Brian Kidd answers your questions and suggests jobs for the coming week

A white-flowered campanula.
A white-flowered campanula.
Councillor Gwen Blackett alongside the tree planted in her name.

Picture: Sarah Standing

Havant’s longest-serving councillor is honoured with a tree for 43 years of service

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this week’s posers for Brian...

Q: Can you identify the enclosed plant. It arrived in my daughter’s garden at Portchester and looks exotic with green berries. PS, Gosport.

A: This is caper spurge and has arrived in bird droppings. It is sometimes found in wild bird food. The sap is poisonous and will cause a skin rash. Do not eat the seeds. Remove the plant from the garden and take it to the tip.

Q: I bought a white-flowered campanula. After it finished flowering I cut it back and replanted it. The new flowers are blue. Did the nursery treat it with chemicals to make it white? JB, Old Portsmouth.

A: No. Campanula hybrids are not always stable. They often revert to the colour of the parent plant. The ‘natural’ colour is blue.

Q: You suggest pruning bottle brush shrubs as soon as they finish flowering. Can they be cut back even further? BH, Locks Heath.

A: Yes. Cut hard back leaving leaves on every shoot. Drench with Maxicrop Complete plant food. Five gallons applied slowly over broken-up ground.

Q: Our ceanothus has a kind of silvery growth and shoots die back. FRCT, Cosham.

A: It’s starving. Cut out all dead wood. Soak the ground with several gallons of water adding Maxicrop Complete. Apply a second dose over the foliage with a rose on the can. Now use an entire bag of John Innes No3 over the ground to a depth of 2-3 inches. Water afterwards with a rose on the can.

JOBS FOR THE COMING WEEK

Plant out spring hearting cabbages in rows two feet apart with the plants only nine inches apart. Every other one can be thinned out over winter to provide fresh greens.

Have you seen the sternbergia bulbs in packets at garden centres? These gems look like golden crocus but flower in the autumn. There’s still time to find some. Outdoor amaryllis and colchicum bulbs are also in at garden centres. These will flower in the autumn.

When digging potatoes, cut the haulms down to four inches. Remove all weeds. This saves a lot of time. Put the haulms into a wheelbarrow. The less they are thrown around the less chance there is of spreading potato blight.

Have a look around to see where you can get some manure. Leave it in bags until November when it will be ready to dig in.

Keep a sharp eye out for scorching on the lower leaves of runner bean plants caused by red spider mite. Spray with liquid insecticide containing pyrethrum during the late evening to control this pest. It is essential to spray the backs of the leaves as that is where the pests are hiding. If you are an organic gardener, pyrethrum is organic as it is made out of chrysanthemeum flowers.

Go out into the garden an hour after darkness and take a torch. You’ll be surprised how many slugs are out there. You know what to do. Don’t chuck them over the wall. They will come back.

If you struggle with clay soil, a raised bed will help. On a vegetable area they are a boon but in an ornamental garden log rolls are often forgotten which is a pity because if the clay can be covered with bags of compost it is far easier to manage the garden. Log rolls give flexibility and attractive curved lines look better than straight ones.

Buy some grass seed to oversow patches, Put 1lb of seed to 10lbs of seed compost in a black polythene bag and leave for a week. After rain, any time between now and the middle of September, prick over the lawn and scatter on the grass seed compost . The germinating seeds fall into the holes.

got a question for brian? e-mail him via features@thenews.co.uk