This information was obtained from the Barham & District Horticultural Society website.

Society News & Events 2023

Take a look at what the society did in 2022

December 2023 News Update

It has been another busy year with a full calendar of events. There have been talks on growing dahlias, sweet peas, soft fruits, roses and restoring wildflower meadows. The plant sale in April was very successful thanks to the many donations provided. Due to the late spring some plants were not ready so we held a further mini plant sale this was also well supported.

The autumn show in September received a record number of entries and the flower judge commented that it was the best show he had attended this year. We arranged two visits during the year; on a lovely day in June we went to Anna's Country flowers at Shottenden and in July there was a tour of the kitchen garden at The Pig Hotel in Bridge. Both were thoroughly enjoyed by those who attended.

Sadly our autumn trip to Wisley was cancelled as Highways England shut the A3 on the weekend we were to visit. In 2024 we are planning a trip to RHS Hyde Hall during the July flower festival. The November talk on fruit growing did not happen due to illness but we had a very informative talk on the spread of the Asian Hornet given by Lisa Gray from Canterbury Bee Keepers. The Asian Hornet has spread exponentially in 2023, 72 nests have been found and destroyed compared with 1 nest in 2022. DEFRA has supported a programme to track down the nests this year and members were reminded to look out for and kill young queens hibernating in log piles, sheds, garages etc. in the spring when they become active again sightings should be reported via the Asian Hornet Watch App.

The Annual General Meeting will be held at 7pm on Wednesday 17 January 2024 at Barham Village Hall. If you would like to join the committee you would be very welcome please contact any of the current committee. The next membership year commences on 1 January so now is a good time to consider joining us if you are not already a member. Subscriptions are now being collected for 2024 payment can be made on line, via a committee member, or at the AGM in January. One very valuable benefit of membership is the discount offered by some local garden centres and orders placed with Suttons Seeds.

We wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year

Gardening notes for December 2023

It's a quiet time of year, although that doesn't mean there is nothing to do just a slower pace.

Keep leaves off the grass, low growing alpines and the like as the leaves will cause bald patches and rot.

On the veg patch if you have planned well there will be home grown leeks and roots for Christmas day.

Sheds can be sorted and rubbish cleared out, maybe give tools a clean. Ensure everything is ready for harsh weather, hosepipes, water features. Floating a ball in ponds will keep an area free from ice, allowing oxygen into the water.

Its not too late to plant spring bulbs- although the quality of any in the shops may be deteriorating so choose them carefully.

Its most likely too late to get bulbs to flower indoors for Christmas, however amaryllis and hyacinths make for a lovely indoor display. Search for indoor bulbs on the RHS website for details of how to get them into flower.

Remember to keep an eye on pots under eves and anything in the greenhouse, they may still need watering sparingly.

Winter is a time to prune free standing (not trained) apples and pears, but no rush you have all winter to finish it- see the RHS website for details. Plants which may bleed (birches, vines) should be pruned this month whilst fully dormant.

How is your garden looking, are you enjoying winter scent or colourful stems.

Sarcoccoa are beautifully scented and will grow in pretty tough shady conditions, winter flowering honeysuckle also has a beautiful scent and is a shrub rather than a climber. Or maybe a winter flowering Viburnum, although they are susceptible to honey fungus which is present in much of the valley. Again see RHS website. Both the bees and yourself will benefit.

What about colourful stemmed plants (think dog woods and white stemmed brambles). These are best planted where they catch the low winter sun.

Think about form in the winter garden too. This could be seed heads left standing and fringed with frost, teasels, honesty, jeruselum sage (phlomis). Or shrubs with interesting form, twisted hazels or a nicely shaped evergreen

Then there is the wildlife, keep those bird feeders and bird baths topped up and clean. And watch out for hedgehogs if you are tidying over grown areas- or just wait until the spring when they are up and about.

Above all take some time to enjoy your garden even if that's from indoors.

Gardening notes for November 2023

As I write this the weather has turned a few degrees colder and the first frosts are forecast for Scotland.

Have you got all your tender plants protected under cover, or under fleece. All saucers should have been removed from pots. Remember cold and wet is more likely to kill a plant than cold alone. Raising pots off the ground helps drainage- pot feet or pieces of slate work well.

Are your hose pipes disconnected and the outside taps insulated? Have a check of any ties on climbers and trees, are they secure but not cutting into stems?

Having a bonfire? either build or re build it the day you are lighting it, don't risk the life of hedgehogs.

What colour do you have planned for spring either in pots or beds. Snowdrops are lovely but are best planted when growing in the spring (in the green). Bulbs are easy to grow. Look at the height of the bulb and plant it in a hole three times that depth. Crocus and single daffs provide early nectar. There are many other early spring bulbs available muscari and scilla for example. These can be followed on by tulips and alliums.

There is still time to plant winter bedding in pots. Heathers and primroses are more sustainable as they can be planted in the garden for future years. Violas withstand the weather better than larger flowered pansies. Wallflowers are scented and loved by bees. The biennial wallflowers are cheaper and can be found bare root, you may get more than one years flowers from them. The perennial wallflowers are more expensive but have a longer flowering season and can live for many years. Forget me nots will self seed and look wonderful with tulips.

It's a good time to plant bare root hedges, trees and roses. Providing food, including cut up apples or dried fruit will help the birds in the cold weather. Also water to drink and bathe in. A bird bath is perfect and easy to keep clean.

Many plants including roses are pruned whilst they are dormant which is generally from now until Feb/March. Make sure you don't prune early flowering shrubs until spring, after they have flowered. The flower buds develop on stems from the previous year, if you prune them now you will lose flowers. This includes forsythia, winter jasmine, deutzia and Philadelphus.

Enjoy the November days, there is time to potter and enjoy the fading year before winter really bites. Happy gardening.

October 2023 News Update

Autumn has arrived and our talks restarted with Robert Smith from Layham Garden Centre coming along to talk to us at Kingston Barn, on roses.

