Fascinating fruit and veg
The fruit and veg displays in the RHS Summer Fruit & Vegetable Competition Pavilion can be as interesting as the show gardens
The RHS Summer Fruit & Vegetable pavilion may often be overlooked because its displays are not as extravagant as the Show Gardens, however if you have an allotment, are interested in herbs, fruit and vegetables or simply want to stay out of the rain, then spend some time talking to the exhibitors. They are full of interesting facts and tips about growing their specialist fruit or herb, as well as displaying them in competitions or exhibitions.
B136a British Tomato Growers' Association
With four candles in his hand and a cash register full of money, Arkwright from Open All Hours stands behind a cash register, surrounded by a huge selection of tomatoes in sweet jars and baskets. Keep an eye out for a very shiny tomato called ‘Tomkin’ that looks absolutely delicious.
Top tips for growing tomatoes
- To ensure a set number of fruits per truss, count out the flowers when they are in bloom and remove the rest. The number of tomatoes will depend on the size e.g. there are often five ‘Elegance’ tomatoes per truss whereas for ‘Picolini’ there are usually 12.
Top tips for showing tomatoes
- Always pick the best tomatoes to display. Aim to show popular selections but also so slightly different ones to keep the exhibition interesting.
B136b The Herb Society
As well as an attractive display of herbs, there will also be demonstrations on how to make herbal corsages (which you can keep) and a chance to sample Elizabethan Pot Pourri made with Orris root which, we are assured, keeps its scent for years and not just for a few months.
Top tips for growing herbs
- Remember to compost herbs such as yarrow and nettles because they help decompose compost heaps in half the time.
- Herbs are also full of nutrients that can enrich your compost; yarrow (copper), comfrey (nitrogen), tansy (potassium), dandelion (copper and iron), camomile (calcium) and sunflowers (potassium).
Top tips for showing herbs
- Pick a theme for your display first and then all other decisions are easier to make.
B136c Northern Fruit Group
A simple but informative display of soft fruits, including tips on growing such as how to shade gooseberries to prevent sunburn. Look out for a plate of Finnish Hinommaki gooseberries that are resistant to mildew.
Top tips for growing fruits
- Often considered as a fruit grown in hotter climates than ours, apricots can be grown in this country as long as they are against a warm wall. Painting the wall white also helps.
- Cordons are an excellent way of growing fruit. They can be used as a border around an allotment, spaced 2-3ft apart allowing a large selection of fruits to be grown.
Top tips for show fruits
- Make sure you are growing the correct selections of fruits for your display. There is nothing worse than finding out that you have grown the wrong cultivar or variety of fruit.
- Check for uniformity of colour, shape and size when displaying fruit.
B136e Mid-Cheshire Gooseberry Association
Entering gooseberry competitions is not for the faint-hearted as this display shows. There are containers with flat-growing gooseberry bushes demonstrating the technique used to produce heavier fruit; wax sealed boxes to carry fruits to competitions; old-fashioned penny-weight scales to weigh the fruit; and a display case exhibiting winning gooseberries. Be sure to speak to the exhibitor about gooseberry competitions – the rules, regulations and lengths to which competitors go to is astounding.
Top tips for growing gooseberries
- Grow organic. Don’t spray with artificial fertilisers.
- Fruits are grown for their size and weight so grow gooseberry plants low and flat rather than high and bushy so plant energy doesn’t have to travel as far and is directed to the lower, more immediate fruits.
- Thin out the berries to produce fewer but heavier fruits.
Top tips for showing gooseberries
- Show cultivars and varieties should be bought from specialist growers and not from local garden centres. Not only do they have newer selections but the quality of plants will be higher.
B136d Colour My Garden
This display, which resembles a chessboard, illustrates the medieval style of growing herbs and edible plants with a square patch of grass planted in between the different types of herbs. This technique makes herbs easier to access and maintain and is a useful and attractive way to grow herbs in raised beds.
Top tips for growing herbs
- Only grow what you want to eat. The exhibitor said she made the mistake of growing Jerusalem artichoke and is now struggling to remove it from her allotment.
- If you don’t want to use straws or paving for paths in your allotment then Alpine strawberries are good for edging walkways.
- Must-have herbs and edibles for any allotment include bay trees, rosemary and thyme because they can all be added to a wide selection of foods.
- Alpine strawberries are the best fruit to grow because they do not run and fruit constantly throughout the growing season.
Top tips for showing herbs and edibles
- Design your display well in advance so you know what and how many plants are needed.