’ several times!

She held the interest of a large gathering of members with her wide knowledge and ease of presentation, illustrating her talk by showing the plants themselves and large pictures of the flowers.

Marina suggested that, in view of changing climatic conditions, it made sense to consider plants that thrive in areas whose conditions are similar to what we seem to be moving to, such as the prairies of North America.

As well as plants, she is particularly interested in the roles played by insects in the garden. The honey bee is just one of 250 different bees active during the day; at night the moths take over, with about 1,200 species of macro-moths and another 1,200 of micro-moths in the UK.
She stressed the need to give pollinators something to feed on throughout the year. Bumble bees are out and about in winter when it is not too cold and need a source of food through the fairly lean time from November to February.

Late summer flowers help build up insects for the winter, not only pollinators, but also predators, such as ladybirds, lacewings etc. This has been a continuing focal point for Marina: she published a book “Late Summer Flowers” in 2006. She is in the process of rewriting this, to take into account the wider choice of plants now available.

An interesting tip was to cut clumps of tall plants, such as phlox and early-flowering asters, short at the front, medium in the middle and leaving the back tall. This, with regular dead-heading, should prolong the flowering season.

A further way of achieving this would be to sow from seed later than normal, but before mid June, for example Gaura and hardy salvias. However, perennials sown late in this way will produce flowers late in the first year, but in subsequent years will revert to their normal flowering time.

Click here for details of the
plants mentioned by Marina in her talk.

Marina also found ready buyers for her plants and sundries that she brought for sale.

‘Through the Seasons at Kew Gardens and Wakehurst’
Sarah Oldridge
Wednesday 14th June

Sarah, Adult Education Co-ordinator at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, for over 20 years, gave us a very interesting and well presented introduction to both Kew and its West Sussex location, Wakehurst Place. Here are some notes on just some of the areas she covered:

The original Kew garden was founded in 1759 by Princess Augusta, mother of George III. He inherited it in 1772 and joined it to his royal estate in Richmond – the two gardens were joined, but that is why they are still known as Kew Gardens, in the plural. It was not an ideal site for botanical gardens soil made up of alluvial deposit, bordering on and draining into the river Thames; and very flat – any raised ground today is entirely man-made.

Construction of the iconic Great Pagoda started in 1761. The dragon at each corner of the octagonal roof of each storey, which had been removed, were reintroduced and the original colours of the pagoda restore.

The Palm House was built 1844-48 and extensively refurbished 1980-81. The magnificent long double herbaceous borders leading to the Palm house were first established in 1848.

The Temperate House was built in 1862.

The Princess of Wales Conservatory, built in 1987, covers ten different climatic zones, each computer controlled for temperature and humidity.

The Queen’s Garden is dedicated exclusively to plants and styles of the 17th Century.

The organic Georgian kitchen garden supplies Kew’s restaurants.

Wakehurst Place, a large estate around a Tudor sandstone mansion, has been leased by Kew for 99 years from the National Trust. The walled garden is located near house.

The estate includes the Loder Valley nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This is currently closed whilst major work to counter ash dieback is being carried out.

The Millennium Seed Bank currently houses about 2 billion seeds kept at -20°C, with ample space for future seed storage.

The Iris Dell is named after its plantings of Iris ensata, the Japanese water iris.

In December both Kew and Wakehurst are lit up with decorative lighting.

Take a more detailed look at both gardens on the Kew Gardens website

‘Drought Tolerant Plants’
Steve Edney

Wednesday 12th April

Steve serves on the RHS Herbaceous committee and won a Gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show in 2019. He gave us an excellent talk which was greatly enjoyed by the large number of members (and visitors) who came to the meeting. He was a very knowledgeable and entertaining speaker who has been a dedicated horticulturalist since leaving school. He had a variety of jobs culminating in his appointment as Head Gardener at The Salutation, a home with 3.5 acres of walled gardens which subsequently became a hotel but then went into administration with all the staff being made redundant. Steve together with his partner, Louise Dowle, then set up the No Name Nursery in Sandwich.

The site – which is off-grid – is intended to be as low maintenance and sustainable as possible, with minimum watering. Its location on the East Kent coast has some of the highest sunshine hours and lowest rainfall in the country, similar to South Sudan and Jerusalem. Last year, they only watered three times!

