Our gardening guru tries to solve your horticultural conundrums
Q: I have been feeding the plants in the garden this morning and have used three different foods: blood, fish and bone for the roses: Tomorite for the tomatoes and general purpose for everything else. The last two are higher in potassium than phosphorus. Am I using the right food for the right plant, or can I use just one food for everything? My small garden comprises mainly tomatoes, hydrangeas, roses, dahlias, hostas and pieris, mostly in pots.Elizabeth Snow, Emsworth.
A: You are doing everything correctly. Fish blood and bone is excellent for all shrubby and woody plants in the open garden. Tomorite is exactly what is needed for potted plants and tomatoes. If the weather is hot, use Maxicrop Complete on tomatoes as this ensures good red fruits with no green lumps inside. This is known as greenback. Tomatoes need less potash in very hot weather.
Q: Sparrows are knocking off the flowers on my runner beans and can you recommend a pen to be used on labels with ink that won’t fade or wash off? BS, Chichester.
A: To keep the sparrows away make the shape of a cat lying down. Paint it black with a white spot and put marbles where the eyes should be. Place this on the ground half hidden by the bean leaves. Move it every day. The best marker pen is Write 4 All. WH Smith stocks it and the ink lettering lasts for years. I use it all the time.
Q: I want to compliment you on recommending the lettuce called Salad Bowl. I sowed mine in April and have been cutting the leaves almost every day. Sally, Boarhunt.
A: I am very pleased you enjoy this lettuce Sally. Other readers may like to know the seeds can be sown now and will be ready to cut off using scissors in September. Lettuce cheers up autumn sandwiches.
Q: I grow a cherry tree in a fruit cage but the branches have gone through the net. I would appreciate your advice please. JD, Wickham.
A: The same thing has happened to my cherry. Bang in some angle irons and fix a bar across the top to make what looks like a goal. The branches are flexible. Bend them down to the cross bar with strong twine in hoops so that the twine doesn’t restrict the sap flow in the branches, You will have to cut the netting off the branches. Replace the roof net with 2in plastic mesh which is not too expensive. This will keep the birds out but allow the bees to pollinate the flowers next spring.
Q: Are the seedlings enclosed primula seedlings? I found them in my friend’s former bog garden which looked beautiful and very much hope they are primulas. HD, Cowplain.
A: Yes, they are primula seedlings and I have sent them back to you. They arrived in perfect condition. I am glad you love primulas. Pam and I grow a lot of different varieties.
TASKS FOR THE COMING WEEK
If you would like something beautifully rare, look out for sternbergia bulbs. I mentioned this twice in last year’s gardening features and there were none to be found anywhere locally, so get hold of some before they all go. They love a sunny top with a shaded root. A five-inch high yellow crocus-style flower appears. They are smashing!
Take cuttings of pinks and carnations five inches long. Trim off all the leaves apart from the top seven and insert them into a 50/50 mixture of sharp sand and vermiculite. Water them with a half-strength feed of Maxicrop Growth Stimulant. It’s amazing how this encourages easy rooting.
Disbud dahlia bloom buds every few days to encourage flowers on longer stems.
Tie in chrysanthemums so they grow long stems with blooms.
Divide or move peonies now. When replanting, ensure the tops of the rhizomes (thick roots) are on the soil’s surface. If planted too deeply, they won’t produce flowers. If you don’t want to move or divide them, scrape away the surface of the soil below the foliage so you can see the tops of the rhizomes. They will then flower next summer.
Only water essential things. It’s wasteful to spray foliage. If the ground is dry, water the soil in the most important places. Put a bucket underneath hanging baskets to catch surplus water.
Buy a potted plant of Michaelmas daisies. They will look wonderful during the autumn.
Please put water out for the birds.
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