Brian Kidd on chicken feathers and composting with urine

Readers' questions and jobs for the week

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 4th June 2016, 6:00 am
Mini cucumbers.
Mini cucumbers.

Q: I bought a box of tomatoes from our supermarket, but when cut open one of the fruits had fine hairs on the pips. I did not take them back because I found it fascinating. Can you explain what has happened? SP, Chichester.

A: I have had letters about this from readers who grow tomatoes. The seeds inside the tomato have sent out roots. If you plant them they will develop into plants.

Q: I love growing cucumbers and am usually successful, but what do you think of the half-sized fruits? Can you recommend one? JF, Bedhampton.

A: I only grow half-sized ones – two in a growing bag. The variety we grow is Picolino F1 hybrid – Johnson’s seeds from Keydell Nurseries, Horndean. If they have all gone, look for any Petita type F1 hybrids. They are all excellent and easy to grow. Feed once a week with Maxicrop Complete plant food. I get at least 20 fruits from each plant. They grow best in hot humid conditions and are wonderful in a polytunnel.

Q: Are chicken feathers useful in the garden? LM, Hambledon.

A: Yes, as a layer in the compost heap.

Q: Is there a secret to growing cauliflowers? Mine have never been good. I don’t want huge curds, just a decent-sized, good crop. GD, Fareham.

A: Grow seeds of Snowball, a small-headed cauli. Sow them now. Use pelleted chicken fertiliser, a cupful forked into the ground under every plant, but fork it into a six-inch diameter area as it’s powerful.


Q: Some time ago you wrote about growing swedes in cells. Can they be sown now? It seems to be a bit late. HV, Hedge End.

A: Try to sow them this week, one seeds in each cell and plant them out once the cells are full of roots, I am going to sow mine tomorrow!


Be prepared! Buy copper mixture to prevent potato and tomato blight. Spray when the weather feels humid and repeat after rain.

Tomatoes can now be planted in the open garden. Try to avoid windy spots. If it’s possible to give them a little protection, this is a good idea.

Keep the hoe going, especially while weeds are small. Put them on the compost heap. They make a good layer between grass mowings.

When putting those clippings on the compost heap, don’t forget to sprinkle on one part urine to seven parts water after each box of mowings and try to cover the top of the heap to keep in the warmth. This helps destroy grass seeds.

Sow a few more runner beans to follow those already planted and don’t forget there’s a place in every garden for runner beans, one of the most attractive climbing plants.

Continue to sow short rows of beetroot, spring onions, radish and lettuce, just a few seeds every fortnight. You don’t need 300 lettuce!

Plant marrows out of doors now. Dig a bucket of well-rotted compost or manure into the soil, put a 4ft cane alongside the plant and you will be able to water the plant at the root. As the leaves grow so large, you can’t see where the water has to go.

If you have a huge geranium in the greenhouse pop it into the garden border and take some cuttings in August. This will give you a bit more space in the greenhouse and the old girl will flower really well outside all summer.

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