Storm damage? Brian Kidd comes up with a wise tip for a snapped trunk and suggests jobs for the coming week

Raised beds
Raised beds
he South East In Bloom judges visited the Fareham area where they concluded their tour with a visit to Ferneham Hall. From left: Fiona Phillips, Stuart Lees and The Mayor of Fareham Councillor Geoff Fazackarley     
Picture Ian Hargreaves  (170760-1)

South East in Bloom judges praise standard of gardens in Fareham area

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Q: I was inspired by your article about raised beds and because my garden soil is solid clay have bought 4in-wide boards two metres long and have made a raised bed. I would like to grow salad plants which will provide me with food during the summer. What would you suggest? HV, Fareham.

Q: I was inspired by your article about raised beds and because my garden soil is solid clay have bought 4in-wide boards two metres long and have made a raised bed. I would like to grow salad plants which will provide me with food during the summer. What would you suggest? HV, Fareham.

A: Fork over the clay soil and then use bags of potting compost over the top. Plant beetroot, spring onions and another salad plant but instead of planting ordinary lettuce, buy seeds of lettuce Salad Bowl. This variety has curly leaves and scissors are used to cut the foliage on a regular basis all summer so the plants never run to flower.

Q: A few weeks ago one of our trees snapped leaving a trunk 6ft high. I have measured round the top of the trunk and it is exactly two feet. I was going to ask what type of plant I could use to cover the trunk, but my wife told me you might have another idea. DL, Horndean.

A: Congratulations on clearing the results of the storm. You could get an expert with a chain saw to carve a feature out of the trunk, an owl perhaps. Go on line and you will find the information.

Q: Can I sow my runner bean seeds in my cold greenhouse now and when shall I plant them into the garden? G D North End,

A: Sow the seeds now and plant out after May 21, a week later for those who live ‘over the hill’.

Q: My mower didn’t start so I put in a new spark plug. Good idea, thanks Brian. ND, Hilsea.

A: I am very pleased it worked.

Q: Can I sow my runner bean seeds in my cold greenhouse now and when shall I plant them into the garden? GD, North End,

A: Sow the seeds now and plant out after May 21, a week later for those who live ‘over the hill’.

Q: I get totally confused about pruning clematis. I have a red flowering one which you recommended called Rebecca. It has lots of new green shoots but masses of dead thin stems. How do I prune it? CM, Cosham.

A: This is a beautiful variety. Take your time when pruning this one and do it now. Take hold of one green shoot at a time and look to see where it started to grow. Cut out the dead stems which will be seen where the green shoot started to grow. Once the first one is treated do the same all over the shrub. If you cut off a live one, don’t worry, there are plenty more. Give it a liquid feed of Maxicrop Complete food after pruning.

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK

Hardy annuals such as godetia, pot marigolds and cornflowers (many others too) can be sown directly into the soil for a quick display. Plant pinches of seed about 12in apart. In five weeks prick them out where gaps can be seen. A nice job for children as these bloom quickly.

Move evergreen shrubs now. It might seem too late but many evergreens become scorched if they are moved during winter. Spray the foliage once a day to keep the leaves turgid rather than keeping the soil too wet.

Prune forsythia and other spring-flowering shrubs when the flowers finish blooming. If this seems daunting, pull back an outer branch. You will see where the dead flowers are. Look down to where there is side growth and cut the stem right down to that point. Pull another branch towards you and do the same all around the shrub.

Plant water lillies or split existing ones. When planting in baskets, use loam and cover the top with grit which stops too much soil leaving the surface of the container and prevents the water becoming polluted.

Sow primula seeds to grow in the greenhouse. Try primula malacoides or primula kewensis. Primula obconica is also beautiful but some folk are allergic to the hairs on the leaves, the others don’t cause this problem. Sow them in the light. They won’t germinate in darkness.

Plant dahlia tubers outdoors but be prepared to cover the shoots as they grow above the soil level otherwise frost will cause the rapidly growing shoots to become blackened.

There are some lovely clematis plants at garden centres and nurseries ready to plant in the garden. Plant them in well-prepared ground two inches deeper than the surface in the pot. Try to find a 12in-long piece of plastic downpipe to put over the stem and press the end of the pipe into the soil to a depth of 2in. This reduces the possibility of clematis wilt by more than 75 per cent.

Remove the dead leaves around the bases of bearded iris plants. This will enhance the overall appearance of the plant which is admired not only for the flower but also the foliage. It looks wonderful alongside all forms of hosta.

Got a question for Brian? E-mail him here.