There was a bountiful crop of expert gardening advice for Rotarians to reap at the club’s Monday meeting, thanks to guest speaker Colin Evans, who has spent most of his life in the horticultural business.
Colin, who can be heard on BBC Radio Berkshire dispensing gardening wisdom on Sunday mornings from 11am, began his career as a research botanist and has worked for ICI, run his own horticulture business and been a lecturer in horticultural science. Throughout his career he has also worked in radio and TV alongside many famous names.
Speaking to his audience over Zoom, he said almost a year of lockdown had created lots of interest in gardening.
“People who were not particularly interested in gardening got more interested in it, especially when garden centres re-opened and were one of the few places you could go,” he joked.
His wide-ranging talk was packed with advice and useful tips for those keen to be out in the garden despite the time of year. He suggested planting early varieties of potatoes such as Home Guard or Arran Pilot which are disease resistant and easy to grow.
“You’ll be amazed by how quickly you will get results from these first potatoes,” he said.
Other activities suggested for those anxious to be busy outdoors included digging over ground ready for planting in March, and pruning back roses in preparation for the spring.
On the fruit front, Colin suggested raspberries as a crop that delivered great results but required very little attention, while he suggested the easiest onion variety to grow was shallots.
“It’s a very old, tried-and-tested variety that can go in the ground now,” he said.
The talk was peppered with top tips, such as keeping compost evenly damp by making sure you always seal the bag properly. Another pearl of wisdom was to spread compost out on concrete or a plastic sheet for 48 hours to allow the birds to clean it up by picking out the insects and grubs.
Colin’s talk was followed by an extensive Q and A session, with Rotarians seeking advice on a wide range of their own gardening problems.
So popular was his talk that Colin was invited back for another session later in the year. He will also be taking part in the club’s Rotary Open Gardens Weekend planned for June 25-27 when he will be on hand at one of the gardens to answer visitors’ horticultural questions.