Steve talked about many different plants and left a list of those recommended for drought conditions: click here. They also brought a number of plants from the nursery which were eagerly purchased by members of the audience.

Steve Edney holds four national collections of plants and spoke about what is involved and how one qualifies for this role which was very interesting.

‘Arundel Castle Gardens’
Martin Duncan
Wednesday 8th March

Preceded by the Spring Flower Competition

As well as studying Commercial Horticulture and Landscape Construction and Design, Martin has built up a wealth of experience both in the UK and abroad, which he ran through to start his talk.

Starting from the Inire Game Reserve in his native Zimbabwe
Jordan – Head Gardener and then Garden Designer for King Hussein.
Audley End – originally designed by Capability Brown.
France: Chateau de Sully in Burgundy.
Botanical Gardens and Parks, Bermuda.
Martin was awarded the Kew Guild Medal in 2018.

He is Head Gardener and Designer of Arundel Castle Gardens and gave a brief description of the many different types of garden there (listed here with a few notes of some of his comments):

Read more

Rose garden
Soak bare root roses for 8 hours before planting.
Don’t put bonemeal together with mycorrhiza as they negate each other.
A small amount of Epsom Salts around the base of each rose helps reduce blackspot.

White garden
He has taken out the low box hedges that previously surrounded the beds so that flowers can arch over paths.
He particularly recommended the Fan flower (Scaevola)

Collector Earl’s Garden – now 15 years old.

The bulb labyrinth
The first of its kind anywhere, made of 14,000 tulip bulbs together with white narcissus ‘Thalia‘.

Throughout the gardens they plant 120,000 – 150,000 bulbs a year, of which 70,000 are new tulips bulbs.

English herbaceous borders
25-26 different alliums.
Yew is very versatile – very easy to shape.

Cut flower garden
Featuring many varieties of Dahlias, among a wide selection of flowers.

Organic Kitchen Garden
Split into 4 beds for rotation.
Grow onions and carrots together, 3 rows of each alternating – the carrot fly doesn’t like the smell of onions and the onion fly doesn’t like the smell of carrots.

Vine house – still the original from 1853.

New Tropical Garden
Trachycarpus fortunei – a very reliable palm as it is hardy down to minus 17oC. There are many other tropical plants, particularly Ensete bananas and Cannas – there is even a paw-paw..

Stumps of yew, oak and sweet chestnut used, as these do not rot.

Wildflower Garden
Uses annual varieties, as these can be sown in normal soil.
Perennial varieties would need very poor soil. Yellow rattle should be sown in November as it needs the cold to germinate.
The seed that they use is ‘Classic Mix’ from Victoria Wildflowers.
Phacelia – a real magnet for bees.

Sump Garden
A new project that has transformed a very wet part of the gardens into 3 ponds with many water and bog plants. The design has been enhanced by two small buildings of traditional wood construction with thatched roofs.

In general, grass is not mown very much – instead paths are just cut through it, allowing the grass to grow and wild flowers with it.

The Tulip Festival
The peak time for viewing this year should be 18-24th April

On Sunday 23rd April there will also be the Spring Plant Fair, with specialist growers and nurseries from across the south.

Show less

‘Roses Grow on You’
Wednesday 8th February
Liz Sawday

With husband Jonathan, Liz runs Apuldram Roses, the well known local nursery that specialises in roses. She gave an outstanding talk that kept the attention of the good audience of over 50 members and answered the many questions that followed.

Apuldram Roses has been running as a family concern for 45 years, producing at its peak 60,000 rose plants. It has regularly participated in the main RHS show, except for Chelsea, which is too early in the season for roses. To be in bloom for Chelsea roses must be forced under glass, for which AR does not have the facilities.

At this time of year:
It is coming to the end of the time for planting bare root roses. Liz showed an example of a bare root plant, emphasising its extensive root system, including lots of the important fine roots. The timing of the availability of the bare root roses can be affected by the weather if frosts or lots of rain make it impossible for a time to dig the plants up from the field where the roses are grown. Apuldram Roses has 25,000 bare root roses for sale, which they keep under straw, making sure they are always moist enough.

Now is the perfect, and traditional, time to plant bare root roses. However, now also comes the time for Apuldram Roses to start potting up roses for sale in 4 litre rose pots. Liz showed an example of a potted rose plant, with a much more restricted root system, so that it can be fitted in the pot. Therefore, it is recommended to leave a rose bought as potted plant in the pot until it starts to grow new leaves to give time for the roots to grow.

