This week’s postbag
Q: I have several large pots and would like to grow vegetables which look attractive. What would you suggest and which compost would be best? HD, Fratton.
A: In a small space grow vegetables you really enjoy. Don’t experiment with things like Chinese cabbage. Easy, attractive vegetables are curly kale, shallots, radish, spring onions, salad bowl lettuce and dwarf French beans. Use seed compost when sowing and John Innes No3 in the large pots, but add sharp sand to keep the compost open.
Q: We have an area on the edge of our herbaceous border which is always wet, even in summer. We had this area inspected as we thought there might be a leak in a water pipe but this isn’t possible. Can you suggest a perennial about two feet tall which would grow here please. A red flower would be perfect. GD, Rowlands Castle.
A: Lobelia cardinalis Queen Victoria. This is about two feet tall with dark red foliage and bright red flowers. You will find it on sale in about a month’s time at about £5 per pot. I would not be without this gem.
Q: Can you tell me what has gone wrong with my Brussels sprouts? The roots are swollen with lumps. JP, Havant.
A: Thanks for sending the sample. This is a disease called club root. The old controls are no longer available. Change the place where they are to be grown this year. I have sent you a letter explaining how you can sterilise the ground using a hand-held gas weedkilling wand. Seems a crazy idea, but I have used this on my allotment.
JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
Ensure birds have clean drinking water. They are making their nests and need water and mud to line them.
If you have space, tomato plants may be planted in the greenhouse in growing bags. Only three in a bag. A bottomless 10in-diameter pot placed over the top of the hole made in the bag for the plant and filled with compost is a good idea because it makes correct watering a lot easier.
Have some horticultural fleece handy just in case we have a nasty frost because severe frosts will penetrate the glass if there is no heat in the glasshouse.
Sow seeds in the greenhouse of rapid-growing plants such as French marigolds and zinnias.
Take some of the hardier bedding plants such as alyssum and lobelia out into a cold frame but cover the top with carpet if frosts are forecast. Always listen to the weather forecasts and act on them.
Sow seeds outdoors of beetroot, mid-season Brussels sprouts and late cauliflower.
Earth up early potatoes using well-rotted compost and water the plants regularly to avoid potato scab. Moist soil helps prevent potato scab.
Watch out for greenfly on roses and blackfly on broad beans. Use aphid control liquid in the late evenings to control these pests.
Got a question for Brian? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.