Robert has worked for 29 years at Layham where for the majority of his time it was a specialist rose nursery which used to sell 250 different roses. He advised it takes 2 years to create a new rose and showed us the bud that a new rose starts from.

He gave us some useful planting tips such as don't bury the union, keep it level with the ground, as if the soil is saturated it can rot the union. This will keep the rose firm and upright and avoid windrock where the hole can fill with water and causes rot.

Don't plant Climbing roses too close to the wall, plant at a slight angle training it up the wall.

For pruning, he suggests doing this between November and February with a tidy up in March and April. The rose needs a day for the cut to heal, always remove dead wood.

Cut Hybrid tea roses hard, then you get nice long stems. Floribundas remove a third of growth and keep to equal height. Patio, light prune (dead head and tidy) a scissor prune and to an out-ward facing bud. Shrub roses, prune to shape. Climbers, reduce the growth it makes each year by a third and try and remove some of the older wood.

He recommends the ground cover carpet range of roses. Sadly, they lack scent. They can also be planted in pots and will overhang the edges. They have a good range of colours, long flowering season and very good disease resistance.

Roses he said like high nitrogen feed, top dress with an all-round feed. Mulching with well-rotted manure or compost. A good all-round feed is Tomato food. Sequested iron can be used as a foliar feed early morning or late evening.

To help with disease he suggests cleaning secateurs between roses. Collect blackspot leaves off the ground. You can also use a ground wash and spray for blackspot.

Next months talk is on 15th November at Barham Village Hall 7.30pm when Chris Williams of Edible Culture will be talking about Growing Fruit trees. At the November meeting you will also be able to renew your subs for 2024 or at the AGM meeting on 17th January 2024.

Gardening notes for October 2023

I hope you enjoyed the late summer warmth. As I write we are promised a storm, I am hopeful it arrives so I don't have to water the patio pots.

This month we should still be enjoying colour in our gardens in the form of leaves and some late flowering plants. If your garden is looking a little green and dull its worth visiting a garden centre or a garden for some inspiration. Maybe add some autumn crocus (colchicum) or hederifolium cyclamen, Japanese Anemone, Michaelmas daises, Sedums (Hylotelephium). Or for leaf colour, acers, smoke bushes- Grace is beautiful if rather large, witch hazel (if you have acid or neutral soil) with the bonus of scented flowers in February. The spindle bush has beautiful berries and leaf colour (care these shrubs are poisonous).

Autumn is a great time to move plants or add new ones, especially shrubs. The soil is nice and warm and there is time for a good root system to develop before the summer. This warmth and moisture in the soil also means it's a perfect time to lay turf or sow grass seed a much more economical way to create lawn. As I have mentioned before good value bare root shrubs and roses are available in autumn. Its also time to order your spring bulbs.

Hedgehogs will be hibernating soon, help fatten them up by putting out some meaty cat biscuits and water.

Apples, pears and nut harvest finishes this month. Some varieties store well, others need to be used or preserved, 'google' your variety, or find out with some trial and error. Only store perfect fruits, in a cool dark place with ventilation, protected from frost. Check stored fruit regularly to remove any decaying. On the veg patch- its time to plant out spring cabbages. Harvest parsnips and brussel sprouts after the first frost for the best flavour. Perhaps plant a green manure after you have cleared spent crops, it will keep weeds down and improve soil structure.

Don't be too hasty to tidy up the stems of perennials which are good cover for insects and will protect the crown of the plant from frost.

Do be certain to get half hardy or tender plants inside. A greenhouse or cool bright room indoors, some can take some time below freezing others need frost free.

Covering with horticultural fleece will keep the plant a few degrees warmer than its surroundings.

Do take time to enjoy your patch as the garden fades into autumn.

September 2023 News Update

September 9th will go down in history. Yes, it was the hottest day in September but it was also the Horticultural Society Show!

The flowers and vegetables survived the warm day and the hall was resplendent. Entries were up and the judges most complimentary on the number and quality of entries. I will make mention of some of the successful showers, but thank you to all who cared to enter, or came along to enjoy the spectacle, and the teas served by our devoted committee members.

Wendy Atherton, a stalwart of the Society, who I am sure will not mind me mentioning, one of our oldest members, won the prize for the best pot plant in flower, and best flower in the show with a green gladioli. Also, first prize for her vase of Michaelmas Daisies.

Andrew Clough was the top fruit exhibitor with his apples and pears, don't get me started on Cockney rhyming slang, and his courgettes. Mike Donnely's raspberries were considered best in this class and his wife, Claire, made raspberry jam which also came first. Richard Borthwick's top tray consisting of carrots, tomatoes and potatoes held sway and he also gained firsts for Sweet Peppers, Sweetcorn, French and Runner Beans.

Another husband and wife team, the Hunts, achieved success at the Show. Kevin for his superb set of onions weighing over 125g each. These were the judges top vegetable exhibit and his leeks also won first prize. Carolyn proved her bakery skills with firsts for 5 bread rolls and her chocolate cake, and her horticultural skills gaining firsts in onions, aubergines, perennial flowers, a pot of Fuchsia and best floral exhibit cup with three vases of three different flowers. An outstanding achievement.

Hannah Watson produced prize winning Chilli peppers. Jenny Cracknell, wife of our President, was a winner with a collection of fruit and an exhibit of flowering shrubs. William Stone showed the ladies how by gaining first prize with his lemon drizzle cake. Linda Ellis was "Queen of Dahlias" winning five classes. Another outstanding achievement.

Derek Osborne was highly commended for his single Dahlia and gained a first for a set of coloured potatoes. Eleanor Read produced a lovely vase of Michaelmas Daisies and Japanese Anemones to win the "Top Vase" class. Derek Munden received two first prizes for his Cherry tomatoes and Truss of tomatoes. Sue Past was first in photography and young Austin Goody won the children's cup. Kate Sampson with her presentations of Tea For Two and Autumn won the floral classes. Jill Terry, as always, won the "Onion Cup" and Janette Kitchenhand won the hotly contested class consisting of 5 branches of foliage.

