Our gardening expert answers your queries
Q: I run a children’s play group and want to get the youngsters to grow vegetables that they can start off indoors. What would you suggest?
A: Children like to see things happen quickly, so plant some runner bean seeds. I have sent you details about growing the seeds so that the children can see how they swell, along with instructions on how to grow them in growing bags.
Q: We are going to move in April and I intend to take some of my shrubs to our new garden. Any ideas would be welcome.
A: Start the moving as soon as you can. Dig out the shrubs you are planning to move and put them into large pots. Use loamless compost when filling the pots and keep the roots moist. If you do this, replanting can be done at any time to suit you both. Gardening is the last thing you need to worry about when moving home!
Q: Last week I bought a beautiful Christmas tree in a pot from a DIY place, but don’t want to plant this into my small garden because the tree will be too tall. What would you suggest please?
A: If you keep it in the pot, it will keep falling over every time the wind blows. The best idea is to buy a pot one size larger than the one the tree is in and bury the new pot into the ground.
Put the potted one into the sunken pot. Water regularly and give it a feed of Maxicrop liquid feed once a month from April until September. When you need to bring the tree indoors for Christmas, twist the pot to sever the roots. After Christmas put it back into the sunken pot again.
Q: My dad tells me to put the blood from our meat joint onto the soil near our Clematis. What do you think about this?
A: Good idea. Blood is a kind of fertiliser and encourages good strong growth.
JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
• Remove the dead leaves from the base of Christmas rose plants to ensure the plant looks glamorous. Scattering sharp sand around the clump will prevent mud splashes spoiling the flowers and foliage as well as helping to keep slugs away.
• Have you tried to buy some snowdrops ‘in the green’? This is the time to plant them, while they are still in leaf.
• Some of the early daffs are just finishing flowering. Remove the dead flowers and seed heads. This will allow the foliage to die back naturally and will build up the bulbs for next spring.
• Scatter a cheap fertiliser such as Growmore over the area where the daffs are growing. This is the best time to give them a feed.
• Try to plant a row of early potatoes, as long as the soil allows you to do this job. the tubers need to have a covering of soil, six inches deep over the top. Scatter 2oz per yard run of blood fish and bone meal along the rows and when the tubers are planted, simply finish by leaving a ridge over the top of the row.
• Save as much compost as possible to top dress the plants as they appear. This will ensure you have a crop of potatoes with smooth skins. To each barrow load of compost, add 1lb of Sulphate of potash and mix it really thoroughly, Potash kills slugs that try to eat the new tubers and this fertiliser adds flavour to the new potatoes.
• Where weeds are growing on the soil you so patiently dug over, lay down a plank and lightly spray the weeds with ready to spray Weedol. If you do this on a sunny day, it will work within three days. Don’t allow this product to drift on any cultivated plants because it will kill them.
• Little fuchsia plants and hanging basket surfinia petunias are arriving at the garden centres. Buy them if you can keep the plants warm and then take cuttings three inches long in a few weeks time. This can save a lot of money.
• Sow seeds of all types of annuals in the greenhouse but it’s too early to sow French and African marigolds and zinnias – these are not sown until early April because they grow very rapidly. You need the space for items such as lobelia, begonias and petunias which grow far more slowly.
• Don’t forget, the birds appreciate clean water every day. They have found their mate and will be making nests and need the water to make the finishing touches to the inside of the nest.