Brian Kidd answers your gardening posers and suggests tasks for the coming week

Echiums will shoot up to at least 8ft.
Echiums will shoot up to at least 8ft.
A  blackberry growing through a hedge

BRIAN KIDD: Sorts out a problem hedge and gives you work for the weekend

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Here’s a selection of your questions...

Q: I have been given a seedling of a plant called echium from a friend who lives in the Isle of Wight. It has five tiny leaves and looks a bit like an African violet. Will it grow at Portchester and how high will it be? JD, Portchester.

A: It will grow really well at Portchester and will shoot up to at least 8ft, so give it plenty of space in a sunny, well-drained area in your garden. Bees love it.

Q: I have a small area alongside my drive in which I grow a dwarf cotoneaster. Sadly there are several stems of Japanese knotweed growing among the cotoneaster which I have been trying to dig out, but the weed still returns. I don’t want to destroy the cotoneaster but wonder if you can suggest how to eradicate the knotweed. HR, Copnor.

A: Cut each knotweed stem down leaving about 4in of hollow stems. Mix one part of Roundup with 10 parts water and using a tiny watering can fill each stem with the mixture and leave alone. The Roundup will be absorbed by the roots and underground stems and this will solve your problem.

Q: I had that awful fuchsia disease which infected all 12 plants in my hardy fuchsia border. Should I plant new ones in the same border or would it be better to plant dahlias? FP, Emsworth.

A: I am sorry your lovely collection was ruined by the fuchsia gall mite. It would be wise to plant dahlias or any other group of plants.

Q: I have grown Brussels sprouts called Evesham Special. The plants are dark green and about 3ft tall, but the sprouts look like baby cabbages. Can we eat them? More importantly, how do I grow proper sprouts? HM, Farlington.

A: Yes, the blown sprouts will taste good, but better sprouts will be enjoyed if you change the variety to an F1 hybrid. Don’t sow them too early. April is ideal and never plant closer than two-and-a-half feet apart each way. Planting too close is another reason for a poor crop.

JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

Set up seed potato tubers in trays somewhere light and frost-free. They need to be able to shoot. Egg trays inside seed trays are ideal to use because the tubers won’t fall over. You should see tiny buds so set the tubers so these buds are uppermost. Look at the tubers occasionally in case some are upside down. Remember, the shoots need to be in the light because if planted with strong shoots, the crop will be

much better.

Try to produce as much garden compost as possible so it can be used as a top dressing when earthing up potatoes in summer. See if you can find some stables with manure available. If you are short of space leave the manure in bags so it can rot down. Mixed with compost from the compost heap. This is another good material to use to earth up potatoes and can also reduce potato scab which causes marks on the new potatoes.

If you usually buy flowers and vegetables as plugs this is the best time to place your order because they are dealt with chronologically. By ordering early you can be assured of receiving what you want rather than being offered a substitute.

Each week we are now enjoying 15 extra minutes of light in the evening. It may seen cold but there is more strength in the sunshine and this is reflected in the garden.

Ease the soil around bulbs and spring bedding to help new foliage emerge with ease. A hand fork isideal for this job.

Take dead leaves off the base of Christmas rose (helleborus) plants and scatter sharp sand around the plant to prevent the blooms being splashed with mud.

Make sure birds have clean water every day.

Have you bought some wild bird food? If you did, then you are enjoying these delightful visitors who look forward to visiting your garden.

Got a question for Brian? E-mail him via features@thenews.co.uk.