BRIAN KIDD: on diseased fuchsias and with tips for the week ahead

Fuchsia gall mite
Fuchsia gall mite
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This week’s readers’ posers

Q: My fuchsia is looking unhealthy and the flowers are not opening. The buds look a bit like tiny cauliflowers. What has gone wrong and should I keep the plant? AC, Cowplain.

A: Sadly the specimen you sent is suffering with fuchsia gall mite. It is important to remove it and if possible burn the plant. There was a product we could buy to kill the pest, but it is no longer available. If you buy a replacement next year plant it in a different part of the garden.

Q: One of the stems on our forsythia has a flat stem near the top of the shrub. It is quite normal below this flat part and we only noticed this when the leaves started to fall off. Will this kill the stem? What is causing it and what should we do? K and P, Horndean.

A: This is called fasciation and is caused by insects such as leaf hoppers and shield bugs. Both suck sap from young stems. It is not a serious problem. Simply cut off the affected area with sharp secateurs and remove it from your garden.

Q: We planted a lavender in an area which is wet all winter. It flowered very well and I made 32 lovely little lavender bags which I am going to give to the Rocky Appeal at QA Hospital. When would be the best time to move it to a drier part of the garden? HV, Denmead.

A: Do this right now and as soon as you have replanted it cut back all the stems by a third and you will have even more flowers next year. Lavender hates wet ground.

Q: I saw some reels of copper tape at Keydell Nurseries and read the instructions and it is made to keep slugs off plants. Have you tried this and would it stop slugs spoiling my hosta? DMP, Fareham.

A: Yes, I have used this and if you spend time installing it you will be very pleased. The best time to use it is in April just as the new buds are appearing above the soil. Copper tape gives slugs a kind of electric shock. It does not kill them but keeps them away from the hosta. People are growing hostas in pots to prevent slug damage. This is a good idea and a band of copper tape fixed half was up the outside of the pot will be very effective and a copper pot scourer instead of crocks in the bottom of the pot makes the hosta slug proof!

JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

- Keep cutting the grass. It’s much easier if done regularly. If the grass is too wet, drag a stiff broom behind you over the surface. This makes water droplets fall on to the soil. An hour later the grass is easier to cut.

- if you are intending to treat wooden garden furniture with a preservative to restore its quality, choose the correct product. Ensure the wood is dry before using any preservative otherwise moisture is locked in.

- Buy fragrant long-stemmed exhibition sweet pea seeds to sow next month. They are more expensive, but if you love perfumed sweet peas it’s worth paying a bit more.

- Get hedges trimmed before cold winds arrive. This will be the last trim required this year – hoorah!

- Keep mentioning to your wife’s best friend that an electric hedge trimmer would be a good idea. Your wife might buy you one for Christmas.

- Take more care about watering in the greenhouse. From now until spring it’s best done in the morning. Don’t splash it around as wet conditions encourage fungal problems.

- If you are going to take pelargoniums into the greenhouse to overwinter, cut them back hard and remove every leaf. Dust the cut ends with sulphur powder to prevent stem rot. This will enable you to store them closer together.

- In the greenhouse plan to keep a small area warmer by dividing the greenhouse with bubbled polythene sheeting.

- Try to get some more digging done. It’s is a good idea to complete the winter digging before Christmas - I wish I could.

- Plant a horse chestnut conker and a walnut in a pot and next year plant it somewhere so that the children in 30 years time can get the nuts without breaking windows. I did this 20 years ago at Hilsea Lines alongside Peronne Road bridge on the embankment and the walnut trees look wonderful.

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