Read more

The compost that Apuldram Roses uses to pot up the roses is nearly peat free and by next year should be completely so. This compost includes feed for 8 months.

Best done when you are in a bad mood, for it needs to be done aggressively. It must be done by hand. Using a hedge trimmer on extensive areas of rose plants may save time, but it will leave damaged cuts encouraging die-back and spread tiny pieces of the plants all over the place, carrying with them diseases and pests.
Vigorous pruning is needed to encourage strong basal shoots.

In recent years the traditional types of hybrid tea and floribunda have merged into a more general type of bush rose. These should be pruned back to 4 – 6” from the bud union (where the rose has been grafted onto the rootstock).
On old unpruned roses this pruning should be done by half in the first year, followed by the second half the following year.
Roses don’t last for ever: hybrid teas and floribundas will should perform well for 15-20 years and then need replacing.

Ramblers are more vigorous and mostly only flower once a year. They flower on the previous year’s growth and therefore need to be pruned in the autumn, taking out old wood and tying in the new.

Climbers are more easy to train and repeat flower. They flower on the current season’s growth.
If the stems are allowed to grow straight up they will just flower at the top. Therefore, stems should be tied in to grow as horizontally as possible. The stem will then produce vertical shoots that will carry the flowers. Alternatively, the basal stems (i.e. coming up from the bud union) can be trained in a fan shape where this is more appropriate.

Ground cover:
These can provide excellent ground cover, especially for banks and to hide manhole covers etc. Prune in the spring, cutting out old wood, working out from the centre.

Shrub roses:
if you like its current size, prune it back by one third to one half. It should then grow back to its original size. If you prune it back much more it will still be fine, it will just be smaller.

Liz recommended ‘Gold Leaf’ gloves for pruning roses as they give good protection against the spines, extending up over the wrist, whilst becoming supple enough to give good feel.

A good pair of secateurs is essential. Liz recommend Felco as the best – although very expensive (£50-70) they can be sent back to Felco for complete refurbishing for about £25, extending their life indefinitely.
While pruning, blades should be wiped with white spirit to disinfect them and prevent the spread of diseases.

Roses are voracious feeders and poor flowering is most often down to lack of nutrients. Feed with bone meal in winter for root growth, then from spring with a good quality specific rose fertiliser (not just a general high-potassium feed which will not contain all the other specific nutrients). This can be applied as a granular feed – a liquid feed is also good, but only in summer when the rose is in full growth.
Liz very strongly recommended ‘Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic’, which can be applied as a foliar spray or drench.

Do not just take off the spent flower. Instead, cut back by 5 leaves. This will promote better re-flowering by creating stronger stems.

Powdery mildew:
This is caused by dryness at the roots. With roses this happens particularly when grown against sunny walls. It is best to give a good drench with water in the morning. Watering late in the day encourages blackspot. Roses are very thirsty – about 5 litres of water a week. Rain water is best, especially for newly planted roses. If this is not available, leave tap water outside in a bucket for a few hours to let the chlorine dissipate.

Propagating roses:
This is done in summer. Apuldram Roses now only produces 5,000 new plants on site – the other 20,000 are produced for them by a reliable grower in Cornwall.
The rootstock used is Rosa laxa, a widely used rootstock not prone to suckering. One bud from the variety being propagated is slid into a T cut made in the rootstock and then held in place with a patch. This is done by professional budders who can do up to 4,000 a day and are paid per bud.
This will take 18 months to 2 years to develop into a commercial plant.

It is only possible to produce a small fraction of the vast number of varieties that exist. The varieties that are propagated have to follow fashion, so that they can then meet demand.
Blue roses (or as close as you can get) are popular – ‘Blue Moon’ is still in demand and a good recent blue variety is ‘Blue for You’.
Awards also help set the fashion, such as Rose of the Year and Gold Standard.

Suckers will always start from below the bud union and are usually brighter green and matt. However, the old wives’ tale that a seven-lobed leaf is indicative of a sucker is not true, as sometimes the true rose could have such a leaf.
Do not just cut off a sucker – this will just make it more vigorous, as it would normal rose growth. Suckers should be twisted and broken off.

Bare root roses should be planted so that the bud union is level with the soil or fractionally below.