2023 Autumn Show Results

The following prizes and cups were awarded.

Names (Alphabetical by surname)
Results (Shown as number of firsts, seconds and thirds)
W Atherton 3 1 1       K Hunt 3 1 0
E Bines 1 0 0       A Kelly Thomas 0 0 1
T Bines 0 0 1       J Kitchenham 2 1 6
J Borgioli 0 3 5       P Kitchenham 0 1 2
T Borgioli 0 1 0       C Maraldo 0 1 0
R Borthwick 8 6 2       J Munden 1 1 0
A Clough 3 4 1       D Munden 2 0 1
S Clough 1 0 2       D Osborn 2 3 0
J Cracknell 2 1 0       P Past 0 0 3
A Crocker 0 1 1       S Past 1 3 1
B Crocker 0 1 1       E Read 1 0 1
L Dallison 0 1 1       K Sampson 2 0 0
C Donnelly 1 0 2       P Sampson 1 2 0
M Donnelly 1 5 1       R Sampson 0 1 1
L Ellis 4 1 0       D Stamper 0 0 1
P Flanagan 0 4 0       W Stone 1 0 0
D Fuller 0 2 1       J Terry 2 1 3
S Goddard 0 1 1       H Watson 1 1 1
L Goody 3 3 2       J Carus 0 2 0
A Goody 3 0 0       H Croft 0 1 3
C Hunt 9 6 1      
Cup Winners as follows:
Cup Awarded for Name
Denne Hill Cup: Highest points Veg classes R Borthwick
A.J. Ross Amateur Cup: Highest points Fruit classes A Clough
Banksian Medal of the RHS: Largest Aggregate of prize money R Borthwick
Godber Cup: Best in Show C Hunt
H.E Middleton Cup: Best Dahlia L Ellis
Jubilee Cup: Best Rose P Flanagan
Brian Wright Memorial Cup: Best Endeavour C Manley
Carr Memorial Cup: Highest points Cookery classes C Hunt
Clarke Cup: Highest Aggregate of points C Hunt
Collingwood Cup: Highest points Onion Classes J Terry
Cottager's cup: Most Entries R Borthwick
L Goody
Top Tray: Collection of Vegetables R Borthwick
Top Vase: Vase of mixed flowers E Read
Kathie Hedley Cup: Highest points Floral Art K Sampson
New Exhibitor's Cup: Most points by New Exhibitor L Ellis
M Donnelly
Potato Challenge Cup: Most points Potato classes R Borthwick
President's Cup: Best Flower(except Dahlia or Rose) W Atherton
School's Cup: Boy or Girl highest points Children's classes P Flanagan


Gardening notes for September 2023

What a weird summer its been. I hope you have managed to keep on top of the weeds, they seem to have loved this year. One bonus is that for once the lawn has looked lush and green for the whole summer.

However pleased or disappointed you are with your garden, now is the time to be planning for next year. We can dream of weed free veg patch and a undamaged crop of beans next year.

Areas of long grass, now is the time to cut them back, do look carefully through the area for hedgehogs- they won't move as you strim, their defence is to curl up and stay put! The area can then be mown through the autumn. Would like some colour, bulbs (crocus/daffs) or perennials (field scabious, oxeye daisies, knapweed, marjoram cowslips, primrose) planted now will establish quicker than seeds of annuals, and provide substantial clumps of colour over time.
Another way to provide for wildlife is to grow 'berry' bearing shrubs and trees, hawthorn, rowan, crab apples, pyracantha for example. From a human perspective these will also provide colour late in the season (until the birds have scoffed them!).

September is definitely a month to take stock of what did well and what you would like to grow more of next year. Taking cuttings can increase your stock. Semi ripe cuttings are taken from this years growth (on woody plants) which has just started to firm up. Cut below a leaf joint, strip off lower leaves and pinch out the top, dip in rooting hormone and pot up in free draining compost, keep damp but not wet out of full sun.

Another way to increase stock is to split perennials, this is best done late September into October, take a look round now and make a note of what you would like to split. On the veg patch you are hopefully still enjoying produce. Harvest late summer squashes, butternut etc- cut leaving a short length of stalk then let them harden off in a sunny spot lifted off the soil (greenhouse is ideal).

Pond plants can be thinned now in early autumn when creatures are less active, an old bread knife is useful if splitting water lilies once they have finished flowering. See RHS website for details

Although we may be starting to plan for 2024, there should be plenty of days left to enjoy the fading summer- so take your cuppa, find a sunny spot and enjoy that golden light.

August 2023 News Update

If you were not a keen vegetable grower before our tour of the vegetable garden at The Pig, you had become one by the end. Two groups, guided by the head gardener and his partner, enjoyed an extremely informative tour around the raised beds, polytunnels, greenhouse and fruit cage- not to mention the mushroom shed!

Their enthusiasm, joy of growing and maintaining a beautiful garden was infectious. We learnt about companion growing, including more unusual combinations such as Par-cel ( a cross between parsley and celery) that is not only good in a Bloody Mary but also repels white fly from cabbages. The type of lettuces to grow that are less likely to bolt in our hotter summers (Matador), which chilli peppers grow best in their poly tunnels (Padron and Shisoto), the many types of mint available and their uses, including recommendations for mint tea and mojito (Moroccan).

We smelt and tasted many herbs and vegetables, discovering along the way how differently our individual senses work, and learnt how full use is made of all of the plant eg young leaves from khol rabi added to spring greens. Careful harvesting helps maintain the plants' growth and longevity. Aside from potatoes, detailed planning plus rotation of beds means the hotel and restaurant is supplied with all the vegetables they require for the year. Careful use of nematodes and other larvae help to keep on top of pests and local composted sheep manure is used to feed the soil.

