BRIAN KIDD: Your problems solved and jobs to be getting on with

Pittosporum tenuifolium

Pittosporum tenuifolium

Polyanthus: dig them up when they finish blooming.

BRIAN KIDD: on how to save polyanthus and potted roses

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This week’s postbag

Q: We’ve taken out a row of Leyland conifers. We need an evergreen which is fast-growing to get a screen for privacy. H and LP, Horndean.

A: Pittosporum tenuifolium. You should find large specimens in garden centres. Plant large ones three feet apart; small, two feet apart. Pittosporum can be trimmed with an electric hedge trimmer and will be good in wet areas.

Q: We have a large clump of Japanese knotweed. My friend says you know how to get rid of it. John, Whiteley.

A: Cut back every shoot leaving four inches of stem on each. Fill each tube with diluted Roundup weedkiller. This travels through the plant including underground stems. The weed will not re-emerge. You need a lot of patience to treat every tube. Get this job done before frost knocks back the knotweed.

Q: I grow roses in large pots. They’ve been in the same pots for at least three years. Despite feeding they were not so good this year. I don’t want to put them in larger pots. What feed would you suggest? JF, Southsea.

A: Roses in pots grow well when fed and pruned but after a couple of years the trace elements are washed from the compost. There’s no need to use larger pots. Knock every one out and remove all compost. Wash the pots. Let them dry and replant in John Innes No3 compost but buy a large bag of sharp sand and add one pot of sharp sand to five pots of compost. Mix well. Prune hard once repotted. Start feeding with Maxicrop Complete liquid plant food once a month starting in April but stop in September. This is what the commercial growers do.

Q: I followed your advice and used grass seed in compost to over-sow three patches on my lawn. Well done Brian, the new grass is about four inches high. It has been too wet to cut the lawn, but the new grass is spoiling the appearance of the lawn. Any suggestions? GL, Highbury,

A: Glad it worked. Use sharp shears and simply cut back the new grass by half its length.

JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

• If you want to get outside, clean the inside of the greenhouse. Wash the glass with Flash floor cleaner. This mops up red spider eggs too. Give the staging a clean. The last job is the floor. If it’s soil, just sweep it up. Is the heater working and have you bought paraffin for the oil heater?

• Sort empty flower pots. Let them soak in washing-up water. Scrub them, allow them to dry and sort them into the correct sizes. Do a few each day.

• Scour seed catalogues. Some seed houses offer discounts for early orders.

• Plan a few changes in the garden and plan what you would like to complete before the end of winter. Make a list and cross off the jobs once they are completed.

• Sow seeds of early peas in insert cells, about three or four to each. They need no heat. Keep them in a protected spot, a cold frame is a good place, but protect from mice which will eat the lot in 48 hours. If sown directly into the soil, they are even more prone to mice.

• Make an appointment to have the mower serviced. It’s quiet at workshops at this time of year.

• Cut down runner bean vines. When digging the ground, chop up the knobbly roots. They are full of nitrogen and are as good as manure when rotting down. Clean runner bean sticks and make a cradle to keep them dry and off the ground. This will prolong their usefulness.

• Sow broad bean seeds. The variety Aqua Dulce Claudia germinates well if sown now. Protect the seeds – crows, squirrels and pigeons will eat them.

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