Brian Kidd delives into manure...

Ensure your horse manure rots down well.

Ensure your horse manure rots down well.

The dreaded blackspot on roses is back with a vengeance

BRIAN KIDD: Let battle commence – with the curse of the black spot

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... and comes up with work for the week ahead

Q: We have manure delivered to our allotment. There are very few solid pieces of dung, the rest is wood chip. Should I use it? JD, Waterlooville.

A: Barrow some and add to your compost heap. Or put it in old compost bags, leave for six months then dig into the ground. If fresh wood chips are dug in a lot of nitrogen is absorbed from the soil to break them down.

Q: I grew potatoes and this root was growing through them. What is it and how do I get rid of it? RG, Fareham.

A: Thanks for sending the potato tuber with the root through it. This is couch grass. Dig over the soil and remove all the roots. Don’t use a rotovator because this will chop up the rhizomes and make matters worse. When forking out the roots, take your time and do it when the soil dries out a bit.

Q: My polyanthus are wonderful. Will I still have blooms at Easter? My family are coming from Australia and I want my garden to look good. HL, Cosham.

A: I don’t think I’ve ever seen polyanthus looking so attractive at this time of year. Just take off the dead flowers regularly and lightly fork over the soil’s surface occasionally.

Q: My rhubarb has 9in high shoots and I’ve already used some. I want to keep pulling a few each week but how can I prevent it being ruined by frost and snow?

A: Excellent. Buy a bag of well-rotted manure and carefully cover the soil. Use an old dustbin to cover the crop. Remove it when you want to pull stems.

JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

Holly seeds can be sown now. Squeeze the berries on to a piece of card and after a week, the seeds can be picked out of the squashed flesh and sown in a seed tray of seed compost. They need no heat, simply put them outdoors somewhere out of the way of cats and if kept moist the seeds will germinate in April. Holly makes a vicious hedge. Only one seeedling in 10 will produce berries. If you don’t want to sow the seeds, push the stems of the holly used for winter decoration into the soil in a border and the blackbirds will soon eat the berries.

Save mistletoe seeds. Simply rub the sticky seeds on to a branch of an apple, hawthorn, lime or alder tree. I have tried lots of times but nothing has happened!

Prick over the soil where spring-flowering bedding plants such as polyanthus,forget-me-nots and winter-flowering pansies were planted. This will encourage a good root action because the surface compaction will be broken.

Try to get on with digging and manuring where potatoes, peas and beans will be planted.

Make a note of the additional minutes of light we are now experiencing. Put a note in the gardening diary of plants which are looking good. It’s good to read what happened now in a few years.

Sow exhibition onions from seeds in a propagator.

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

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