After a stop for a snack and drink, many of us left for home, ready to sort out our tomatoes (removal of lower leaves recommended to increase air flow and expose fruit to sunlight) and to look up white alpine strawberries, which the birds do not eat! And to add more flavours to our herb gardens-just choosing which ones will be the difficulty- Banana Mint? Ginger Rosemary? Perilla? Thai Basil?

The following week was our annual social evening with Jean Griffin from Radio Kent hosting a Gardeners Question Time. Jean describes herself as a plant-a-holic with a packed garden and two allotments. She is a gardening expert, reporting also for BBC Radio Surrey and Sussex. Many of our members are already avid listeners of hers on a Sunday morning. She has a lifetime of experience having studied at Studley College and Kew Gardens and many horticultural stories, such as being advised in the 1960's that garden centres would never become popular!

Questions ranged from how to successfully reduce a conifer, why Photinas are flowering so abundantly this year, to how to prune a Bottle Brush bush. Presented with a sad, tattered purple sage leaf, Jean identified Capsid bugs as being responsible and, as an organic gardener, advised getting rid of the foliage and using a soapy garlic spray.

A drooping Portugese Laurel was addressed which led to the topic of watering where Jean advised us that we need to let the plants' roots grow and search out the water in the soil. Watering properly, onto the soil and not the leaves of new plants was advised.

Recommendations for organic sprays were given, vine weevils, black fly and white fly all addressed and even the dreaded question of how to get rid of Bamboo. (The answer was with great difficulty and a lot of digging having exhausted all other options).

The topic of peat free compost came up and Jean advised adding slow release feed to them. She explained the differences between the John Innes composts and how peat free composts vary- we could have had an evening on this one topic!

With so much to think about we stopped for more drinks and food and Jean was able to address individual queries.

With everyone busy in their gardens over the summer, our next event is our Autumn Show. An opportunity to put all the newly acquired advise into practise!

Please see our website for details and for information for our trip to RHS Wisley later in the year.

New members are always welcome Happy Gardening!

Gardening notes for August 2023

Here we are in the heat (hopefully) of summer with the promise of autumn just around the corner.

The garden may be looking a little tired but with some deadheading and feeding it's possible to extend the season. Roses in particular respond well to deadheading and a good soak with tomato or seaweed feed. Any patio pots will appreciate the same treatment. Dahlias will keep on flowering until the first frosts if you deadhead or pick them. There are several classes for dahlias in the autumn show on Saturday the 9th of September, take a look at the Horticultural Society website to enter some of your blooms.

August is a good time to take stock, do you need to add late summer colour? maybe some crocosmia, phlox, sedum, heleniums or globe thistles (echinops) for the bees or the beautiful blue hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma) which also has fantastic autumn leaf colour.

On the veg patch keep harvesting crops as they're ready- sweetcorn in particular is best picked as soon as its ripe. Regular harvesting will keep things like courgettes and beans cropping for longer. Again a soak and a feed will do wonders. Tomatoes should be ripening well. It's not too late to sow radish, early carrots or come and cut again salad leaves. Chilli's should be ripening, they can be used fresh, dried or stored in the freezer.

The fruit harvest is still going strong with autumn fruiting raspberries, apples and pears. It's your last chance to summer prune trained stone fruit- plums etc, apples and pears

If the lawn is looking brown don't worry it will soon rejuvenate with the first rains of autumn, cutting on a high setting will keep the straggly bits short without stressing the grass further by removing too much growth. Trimming the edges will also keep it looking neat. If you've left areas of long grass this summer, August or September is the time to cut it back. Once again look out for hedgehogs before you start.

On the subject of wildlife, don't be too keen to cut back seed heads, they will provide food for the birds and architectural beauty for you through the winter. Remember to keep bird baths topped up and add a supply of water to your garden, a simple dish of water will be appreciated.

August is a beautiful month, the days may be shortening but the light is golden and the evenings balmy. Do remember to take time to simply enjoy your patch.

July 2023 News Update

We enjoyed our first trip of the year with a visit to Anna's Country Flowers in nearby Shottenden. Anna grows sustainable flowers working with nature and creates bespoke arrangements for all occasions. She is a member of Flowers from the Farm, an award- winning membership championing artisan growers of seasonal, scented, locally grown cut flowers. All her arrangements are foam free and she grows much of her produce from seed. We were able to stroll through all the poly tunnels as well as around the outside beds, learning how she has applied layers of mulch and compost over the years. Green manures are used and homemade plant feed and she is experimenting with different watering regimes. It was lovely to see huge anemones in bright colours, ranunculus in full bloom and a huge bed of peonies about to burst into flower. We were able to finish off the afternoon with tea and cake outside in the sunshine- a real treat for this year so far!

On May 20th we had a second, smaller plant sale in the foyer at Barham Village Hall. Due to the colder spring, many seedlings had failed to germinate fully for the April sale. Thank you to everyone who contributed and came along to make some purchases. There was a great array of vegetable and flower seedlings and divided perennials to buy. Business was brisk and the sale raised in the region of 250 for our funds.

Don't forget to nuture your young flowers, fruit and vegetables for our annual show on 9th September. There will also be cookery, photography and flower arranging categories to enter, as well as those for children. The show is open to non- members so why not try something new this year? For details please see the Adobe Acrobat PDF 2023 Autumn Show Schedule.
Thinking of becoming a member?

We have two events taking place this month- a members visit to the vegetable garden at The Pig at Bridge and our annual social evening on Wednesday 12th July at Barham Village Hall. Please note the earlier start time of 7pm. The evening promises drinks and nibbles, Gardeners' Question Time with Jean Griffin from Radio Kent and a raffle. Questions can be sent in advance via our website or by contacting any committee members or asked on the evening.

A big thank you to all those volunteers helping with maintenance and watering of the newly painted planters on Valley Way in Barham- they are looking beautiful.

In the meantime there are many local gardens to visit via the National Garden Scheme. Details can be found in the 'yellow book' or visit

Happy Gardening!

