Our gardening expert answers your horticultural queries
Q: My wife likes green-seeded broad beans because they look nicer when served. I used to sow grey-seeded Aqua Dulce in autumn but my allotment friends say the green ones will not survive the winter. Is this true? HR, Copnor.
A: Yes, your friends are right. Green seeded broad beans are sown in March. If the weather is very cold sow single seeds in cells. Keep reading The News each week and I will keep you up to date.
Q: I’ve been cracking walnuts and wonder if one would grow if I planted it and how long before we were able to eat our own? KO, Crookhorn
A: Gently open the shell and put the nut into any compost in a pot with a label. The nut will germinate in early April and can be planted once the pot is full of roots. Give it space as in 25 years it will be 25 feet high with a similar spread. Nuts will be borne after 10 years.
Q: We both love a tree called the sumac. Trouble is, it sends out suckers. How can I stop them? HF, Denmead.
A: Cut off the tops of the suckers and paint every wound with hormone rooting powder. This will make the shoots produce roots. Anther idea is to plant one in a large container. I agree with you, they are beautiful shrubs with marvellous colouring in autumn.
Q: My indoor hoya climber has lots of leaves, but the ones at the base are turning yellow. What should I do? SK, Eastney.
A: I have made your letter a lot shorter but thank you for all the detail. It simply needs a good feed. You are growing it in a nice warm room so use Maxicrop Complete liquid plant food once a month using the medium strength, Start this straight away. Stop next September but start again the following April. You will be amazed.
Q: Please will you write about raised beds? GD, Fareham (on clay).
A: I will write an article about this in a couple of weeks.
JOBS FOR THE COMING WEEK
•The soil is wet but exhibitors will need to sow parsnip seeds soon. Fork the soil which should have been dug deeply in the autumn, but NOT manured. Cover the rows with cloches to let the surface dry. This will also warm the soil a little ready to sow parsnips at the end of January. You must buy fresh seed as last year’s will not germinate well.
Parsnip seeds may be germinated in a jam jar in damp vermiculite. As soon as roots emerge, sow into the open ground warmed as suggested above.
•If you’re planning to sow a few seeds in the greenhouse, ensure the propagator is turned on for 24 hours before sowing. Remember too, a greenhouse can be kept warmer by dividing it into smaller areas using bubble wrap.
•If you need to move shrubs, trees or roses, remember there are only six weeks left to undertake these moves. You would be surprised at how many letters I get asking if shrubs can be moved when the leaves are opening.
•Leave planks of wood on the soil once it has been dug. Turn over the wood over once a week and squash the slugs which love to hide below the wood. This will reduce slug damage problem considerably. In small gardens, use upturned half-grapefruit skins and inspect these daily. Kill the slugs by giving them the size eight treatment!
•Are your secateurs really sharp? It might be a good idea to put that garden centre token towards a new pair.
•Have you thought how useful a soil-warming cable could be? Have a look in garden centres and you will see on the box how easy it is to install one.
•Does the mower need servicing? There is a three-week wait at the moment, so don’t leave this job until spring. If you are confident your mower is OK, start it up once a month so none of the parts seize up in the damp. Start up the rotovator too.
•If it’s windy when digging, always work with your face to the wind. This prevents bad backs.
•Got a question for Brian? Click here to drop him a line.