“Rose replant disease”. This is not a disease, it is rather that the old rose has formed a strong partnership with the other things living in the soil, such as nematodes and mycorrhizal fungi. When a new rose is introduced it cannot compete and is rejected.
One solution is to take out the old soil, down to a depth of 18”, best done in autumn to leave site fallow over winter, and then put in new soil in the spring to plant the new bare root rose, sprinkling ‘Rootgrow’ on the roots.
Alternatively, a cardboard box can be used. The idea is that the rose can be planted in new soil in the box, which will protect it from the effects of the surrounding soil inherited from the old rose. By the time that the cardboard rots away, the new rose should have developed enough to cope with these effects. Liz commented that she had found it much easier to put the box in situ before planting the new rose into it.

Liz encouraged members to visit the nursery, not only for purchasing roses, but also to bring any queries and for advice. Tea, coffee and cake are available and the new rose garden is worth seeing.

Show less

Despite it being an afternoon with some of the worst weather for a while, we had a record attendance to learn about this local garden.

History of Chichester
Brian started with the history of Chichester itself. The Romans arrived here in CE 43 and during their stay laid out Chichester’s roads in a grid pattern. Walls surrounded the town in an irregular polygon with a walk on the top.  After the Romans left in 410 CE, Chichester was left to deteriorate and was a relatively insignificant place. This changed after the Norman Conquest and there was a permanent move of the see from Selsey to Chichester in 1075. Work on building the cathedral began the following year.

The earliest known map dates from 1595 and the city within the walls is much as it was then, apart from the north-west quadrant. The south-west quadrant was given to the church and the space at the end of Canon Lane, south of the cathedral, to the bishop.

The garden

Read more

This area of 5.5 acres given to the bishop comprises the South Garden and the West Garden.
The South Garden was probably used for food production and is now used by Transition Chichester as a Community Garden.
Over time, there have been changes to the West Garden where a number of trees grow but the layout remained similar for over 100 years until 1966.

In 1875 the Ordnance Survey prepared a detailed map of Chichester (scale 1:500) and every tree in the West Garden was surveyed for that map.  Recently the volunteers who work in the garden have labelled and numbered all the trees that are in the garden, including 7 county champions. The labels are as those used at Kew and show botanical and common names as well as the country of origin.

Brian told us about some of the trees in the garden:

  • The tallest (although not a county champion) is the Giant Sequoia which is 27 metres high and was planted around 1900. At Cowdray there is one 29 metres tall!
  • There are two Holm Oak which were planted (or self-seeded) between 1700 and 1740. There were 6 bishops of Chichester in that period!
  • There had been a box hedge which was removed but one specimen that was left was allowed to grow into a tree. It now has 5 very large branches.  Huw Crompton – an expert on box – estimates it was planted around 1700.

The role of the Bishops
Chichester was regarded as a ‘starter diocese’ and a quarter of the bishops served less than 5 years. Looking after the garden was a spare-time occupation and they had to pay for it from their personal funds. There is little record of what the bishops did in the garden.
Francis Hare (in post 1731-1740) spent £54 p.a. on the garden (equivalent to £94,500 in 2022, on one measure).
Robert Sherborne (in post 1508-1536) built the walls.
Henry King (in post 1642-1669) probably planted the box hedge.
Richard Durnford (in post 1870-1895) was the exception and had great enthusiasm for the garden.  He planned and planted the Bishop’s Garden.

More recent history
In 1974 a lease was signed so that the Church Commissioners leased the major part of the garden to Chichester District Council. This appears to have been to save the church the cost of the garden’s upkeep and to allow public access to the garden, including through an additional entrance in the north-west corner. It is not clear why the Council also agreed to fund the cost of fencing, gates and notice boards.

Initially the Council did a lot of work there, tidying up and maintaining the garden, but that declined over time. Concerns were raised – in particular by Brian Hopkins and Geoff King – that this prestige site should be preserved and maintained. A new post of Parks and Green Spaces Officer was created and an appointment made in April 2005. Since then a number of changes were made, including a design by Sue Sutherland for the large eastern part of the garden.  The garden was entered for various competitions and won a number of awards from 2007-2015.

Unfortunately around that time the funding of public parks began to suffer and budgets for parks have since fallen away sharply.
The garden is now being looked after by the volunteer Friends who have contributed a lot of work.  Since March 2020 it is used much more by the public and there is more recognition nationally of the value of green spaces.