Gardening notes for July 2023

Summer was slow arriving to our part of the world, but at the time of writing it's arrived with hot dry weather.

If you have left grass to grow, you should now have a beautiful display of flowering grasses. When you do decide to cut the grass back- please check through it carefully as hedgehogs suffer terrible injuries if they are sleeping in long grass when we decide to strim or mow without checking.

Wise watering is key in summer, the usual early or late to minimise loss to evaporation with a saucer under pots to prevent run off. Group pots together to create a micorclimate.

Hints for success when planting in dry weather. Make sure the plants root ball is soaked by watering and standing in a tray/bucket of water for a couple of hours, once planted is difficult to rewet dry compost. Water the planting hole before backfilling the soil and then water the plant in. Finally if possible add a mulch to lock moisture in.

Dry weather can cause problems for wildlife help them out by having a bird bath, saucers of water on the ground (both should be cleaned regularly) and a pond (do consider child safety). Having an overgrown area at the back of a border will provide a cool area. It doesn't have to be overgrown with weeds it can be something like tall hardy geraniums planted close together or an area of densely planted ferns and ground cover.

Birds have been busy raising a family- help them out by providing some food- again make sure bird feeders are cleaned regularly.

Pruning, the usual pruning of shrubs which need it after flowering. Its time to prune back whippy unwanted growth on Wisteria to approximately 7 buds, this allows the wood to ripen for better flowering, you will be pruning back to 2 buds in Feb. Magnolias can be pruned now- don't go mad they are not keen on losing too much in one go. Trained apples and stone fruit (peaches, plums etc) are pruned now, consult a book or the RHS website. Keep roses and bedding plants deadheaded for a longer display.

On the veg patch keep on top of harvesting to make the most of your produce- especially courgettes which seem to turn into marrows overnight.

Enjoy summer with its sunshine and balmy evenings. I particularly like to sit watching the light fade and the bats and hedgehogs emerge to take over the night shift in the garden.

June 2023 News Update

Saturday22nd April was the sale of plants held at the Village Hall in support of your Horticultural Society. We were blessed with nice weather and many plants donated by our generous members as well as the committee. At 10.30a.m. a large enthusiastic group of customers had arrived and like locusts cleared the sales tables resulting in over 500 being raised. These funds help to meet the costs of hall hire and speaker expenses.

We are so fortunate in our community to have an active committee and a full list of speakers to inform and entertain. Fortunate, because many Societies are no longer holding shows or hosting speakers.

Talking of speakers ,on the 10th May, Matthew Adrian of Felderland Farm, gave us"chapter and verse" on growing soft fruit commercially. It was Matthew's first talk; he was like the proverbial duck to water.

Felderland, near Sandwich has many and various pick your own fruits and additionally a children's playground and cafe.A summer destination for young families maybe? An online check on availability and varieties could be worthwhile.

Gardening notes for June 2023

Summer is here, the garden is bursting with colour, the birds are fledging and the insects are buzzing.

It's a pleasure to spend time outside- even if its weeding.

On the veg patch hoe on a dry day to keep on top of the weeds. In the flower beds hand weeding is more effective- or plant densely with flowers to keep the weeds down (or at least hidden!).

As the weather hots up its worth ensuring you are using water efficiently. As always water the soil not the plant and early or late in the day so water is not lost to evaporation before the roots can absorb it. Any pots should be stood in a saucer to avoid wasting water. In dry spells water anything newly planted (perennials less than 1 year and shrubs/trees less than 2-3 years)- established plants should be OK unless we have a drought.

Make the most of rain water by fitting water butts. Rain water is better for acid loving plants as our water is chalky- think azaleas and camellias. Rain water is lower in nutrients which reduces algal growth if used to top up ponds. If you do have problems with green ponds use barely straw (or extract) and ensure there are plants in the water to use up any nutrients. A fish free pond is easier to maintain and is better for wildlife as more tadpoles etc will survive.

Did you take part in 'No Mow May'? Is there an area you might keep long for the rest of the summer. The flowering grasses can look really attractive and come autumn you could add some spring bulbs and plugs of wildflower plants.

On the veg plot harvest early potatoes, flowering is an indicator of being ready but salad varieties may be ready before, have a little root around to see. Don't forget to feed hungry plants like courgettes and tomatoes. Some crops, like salad leaves, carrots, beetroot and fennel can still be grown from seed. Some tomato plants (most cherry varieties) are grown as a cordon, for these types pinch out shoots growing from the leaf joint and support the plant by tying to a cane.

For tall perennials get plant supports in early and cut back some of the stems by a third to lengthen the display (Chelsea chop!)

Plant up and position pots and hanging baskets for summer colour, consider drought tolerant species to make them easier to care for.

Enjoy the long summer evenings.

May 2023 News Update

What an inspiring talk we had on 11th April at Kingston Barn from Dan Tuson about restoring wildflower meadows on local farms. Dan works as a farm adviser for Natural England and much of his work is focused on creating new wildflower grasslands and meadows within the East Kent downs this includes some large areas around Barham, Kingston and Denton. The Stewardship Scheme whereby farms are paid for setting aside land for wildlife has been in place for 30 years. Over time these methods have created huge amounts of insect life, and a reversal of the decline of a lot of species is now beginning to be seen. Dan works 1:1 with farms to develop working meadows, turning them back to flower rich grasses and creating a network by linking them up farm by farm to help restore wildlife habitats. He stressed how important it is that the meadows are seeded with genuine native plants. Even reintroducing plants on the edges of fields adds to the network. Apart from the very important bees and butterflies, they are now looking at other insects and finding different species of spiders and beetles coming in, not least the endangered Black Veined Moth. Within the area that Dan covers there are colonies of Dingy Skipper and Duke of Burgundy butterflies which are both doing very well. The Small Blue Butterfly has done so well on the large area of flower rich grassland on Barham Downs that they have translocated a group to Norfolk where they have not been seen for many years. Of course along with the increased insect life we are seeing different species of bats and birds to feed on them.

