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Gardeners’ Question Time & RHS join to help UK gardeners protect their plots

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time (GQT) join forces to highlight the importance of plant health at this year’s RHS Chatsworth Flower Show (6-10 June) with an interactive feature to equip the UK’s gardeners with the knowledge and expertise needed to plan and maintain a healthy garden.

The RHS and GQT report a recent increase in enquiries about plant health, illustrating a growing concern for serious threats to UK gardens with almost 1,000 pests and diseases listed on the UK’s Plant Health Register.*

Award winning designer Stephen Hall has worked with RHS Plant Health Scientists and the GQT team to create the ‘RHS & GQT Bloomin’ Healthy Garden’ packed with inspiration and advice on plant health for visitors to take home and put into practice in their own gardens.

Designer Stephen Hall said: ’I was delighted when approached by the RHS to design this feature as it is becoming increasingly important that anyone with a garden is aware of the simple things they can do to help keep them healthy and mitigate the spread of harmful pests and diseases.’

‘I have created a ‘typical’ English Country Garden that will take visitors on a journey of discovery, and help them learn about recent arrivals, new threats to plant health, take home tips for clean working and discover some of the most common pests and diseases and how to deal with them.’

The reasons gardeners should be concerned about plant health can be found at the heart of the garden with informative films and interactive displays and demonstrations highlighting the recent arrival of new diseases and pests from abroad such as the lily beetle, box tree moth and more recently agapanthus gall midge along with imminent threats such as the high profile Xylella fastidiosa.   Display boxes will enable visitors to get up close to some of the UK’s most common pests and affected plant specimens and learn how to safely manage them and what to look out for.

A potting shed and plant quarantine area is included to highlight the importance of careful plant sourcing, inspection and continued monitoring for potential pests and diseases.  A cleaning station and potting bench will remind gardeners that clean gardening tools, footwear and other equipment are important to prevent pests and diseases from being moved in soil and plant debris.

Stephen adds; ’The importance of crop rotation and cultivar selection for the reduction of pest and diseases is explored in the productive area of the garden. Visitors will pick up simple tips like the use of insect-proof netting to reduce problems such as carrot root fly, a greenhouse prompts discussion of clean irrigation and compost bins demonstrate the do’s and don’ts of safe composting.’

The final section of the garden demonstrates best practice for pest and disease management through a balanced and healthy ecosystem, resilient planting and features to encourage natural predators.

Gardeners’ Question Time’s Plant Pathologist Pippa Greenwood said; ‘We are very excited to be working with the RHS at this year’s RHS Chatsworth Flower Show and hope the garden will help reiterate the importance of plant health management no matter what size garden you have. We give out advice on plant health every week on GQT, and this is a great opportunity to foreground some of the most important conversations we need to all be having in this area.’

Listening posts narrated by the Gardeners’ Question Time team will be present throughout the garden to complement the design and inspire visitors with key messages and top tips to apply in their own gardens. Highlights and ideas from the garden will also be broadcast on GQT on Friday 8 June – repeated Sunday 10 June – 2018.

Gerard Clover, head of plant health at the Royal Horticultural Society, said: ‘With the ever increasing risk from imported pests and diseases to UK horticulture, we could all do with a little help in understanding the role we can play in keeping our gardens healthy and pest and disease free.

The ‘RHS and BBC Gardeners’ Question Time Bloomin’ Healthy Garden’ at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show gives us a great platform to share our expertise, demonstrate and advise visitors on the different things they can do to maintain a healthy garden for many years to come.’

Tickets to RHS Chatsworth Flower Show can be bought here.

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