This week’s readers’ questions
Q: How do we kill ivy which covers one side of our two-storey house. Would it be best to employ a contractor? TMK, Fareham.
A: A difficult one. If you are elderly, get a contractor to remove it. It’s important to get him to scrape off the roots or they will look awful for years. After all of it has been removed the stumps must be treated with SBK brushwood killer to stop re-growth. Apply to all the cuts as soon as the ivy has been cut down. Any re-growth will need to be treated. SBK is effective on leaves and cuts in stems, but it does not work on soil.
Q: I bought three lavatera Barnsley Baby and they are in pots. Will they survive the winter outside or would they be better in my greenhouse? When should they be pruned? VD, Hayling Island.
A: This variety is hardy in open ground but tender in pots particularly if the compost freezes for a week or more. Keep them in the greenhouse. Prune as soon as they finish flowering next year, but at this time just lightly trim them, removing any dead twigs. In winter take off every dead leaf to prevent fungal disease.
Q: I have a 20-year-old hydrangea which should be a beautiful pink, but after a couple of months the heads turn a horrible grey. Please can you tell me how to get it back to pink again? Sylvia, Cosham.
A: Scatter 2oz of sulphate of potash around the outside of the hydrangea. Fork it in and water afterwards. Do this now. In April use fish blood and bone fertiliser using 4oz around the shrub. Again water it in. It simply needs these feeds.
Q: My huge lawn is very disappointing and full of weeds. I am nearly 80 and can keep it cut with my ride-on mower but the weeds, particularly buttercups are creeping into the borders. Your advice would be helpful. LD, Horndean.
A: I have sent you details of an excellent specialist who deals with lawn problems. Your lawn will need four treatments a year and you will be surprised at the low cost. No more worries and no more buttercups!
JOBS FOR THE WEEK
- Check the greenhouse heater to ensure it is in working order.
- Keep deadheading dahlias and remove the two little buds alongside each of the centre buds to ensure blooms have long stems.
- Keep picking over dead flowers and leaves in the greenhouse to prevent fungal problems.
- Water indoor plants less frequently. Touch the compost and water only when the surface feels dry.
- Try to do some winter digging. Incorporate manure or compost where potatoes, peas and beans are to be planted.
- Remove yellowing leaves on Brussels sprouts. Keep the ground firm and use canes to support the plants if you garden in a windy area.
- Prick the soil over around spring hearting cabbages and hand-pick caterpillars or dust with ant powder if you can’t find the pests.
- Sort out strawberry beds. If the plants are old you’ll find replacements at garden centres. Why not buy a strawberry barrel? No more weeding through the strawberry bed. Use John Innes No3 compost for a strawberry barrel. Loamless is not suitable.
- Pick up fallen leaves and put them into large former compost bags turned inside out so you are looking at black bags. Use one part urine to seven parts water each time you put in a 12in layer. of leaves. Close the top of the bag and put a piece of paving stone over the top. This makes leaf mould in a year.
- Hand-weed between wallflowers because chickweed soon smothers them. Chickweed grows very fast indeed in October because it is absorbing nitrogen from the soil. Nitrogen is the element that makes plants grow and the chickweed prevents nitrogen from being washed into the subsoil. Chickweed is full of nitrogen therefore it is a good idea to compost it as long as it isn’t in flower. If in flower, the seeds form when in the compost bin and will grow again when the compost is used as a top dressing.
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