Finally, Dan gave some useful hints for those of us that wish to consider planting a wildflower meadow of our own.

Do join us on the 10th May at 7.30 pm at Barham Village Hall for an illustrated talk by Matthew Adrian. Matthew is the Business Development and Farm Manager at Felderland Farm PYO, near Sandwich and will be talking about growing soft fruits - strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry and, so valuable for many of us, practical advice on growing and pruning these fruits.

Our first trip for 2023 will be in May to Anna's Country Flowers at Shottenden. Anna runs a seasonal flower farm, organically growing many country favourites, to produce home grown, beautifully scented flowers for events and bespoke bouquets, as well as selling flowers from the farm gate. The afternoon will include a tour of her cut flower garden and poly tunnels together with tea and cake.

We are very fortunate to have an active and well supported horticultural society in Barham and district, run by a small, dedicated committee who work hard to bring an exciting programme of events to members and non-members. We are, however, in need of a chairperson to oversee the running of the group and head up our activities.
If you are interested please contact Liz Dallison.

Gardening notes for May 2023

As I write it's pouring, but there are signs of spring everywhere. The hawthorn has new bright green leaves, birds are gathering nesting material and hedgehogs have emerged from hibernation.

Oh and the weeds are growing!

May is an exciting month, by the end of it summer will be properly established. There is much to do, save yourself some time and take part in 'no mow May' just part of your lawn allowed to grow will benefit insects. Keeping a strip edging the borders mown keeps it looking tidy, as will trimming the edges.

Dead heading spring bulbs ensures energy is sent back to the bulbs rather than forming seed pods..

The harvest is starting, rhubarb crops from March/April until July. Remember to pull the stems when harvesting rather than cut them. In July give the plant a good feed and leave to recover for next year.

Asparagus will be cropping this month, it's a treat and the fresher it is the sweeter it will be. It does take up quite a bit of space, not one for a small garden. If it's a vegetable you love its worth getting a bed ready, weed free with plenty of organic matter dug in and planting crowns next spring. Or you may still find crowns this month. They are spaced 30-45cm apart (rows 90cm apart) the roots spread out in the planting hole and covered with 5cm of soil. Wait 2 summers to build up the plants, then harvest from mid April to mid June, before resting the plants.

There is still a risk of frosts, but by the end of May they should be over. If you do plant out any tender plants (courgettes, Dahlias, bedding etc) before then keep an eye on the forecast and cover them with fleece when needed. All potatoes should be planted now and any that are growing should be earthed up as the new shoots appear.

Its not too late to plant tender veg seeds, like sweetcorn and courgettes or buy young plants. Regular sowings of raddish, lettuce, carrots and beetroot etc will ensure supplies of produce.

What are your plans for extra colour, annual seeds, candytuft, love in the mist, pot marigolds, cosmos? Lovely for you, insects and cut flowers. Maybe bulbs, corms and tubers- Lilies, gladioli and dahlias will fit the bill- they are available loose in packets or potted up starting to grow.

Whatever you choose include some single flowers to give the insects a treat.

Happy gardening.

April 2023 News Update

If you had ever wondered how to grow beautiful sweetpeas then your questions were answered at our talk in March. Our own committee member, Richard Borthwick, gave us a presentation on just about everything you need to know to successfully grow sweet peas.

Richard's love of sweet peas started at an early age. He revealed his father was a professional gardener and whilst he was at Chelsea Flower Show, Richard, then a toddler decided it would be nice to pick his mum some blooms. He proudly presented her with some of his Father's no doubt prize winning sweetpeas. His Mum was delighted, his Dad not so much.

This love of the flowers led Richard to successfully exhibit and last year he swept the board in the sweet pea class at the Kent Federation of Horticultural Societies. This summer some of his own seeds will be in the trial gardens at RHS Wisley and Bridgewater. So watch this space for successful news of a new sweetpea. (For those who may have got the sweetpea bug from Richard following his talk, breeding a yellow sweet pea is the big prizewinner)

Sweetpea seeds, originally from Sri Lanka, reached our shores via traders in the East and a Sicilian monk, who so loved the flowers that they became spread across Europe.

A summary of some of Richard's top tips for growing sweetpeas are to sow your seeds in Autumn to get better root formation. He recommends then pricking them out into root trainers. They can be over wintered outside, covered with fleece or similar in a prolonged cold spell. Most importantly, do not mollycoddle the seedlings. Check for watering and then pinch out growing tip in January.

Richard then revealed the secrets of cordon growing and explained the mystery of layering- you could hear the penny drop with those of us in the audience. A handy money saving tip to make rings to secure your plants to the canes was demonstrated using garden wire, a broom handle (or similar) and secateurs. It is very important to pick out side shoots and tendrils to encourage flower formation. And of course, keep picking those flowers.

Keep a watch out for mice, who will eat your seeds, pollen beetles and aphids,and good old slugs and snails.

Of course, if your own crop fails, you can always purchase Richard's blooms at Barham Village Store with proceeds raised for the Fifth Trust.

Our next talk is at Kingston Barn on Tuesday 11 th April 'Restoring Wild Flower Meadows' with Dan Tuson. Non members are always welcome to our talks. There is a charge of 2 ( or why not join us for 7 and a whole programme of talks and trips?)

Our annual Plant Sale takes place on 22nd April. Any excess plant or vegetable seedlings you may have are welcomed to be sold alongside perennials that need dividing.

Any excess annuals are always welcome to help fill the planters in Barham along with volunteers to join the watering teams.

In the meantime, Happy Gardening!

Gardening notes for April 2023

Here we are in blustery changeable April. At the time of writing we have mostly escaped the snow, and the forecast is for warmer temperatures.

The dead perennial stems should now be cut back. It's your last chance before autumn to move or split perennials. Climbing and rambling roses should be tied in, near horizontal stems flower better.

