This week’s readers’ questions
Q: I have a rose called Gertrude Jekyll which has a wonderful perfume. It is in a container of John Innes compost. It has never been pruned. Some say prune, others say no, but it has become straggly. DK, Southsea.
A: Take the rose out of the pot, remove all the old compost and after cleaning the pot, replant it in John Innes No3 compost and prune each shoot down to three buds. Also, put three little feet underneath the pot so worms can’t get into the compost. Roses benefit from repotting every year and this is what commercial growers do to produce good quality blooms in greenhouses.
Q: Can you tell me what has gone wrong with my umbrella plant (cyperus alternifolius) . The leaves are yellowing and eventually become brown. This has only happened since we moved house. We keep it well watered as they adore water. LJ, North End.
A: Cut the entire plant right down so there’s only an inch on each stem and repot it into John Innes No3 compost. The plant has been attacked by red spider mites. Once it begins to grow again, feed it once every three weeks with Maxicrop general purpose plant food and it will become a nice dark green colour.
Q: I have three gerberas in my greenhouse and the foliage is going brown on the outer leaves? BM, Bosham
A: Knock the plants out of the pots, remove the outer leaves and carefully remove some of the old compost and repot in the same, washed, pot using fresh John Innes No3 compost.
Remove dead leaves from the base of Christmas rose plants to ensure the plant looks glamorous. Scatter sharp sand around the clump to prevent mud splashes spoiling the flowers and foliage. It will help keep slugs away.
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 six-inch covering of soil. Scatter 2oz per yard run of blood fish and bone 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 plants as they appear. This will ensure you have a crop of potatoes with smooth skins. To each barrowload of compost, add 1lb of sulphate of potash and mix it really thoroughly. Potash kills slugs that try to eat the new tubers and 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 Weedol 2. 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 garden centres. Buy them if you can keep them warm and take cuttings 3in long in a few weeks. 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.
Have you tried to buy some snowdrops in the green? This is the time to plant them while they are in leaf. Plant them as a drift.
Some of the early daffs are finishing flowering. Remove the dead flowers and seed heads. This will cause 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.
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.
Got a question for Brian? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org