This week’s postbag
Q: My cacti look very dusty and the compost they are in looks worn out. I know they don’t need very much in the way of feeding and they are best kept on the dry side, that’s why I am so successful with them, they thrive on neglect.
Any idea how to remove the dust? I live in a flat with central heating so can’t take them outside, too many stairs! AK, Southsea.
A: If you have a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment, put on the fine nozzle used to clean . This will do the trick. If you want to repot the cacti buy some cactus compost. This is a good time to get on with it.
Q: Last year I grew some orange peppers from seed on a windowsill and they produced some peppers about half the size of those you see in the supermarket. I have sown more and they have germinated. After potting on, can they be put outside in the garden and are they edible? HM, Drayton.
A: They will grow well in a warm place outside, but it would be a good idea to put some glass over the top of them and they will then provide a better crop. Tall glass cloches can be home-made and needn’t look a mess!
Q: Can you suggest a powdered form of fertiliser foxes won’t eat?I have been using blood, fish and bone and it seems to encourage more visits by foxes. PB, Portchester.
A: I don’t use Growmore as there are much better fertilisers these days, but Growmore doesn’t attract foxes... and it’s cheap.
Q: My boronia in the conservatory appears to be dying. Can you advise me what to do please? Also, the buddlieas in the garden are too tall and need to be pruned. When should this be done. I don’t want to disturb the blackbirds and robins who are nesting. MC, Cosham.
A: Carefully remove the boronia from the pot to see if it is producing white roots. If it is, it’s going to be all right. Check there are no vine weevils, creamy white grubs about a quarter of an inch long. There may be several, so hook them out. Check there isn’t a worm in the compost. If there is, use a hat pin to locate it. It will soon pop out when pricked! Cut off the dead parts down to live buds or green leaves. Keep it on the dry side but spray over the stems and leaves with rain water. Keep out of hot sun and it should recover.
Wait until the fledglings have flown, then cut the buddleias back. You can take off two feet or more and they will still flower in mid to late summer.
Q: My winter-flowering pansies were a disaster but I took your advice and bought some sharp sand from Purbrook Allotment Association. It’s been scattered over the top of the flower bed about an inch deep. What a worthwhile job. They are growing well and I love the blue one. There’s only one of that colour. Can I take some cuttings? BS, Purbrook.
A: Yes, take cuttings in June. By that time the plants will have expanded to their full size and there will be lots of cuttings. Root them in a 50-50mix of sharp sand and leafmould or peat. Put them in a shallow box with a sheet of glass over the top in the shade. They will root in four to five weeks. Once rooted, pot each one into a 3in pot in John Innes No2 compost and give them space and lots of light but not hot sun and they will be wonderful to plant in October.
JOBS FOR THE WEEK
Things quickly get out of hand at this time. Try to keep weeds under control while they are small. When hoeing, pick up all the weed seedlings because heavy overnight dew causes them to root again.
n Plant main crop potatoes 15in between the tubers and at least 2ft between rows. If you have an allotment, try to leave a wider gap between each double row so it is easier to spray the crop with copper mixture in mid-June to prevent potato blight.
n Sow runner bean seeds indoors using one seed to each cell of insert trays. Look for the 24 cell size which fits into a standard seed tray. Some manufacturers produce the cells in modules of 12 cells. You will need two of these to fit into a standard seed tray. Remember, you don’t need to have a vegetable garden because runner beans on a wigwam of canes look beautiful in a flower garden too. Bear in mind the plants are not planted outdoors until mid-May.
n Rake a piece of pre-dug ground deeply and spread 3-4oz of blood fish and bone per square yard over the raked surface. Then rake again ensuring the fertiliser is well mixed into the soil. This will prevent foxes digging the ground. Sow main crop carrot seed but cover the row with insect barrier mesh to prevent carrot root fly from laying eggs alongside the seedlings.
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