Questions, answers and tasks

Earwig damage to a dahlia

Earwig damage to a dahlia

Now's the time to give your heathers some TLC so they will thrive next year

BRIAN KIDD: Spruce up your heathers now to cheer your garden in winter

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Brian replies to your horticultural queries

I took your advice in The News and planted lots of dahlias. I’m delighted. A few of the flowers look as if they have been nibbled around the edges (pictured). What is doing this? Chris, Denmead.

Earwigs. Push in short sticks at the plant’s base. Put newspaper into flower pots. Now put the pots over the sticks. Each morning open the paper on smooth paving and squash the earwigs with a size 10.

Our winter flowering witch hazel has lots of new growth but is getting out of shape. Can I prune it now? JD, Cowplain.

Yes, now – and you’ll have lots of flowers next winter. Prune all the new soft wood back by half the length on every branch.

Is there a product which kills blanket weed but won’t harm fish? KS, Cosham.

There is a safe one based on citric acid – Stop Blanket Weed. Remove as much as you can then dissolve the product in water and apply with a watering can.

I bought some lovely blue winter pansies and although they struggled in the wet winter, I took your advice and tickled over the surface of the compost. This transformed them. Can I keep them for next year? HF, Anchorage Park.

Yes. Trim the foliage once the flowers have finished, leaving only half-an-inch on every stem. Feed them Maxicrop Complete plant food afterwards and you’ll see all the new growth. A great money saver.

Jobs for the coming week

Watch out for leaf curling, particularly on plums and cherries. Beneath the leaves are hundreds of aphids. Cut off the infected tips, put the prunings in a bucket and the pests won’t escape. Now spray the trees with liquid aphid killer. Avoid drifting, it kills fish. Spray in the evening when the sun is off the trees.

Transplant sweet William seedlings to rows 18in apart. If you forgot to sow the seeds, do it now.

Tie in dahlia stems. On large varieties, three canes may be better than one. Dahlia foliage is heavy after rain.

Keep dead-heading all flowering plants to keep blooms coming.

Bend new shoots on climbing and rambling roses so they form arch-like appearances. This ensures blooms will form on the sides of the shoots, not just the top.

Feed sweet peas with Maxicrop Complete feed and remove every seed pod to keep them flowering longer.

Thin apples and plums so none of the fruits touch each other, spray afterwards with Bordeaux mixture to prevent brown rot on plums.

Sow seeds of winter turnips and large rooted radish for winter soups

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