Questions, answers and jobs for the coming week

No way out
No way out
Zonal pelargoniums - without rust

BRIAN KIDD: Rusty pelargoniums? Here’s what to do

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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

There are several bunches of flowers on my apple tree. Is this unusual and will the flowers produce fruits? JD, Fareham.

This happens from time to time and is caused by the very mild weather. Sadly the flowers will not produce fruit.

I have been raising plants from seed by planting them in cells, but mice eat peas and beans. How can I protect them? GD, Waterlooville.

Put a plank of wood on top of two buckets and place the cells in the seed trays on the plank. Mice can’t climb up the sides of the buckets (pictured).

We have a huge gooseberry bush with lots of dead wood but the fruits were larger than a 10p and they were red. One of the branches has rooted into the ground. It’s about two feet long with a mass of roots. Do you think this branch will have those huge fruits? A and DF, Horndean.

Yes, the branch which has rooted will have those lovely large fruits. Plant it in an area where you can train it into a fan shape.

Which of the ornamental grasses has to be cut down to the ground at this time of year? GP, Portchester.

Generally the evergreen types are not pruned until spring. Those which turn brown are cut down at this time of year, but if you look at those growing in the central reservation of the main road into Portsmouth at Mile End, the brown and buff stems with flowers look amazing.

Having taken out the tomato plants in my greenhouse I now have a lot of green tomatoes. How can I get them to ripen? LR, Cosham.

Wrap them singly in a piece of newspaper and put them into a chest of drawers. Put a banana in the top drawer and look at the fruits about once a week. Those in the lower drawers will take a bit longer to ripen. You may have some for Christmas. My mum and dad used this method when I was a little boy and it was fun looking for ripe tomatoes for Sunday tea.

JOBS FOR THE WEEK

Sow early broad beans. The hardy Aqua Dulcie Claudia is one of the best. Avoid slug damage by sowing one seed in each cell of an insert tray.

Plant rhubarb. Early Timperley is the earliest but Victoria is the lovely red-stemmed variety. Existing rhubarb can be lifted and divided now.

Save rainwater for acid-loving plants you may get for Christmas.

Buy shallot bulbs . Good gardeners plant them on the shortest day. Shallots’ young leaves taste better than spring onions.

When planting tulip bulbs cut up a quarter of a shallot and put it on top of the bulb. This disguises the smell of the tulip and keeps squirrels away.

Christmas presents for gardeners? Azaleas, heathers, poinsettia, orchids in pots. Stainless steel tools. A soil warming cable. And ladies PLEASE – we blokes don’t want socks, handkerchiefs and after shave. Women buy after shave for men so that they have something for a raffle in the New Year.