Ken knows his onions ... and his spuds, chrysanths, dahlias ...

Ken Beard, 89, in the garden of his home. Ken worked as a professional gardener until he was in his 80s. Pic Steve Robards SR1722320 SUS-171209-151056001
Ken Beard, 89, in the garden of his home. Ken worked as a professional gardener until he was in his 80s. Pic Steve Robards SR1722320 SUS-171209-151056001

Green-fingered Ken Beard has spent a lifetime cultivating his horticultural talents.

And at the ripe old age of 89, Ken is still toiling the land.

He has been gardening since he first started work - missing only two years while he served in the Royal Air Force.

Ken, from Plumpton, spent 27 years working as a landscape gardener for Plumpton Nurseries and went on to work for himself when the firm closed.

“There were so many people who wanted me to do their gardens that I kept going until my 80s before I packed up,” said Ken.

And, while he may have packed up professionally, Ken still spends a few hours each week tending a neighbour’s garden, as well as his own.

“It keeps me busy,” says Ken. “I have to keep going. I can’t stop.”

In his own garden, Ken has lawn, flowers, vegetables and shrubs and cites chrysanthemums, dahlias, zinnias and sweet peas among his favourite flowers, with potatoes, cabbage and broccoli among his favourite home-grown veg.

He makes his own compost and lines his plot with manure supplied by a local farmer.

And his tips for controlling slugs? “I always used to use soot,” says Ken, “but people nowadays don’t know what soot is.

“I use slug pellets now myself.”

Ken’s talents run in the family. “My father was a gardener, so I suppose it has rubbed off on me,” said Ken.

His father - William John Beard - worked at a number of gardens, moving around Sussex, before finally settling in Plumpton.

Ken’s son Malcolm, 58, although working in the building trade, is also a keen gardener, growing his own flowers and veg.

And daughter, Linda Pilfold, is a lucky recipient of Ken’s horticultural handiwork. “I supply her with vegetables every week,” says Ken, who has been a member of Plumpton Horticultural Society since 1955.

Ken is a frequent entrant in local shows and also judges exhibits at shows held in neighbouring villages.