Brian Kidd answers your questions and suggests jobs for the coming week

Ted and Diana Carpenter's nicandra or shoo fly plant
Ted and Diana Carpenter's nicandra or shoo fly plant
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This week we start with some of your e-mailed queries and the pictures you attached which are always so handy.

Carol, from Drayton, Portsmouth, asked: ‘Please could you solve a big problem for me. I have lost two cucumber plants, three tomato plants & now my chilli plant is going the same way. I have had lots of fruit/veg on all my plants, but gradually they have started drying up.

John Bussell's burgeoning greenhouse.

John Bussell's burgeoning greenhouse.

ALL the leaves seemed to get a mottled effect on them and now the chilli plant is going the same way. It also has very fine ‘cobweb’ on the tip of most shoots. I have had no problem with insects & am completely confused. Please have you any answers?

Brian says: ‘Your greenhouse is infested with greenhouse red spider mite and you need to take immediate action.

Find an insecticide which will control this pest. You will need to go to a garden centre to find a spray containing PYRETHRUM. Take your glasses with you as the print on the bottles is very small.

Dilute the concentrate in water and use a pump spray for best results. Spray all the plants under the leaves as well as over the tops. DO THIS ON A DULL DAY.

I am sure this will resolve the problem and have no fear about using pyrethrum, it is not a powerful chemical, it is a natural product.

If you can’t find one which contains pyrethrum you will find another. Have a look at the range at Keydell Nurseries and if you are in doubt, ask a member of staff to show you the one you need.

Ted and Diana Carpenter wrote: ‘We read your page every week and wonder if you could help us identify the strange plant (pictured) we have in our garden?

We feed the birds and this plant is very near the bird feeders so we are almost sure it has germinated from one of the seeds, but which one?

We have ruled out sunflowers, nyger seeds and hemp but can’t find this one. Do you have any ideas?

Brian says: ‘This is a beautiful plant called nicandra commonly known as the shoo fly plant because it keeps flies away. Many gardeners treat this as a weed but I think it is well worth keeping. However, don’t allow the flowers to drop seeds in your garden because you will end up with dozens of seedlings next spring.

The seeds may have originated from wild bird seeds but more likely a bird has eaten the seeds from a plant a day or so ago and released the seed in its droppings on to your border.

Andy Taylor wrote: ‘I have a dreadful problem with ivy. Can you give me any hints on how to kill it. I have a fish pond close by and I can’t dig it out because its roots are not in my garden. It seems to have wandered some considerable distance and nothing seems to stop it.

Brian says: ‘SBK brushwood killer will kill ivy, you will find it in stock at Keydell Nurseries, Horndean.

Make up a solution by adding water to the product and wearing latex gloves apply the mixture using a paint brush so that every leaf is covered and in about two weeks you will see the leaves changing colour. If you use the brush method you will avoid contaminating the pond. SBK travels through the plant slowly killing it. You may need to make a further application because it is entering from outside, but you will have enough in the original container to do this. Keep it in a frost free place.

John Bussell wrotes: ‘Following your advice I purchased your favourite fertiliser and as you can see it has worked very well (cucumbers pictured). I was always told not to plant cucumbers next to tomatoes but I have never had any trouble with that. You can see the amount of cues that are now growing in my very untidy greenhouse.

Thank you for taking the time to advise an 80-year-old. Many years ago you came to Rowlands Castle judging gardens for the village fete and you remarked on the height of my runner beans. I can only reach part-way that high anymore!

Brian says: ‘It’s wonderful to see things turn out so well.’

Q: We have just moved to an old house with an overgrown garden. We intend to get rid of masses of blackberry bushes. Which chemical would be best? A and KT, Denmead.

A: Don’t use a weedkiller because the blackberries will die and you’ll be left with masses of thorns. Use an old large compost bag and put it inside a dustbin. Cut branches off the blackberry and cut up the stems which will fall in the bag. Don’t burn them. Take them to the recycling centre. Now dig out the roots. They will come out more easily with a digging fork under the roots.

Q: We have goldfish in our pond but saw Golden Orfe at an aquatic centre. Will they be OK with the goldfish? M and JP, Cosham.

A: Yes.

Q: We have got two cuttings of daphne Jaqueiline Postill to root. When can they be planted out? VL, Fareham.

A: Pot each rotted cutting into a 3in-diameter pot in any universal compost and plant them next spring when the pots are full of roots.

Q: What is wrong with my indoor cucumber plants? The leaves are crisp. FS, Rowlands Castle.

A: Glasshouse red spider mite. Spray with an insecticide containing pyrethrum – the undersides as well as the tops of the leaves and spray the surface of the compost too. Feed every other day with Maxicrop Complete plant food to ensure new growth and more cucumbers.


Don’t let the lawn be spoiled by early leaf fall. The best way to pick up a light covering of leaves is to mow the grass and the leafy bits assist the grass to compost.

With a bit of luck, this is the last time we shall have to cut hedges this year.

If you have an allotment try to get some digging done. Remove weeds and leave the soil in clods to break down. Incorporate manure for potatoes, peas and beans.

If you are on clay Warwick’s farm shop at Wickham has potting grit ideal to scatter over clay – an inch or two over the top will do the trick.

n Buy alpine plants for a cold empty greenhouse. They won’t mind a few side glass panes missing. It’s a good way to enjoy the greenhouse in winter. Better still in spring when they flower.

Have you struggled all summer with a bad mower? It won’t be long before DIY shops have special clearance offers. You can’t take your money with you, spend it and enjoy it.

Plant out Brompton stocks about eight inches apart. These bloom between spring and early summer when there is very little else in flower and they are perfumed too.

Got a query for Brian? E-mail him, with pictures if possible, via