Don't be too keen to tidy daffs and tulips, wait until the leaves are yellowing to feed the bulb for next years flowers.

Seed sowing continues, hardy annuals can be sown directly into soil for economic colour.

It's a good time to sow beans and peas, mange tout or sugar snap peas directly or indoors, and sweet corn or members of the squash family in a frost free place. If you have limited space, climbing beans (runner or French) grown up a wigwam will provide plenty for your family. Two or three dwarf French bean plants in a large pot would supply enough for 2 adults. All legume and squashes will give better yields in terms of quality and quantity with plenty of organic matter in the soil to hold moisture and provide nutrients. I like to line a bean/pea trench with the coarsely composted material from the compost bin and a sprinkle of chicken manure pellets before backfilling ready for young plants in May.

Wildlife will be embracing the spring, birds are nesting, reptiles and hedgehogs are coming out of hibernation.

Hedgehogs love meaty cat/dog food or cat biscuits tescos kitten biscuits are a favourite. You can of course get specialist hedgehog food. Hedgehogs need to roam over a large area gaps in fences between gardens are beneficial. Leaving areas of your garden a little unkempt and of course having hedges or shrubs provides ideal habitat. As they eat insects as well as slugs a pesticide free garden provides the best environment. Take care when gardening. Check before you act, one of our village residents found a hedgehog hibernating in the base of a pampas grass.

Brimstone butterflies will soon herald summer, do you need any more flowers for you and the insects. Why not consider adding ladies smock or wallflowers (perennial ones last for years). A few dandelions allowed to flower and dead headed before they set seed will be very welcome.

It's a busy time of year, no excuse, if its chilly get wrapped up and get on with the jobs. Of course make sure there are regular pauses to have a warming cuppa.

March 2023 News Update

The Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 18 January 2023 in Barham Village Hall; it was very well attended. Due to covid restrictions this was the first AGM to be held at the hall since January 2020. It was good to return to normality. Tim Bines, President, reflected on the full calendar of talks and events held in 2022, it had been a successful year with all events well attended.

Vic Cracknell has agreed to be the new President. At the end of the meeting Tim was thanked for his significant contrition to the society over very many years.

The Committee members have all agreed to stand again and were re-elected.

Following the formal part of the evening refreshments were provided and members enjoyed a horticultural quiz which was won by Vic and Jenny Cracknell both very experienced and knowledgeable gardeners.

The Society continues to seek a Chairperson, the duties involved are not onerous.

Helen Croft and Jean Carus outlined the many events planned for 2023. This includes an autumn trip to Wisley following the success of the summer visit in 2022.

Membership renewals are in progress but it is not too late to join if you are not currently a member. Apply via our online form or contact a member of the Committee. In addition to the talks and events members receive a discount at various local garden centres and 50% off seed orders placed with Suttons.

The first talk of the year was held on 8 February. Steve Edney, a four times RHS Gold Medal winner spoke about dahlias. Steve was previously Head Gardener at The Salutation at Sandwich and at the Cathedral gardens. He currently acts as a mentor and advisor to the new Head Gardener at the Cathedral a role he thoroughly enjoys. Steve's talk covered all aspects of growing garden dahlias, with slides to show how fabulous they can be. With regular dead heading and the right support dahlias will provide months of colour until the first frosts.

The next talk takes place at Barham Village Hall on Wednesday 8 March. Richard Borthwick will talk about growing sweet peas. Richard has grown and exhibited sweet peas for many years with great success. We look forward to seeing members at this and/or future events in the coming year.

Gardening notes for March 2023

So far its been a mild winter, don't be caught out there is still a risk of a cold snap. Preparations for the coming year should be progressed this month. The beds tidied and weeded, edges reinstated and the lawn given a trim on a high setting on dry days.

All winter pruning should be done as soon as possible, including roses. If you give roses a mulch with slow release fertilizer (I like to use chicken pellets with home made or mushroom compost) it will feed them and minimise blackspot. Blackspot is a fungal infection which can be splashed up from the soil, hence the mulch helps, and healthy plants are more resistant.

There are varieties of roses which are resistant to blackspot. Fungicides etc should be a last resort (or avoided altogether). If you do spray, its better to find one just for the blackspot ideally an organic one. Its tempting to deal with the aphids too, but think of all the bluetit babies who love a feast of greenfly. You can easily squish the greenfly by hand if the infestation is heavy.

Seed sowing is underway in earnest now, remember the back of the seed packet has all you need to know. Avoid planting seeds too thickly. Overcrowded seedlings will succumb to another fungus causing them to die suddenly (damping off). As the name suggests it can also be caused by over watering. As the surface may be dry, checking levels of moisture in peat free compost requires sticking your finger into it.

How is your spring display, would your garden benefit from more snowdrops, either buy them 'in the green' or split up the clumps already there and re plant now in small groups. They can be surprisingly deep so take care when lifting, be sure to replant at the same depth, then give them a soak to settle the roots. Feed any spring bulbs in pots if you want them to flower next year.

Do you have a pond, if so the frogs will be spawning (if they have not already done so). Tackle thinning of pond plants before the tadpoles hatch. Many pond plants have a mass of roots which can be difficult to split, an old bread knife does the job well. Using low nutrient pond compost ,if you are potting any pond plants, will avoid causing an algal bloom.

March is an exciting time of year, so enjoy the preparations and the promise of the year to come.

February 2023 News Update

The society will have held its AGM on the 18th January, too late to make this months copy. Following the business of the evening we will have enjoyed some nibbles and a glass of something whilst trying to answer quiz questions or just having a chat.

This month on the 8th Feb at 7.30pm in BVH sees the first of the talks we have arranged for this year. The speaker is Steve Edney and will cover just about everything you wanted to know about Dahlia. It should remind us of the balmy days of late summer and the rich colours we will be enjoying at that time of year.