After the end of the talk there were a number of questions and comments from the audience and a lot of interest in supporting the work being done in the garden.

Brian has written a book on the history of the garden which is Number Twelve of the New Chichester Papers produced by the Chichester Local History Society. He sold copies after his talk and they are also available from Kim’s Bookshop in South Street, Chichester.

Show less

‘An Allotment Year’
Alan Williams
Wednesday 14th December

In his enjoyable talk Alan gave a down-to-earth review of vegetable growing, based on 16 years’ experience of his own allotment (now given up, as moving house has given him his own very large garden).

He recommended starting by making a plan what to grow where  – anything from a rough sketch on paper to an Excel spreadsheet. Also, he stressed the importance of crop rotation to avoid the build-up of pests and diseases and look after the soil; he practices a three stage rotation: roots > legumes > brassicas, although four stage ones are also popular.

He suggested always trying something new and showed three of his attempts: Patty pan squashes – very successful, now part of his regular plan; Horse radish – a success in terms of growing. However, the resulting horse radish relish had been far to fiery to eat; Mini pumpkins – these had produced pumpkins the size of apples, but hard and practicably inedible.

Onions, shallots and garlic: he starts by planting in November; garlic anyway needs the low winter temperatures to split into separate cloves. He makes a second planting of onions and shallots in spring, early April, to get a later crop. Any sets that may be left are planted in modules, to be used to fill in any gaps.

He recommended preparing the trench for runner beans well in advance of its use in late May, putting cardboard and manure in the bottom to retain the constant supply of moisture essential to a good crop.

Comfrey tea – an excellent liquid fertiliser that is easy to make: put comfrey leaves into a bucket that has a lid, cover with water, put something on top of leaves to keep them under water and put the lid on, with something on top to make sure it stays closed – the smell is disgusting! After 2-3 weeks, decant the liquid into bottles (with tops!) and use as a liquid fertiliser – a few millilitres in a 5 litre watering can is enough. Any residue in the bottom of bucket can go on the compost heap.

Pests and companion planting:

Read more

Peas and broad beans – holes eaten around the edges of leaves are due to pea and bean weevil. One remedy is to sow early, as the adult weevils that do the damage do not appear until June-July. Also, you can put trays of water under plants and shake them, so that weevils will fall off into the trays. Silver mottling on pea leaves is due to thrips – again sowing early helps as thrips are only active June-August. Thrips can also be shaken off.

Blackfly can be a major problem in broad beans. They are particularly attracted to the soft new growth, so when all the flowers are open, remove the clump of small new leaves from the top of each plant (do this even if there are no signs of blackfly) – these are edible and can be used in salads or stir fries.

Harlequin ladybirds come in a wide variety of colourings; they have good and bad sides: out-competing the smaller native ladybirds, they have now become endemic; however, live the native ones, they are still useful as predators of aphids.

Asian hornets, on the other hand, are still fortunately quite rare and any sighting continues to be notifiable.

Violet ground beetles are good guys – not often seen, as they are nocturnal, they predate smaller insects, including vine weevils, and slugs.

Cabbage white butterfly, both large and small: will lay eggs on any brassica – the caterpillars that emerge cause the damage. Cover brassicas with netting of a mesh small enough to stop the butterflies getting through and not close enough to brassica leaves for the cabbage white to reach through the net to deposit its eggs. Alan recommended fine mesh scaffolding netting as will last for some years. Old lace curtains could also be used. If you only have a few brassica plants, the eggs can be removed from the underside of the leaves by hand before the caterpillars emerge.

He showed a picture of trashed sweetcorn. Badgers seem to know when it is getting ripe, push the plants over onto the ground and eat the kernels from the cobs. Foxes also do this. The only protection is to physically keep them out, which requires a very strong post and wire mesh construction.

Companion planting to deter pests: Onions and garlic grown in carrots can deter carrot fly by confusing the scent that attracts them, also in tomatoes to deter aphids. French marigolds grown under tomatoes will deter whitefly and aphids.

Companion planting to attract pollinators to improve yield: use sweet peas, calendula (pot marigold), yarrow (be very careful as yarrow can be very invasive).

Nasturtiums can be particularly useful grown in brassicas once the brassica plants are established – they will draw in aphids and other insect pests from the brassica plants whilst attracting predators to feed on them.

Show less