The annual in Bloom competitions that take place across the country are a great way of bringing all sectors of the community together.

Columnist Martin, right, taking a rest while judging Starbeck in Bloom. (S)
Columnist Martin, right, taking a rest while judging Starbeck in Bloom. (S)

One of the summer highlights for me is judging at flower shows and for In Bloom competitions.

Over the past 15 years I’ve judged many In Bloom competitions in the East Midlands and for the past few years in Yorkshire and last week I had the pleasure of judging Starbeck in Bloom.

The competition has been running for many years and all sectors of the community are encouraged to enter.

To help keep the competition fresh, this year organisers added new categories including best hanging baskets and best garden pond, both of which attracted plenty of interest.

During my day judging I visited business premises, community areas and of course private gardens, where owners take great pride in their plot.

One of the many contestants I visited was Chris McCormack who over the past couple of years has developed and planted a lovely garden which he showed me around. Chris is also one of the street cleaners for Starbeck and he and his colleague James take great pride in helping to keep Starbeck clean and tidy, in fact they have even created a small garden around their store shed!

In Bloom competitions are a really good way of improving the area where we live in and they also help to create a close knit community. Starbeck is proof of that.

Potatoes in pots

The wet weather from April until recently has made growing conditions difficult for many plants and vegetable crops and there is already talk that potatoes may be in short supply this autumn.

This is because in many areas the crop has either been washed out of the soil, or the tubers have rotted in waterlogged conditions.

Potato blight also attacked early this year causing damage to many home grown potatoes.

Although it’s getting late to plant potatoes into the garden, there is still time to grow some in large pots or tubs, especially if you have a greenhouse for extra protection through the autumn.

If you have any spare seed potatoes that weren’t planted in spring or you are able to get hold of a few it’s well worth planting a few pots. Even potatoes bought from a shop that have started to sprout can be used.

For a bucket sized pot plant one potato and in larger pots use a couple, planted into multipurpose compost.

Keep the compost moist and stand the pot either in a greenhouse or a sheltered part of the garden. In warm conditions the potatoes will grow quickly and you will need to keep the compost moist at all times and feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser. Keep the plants growing for as long as possible and when the tops start to die down in November you can harvest your crop of potatoes.

Jobs for the week

Take advantage of the warmer, dryer conditions to weed through borders. Large annual weeds can be pulled out and added to the compost heap and perennial weeds such as nettles, docks, dandelions and couch grass should be forked out complete with roots and disposed of. As the soil surface dries out, use a hoe to chop off new seedling weeds.

Feed plants growing in containers and hanging baskets with a liquid feed to encourage new growth and flower buds.

Early summer flowering shrubs such as philadelphus and deutzia can be given a light prune after flowering to keep them in shape and at a manageable size.

If you have a gardening question for Martin Fish please email him at and we’ll print a selection of questions and answers for readers to share.

Or, write to Ackrill Media Group, 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate and we’ll pass on your question.