Steve is well known to garden aficionados for his work in his former position as Head Gardener at The Salutation in Kent. He is currently engaged in an ambitious project creating a 'dry garden' in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. He serves on the RHS Herbaceous committee and won a Gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show in 2019.
Steve is widely renowned for his dahlia prowess. 'I have great fun crossing seeds and breeding new plants.' Boasting that he has 45 different types of wild species dahlias.
Non members are welcome for the bargain price of 2.

Subs are due now, our members will have been sent details of online payment, and of course we happily accept cash or cheques. There will be a specific opportunity to renew membership or join the society on the 11th Feb at BVH 10am to noon.

Membership is 7 per adult and will give you discount on Suttons seeds and at selected local nurseries as well as our program of events which includes six talks and a social evening and two trips (for additional cost).

Hoping there are some sunny days to enjoy whilst we wait for spring, its just around the corner!

Gardening notes for February 2023

February is a raw and potentially depressing month. It does however have a silver lining. It's short and is the start of the seed sowing season. What's not to love about sinking a small dead looking seed into the soil and being rewarded by small green shoots and then beautiful flowers or delicious produce.

On a cold day it's lovely to sit indoors and plan (and order where needed) what you will grow from seed this year.

Be realistic about what space and time you have and only grow produce you like to eat! There is no rush for most seeds as those planted later will still be fine. Look at the seed packet for the timings and germination temperatures, for some Feb is too early. Investing in even a basic propagator will allow you to provide some additional heat to get seeds germinated early in the season. This is particularly beneficial for crops like tomatoes which crop longer if started earlier. Something to remember in your planning is that tender plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines will need to be kept frost free as they grow.

Winter pruning needs to be finished this month or very early in March. This includes roses and wisteria. For wisteria you are taking back stems pruned in summer and any which have grown since then back to two buds. Of course if you want to extend the framework then tie in some of the long stems. Pruning of clematis is also carried out now with the exception of the early flowering varieties. Pruning these now will cut off the flowers! Check the RHS website for details.

The garden tidy starts this month, with veg patch being cleared and cutting down deciduous grasses. If you have substantial clumps of miscanthus this may be easier with a hedge cutter. Evergreen grasses just need dead stems pulled out. Don't be in too much of a rush to cut back all faded perennials they will still be providing shelter for insects. Aim to cut them back as the new shoots to emerge, this will start this month and into March depending on the weather and species.

How is your garden looking, is there plenty of colour and nectar in the form of spring bulbs, if not visit the garden centre or make a note to buy more bulbs in the autumn. Although this is a cold month, there will still be some bright days to get out and enjoy the fresh air.

January 2023 News Update

A Happy New Year to everyone from all at the horticultural society. We hope you are feeling rested after the festive period and are looking forward to wearing those new gardening gloves and seeing how long it takes to lose the secateurs you received for Christmas or is that just me?

We have an exciting program of talks, trips and events planned for 2023 and as always, are delighted to welcome new members, no experience needed! At £7 per year, our membership is great value, especially with our discount at Suttons Seeds.

Our AGM takes place on 18th January, 7pm at Barham Village Hall. Please join us on the evening to renew your membership, test your knowledge in a quiz, enjoy a sociable drink with friends and maybe enter our two competitions- a small posy and the biggest variety of flowers currently growing in your garden.

Another date for your calendar is our first talk for 2023 on 8th February all you need to know about Dahlias. Non members are always welcome with a charge of £2

The weather extremes of 2022 provided plenty of challenges for all of us trying to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables but despite this we had a very successful Spring plant sale and Autumn Show. Let us hope that 2023 maybe a little kinder. We were pleased to have a full year of face to face talks, finally celebrate the society's 125 year anniversary and once again enjoy refreshments at the end of our last talk of the year.

We are always ready to welcome members to our committee why not start the New Year by joining us? More information available here.

Happy Gardening!

Gardening notes for January 2023

Happy New Year! January is a chilly month, pretty much the depths of winter. It's also the month when snowdrops start to peek through and give us promise of spring. Do you have anything in flower for early nectar, if not why not add winter flowering shrubs, they are often scented too, so extra benefit to you and the insects.

It's still the season to perform winter pruning on fruit bushes and free standing fruit trees (rather than trained), not stone fruits if you want to avoid introducing silver leaf. Refer to RHS website or a good book for details.

If you don't have any fruit bushes why not add some. If the soil is not frozen it's a good time to plant them, bare root are still available.

Blackcurrants in particular are trouble free and freeze really well, or a lovely sweet desert gooseberry, they also come thorn free or trained as standards. Pax is a thornless sweet red variety. If you don't have a sunny area then redcurrants can cope with shade- think of the redcurrant jelly!

These day's fruit trees come on dwarf rootstocks (a Kentish development) to allow small trained apple, plum, cherry trees etc. Trained trees such as cordons take up much less space. The best choice of varieties are from specialist nurseries. The main pruning time for these trained trees is the summer.

If planting bare root, plant as soon as possible after they arrive. Don't plant if its very wet, or frozen, soak for 30mins before planting. If you can't plant for a few days keep moist by digging a trench and covering roots with soil/compost.

Keep an eye on plants in pots under eves or in the greenhouse, they may need a little water.

Do remember the birds and insects and don't start to clear the beds yet. Its always a joy to see the goldfinches and other birds eating the seeds from flowering perennials left standing through the winter.

Keep the bird baths topped up with fresh water in cold weather so birds can keep feathers in tip top condition.

Did you get an amaryllis for Christmas? Once its finished flowering give it some tomato feed if you wish to get it to flower again next year.

Rather than being busy in the garden, you have permission to sit in front of the fire and admire the frost/snow on the garden from indoors! it is after all better to keep off the lawn on a frosty day.


Next EventWednesday
17th July 7.30pm

'BDHS Social Evening.'
BDHS Social Evening.
On Wednesday 17th July 7.30pm at Barham Village Hall we have our social evening.
We hope to see many of you there.
Directions to Barham Village Hall »

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