BRIAN KIDD: Curse of couch grass

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BRIAN KIDD: A swathe of colour for deep shade underneath a hedge

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Our gardening expert tackles your horticultural problems and comes up with a list of jobs – yes, even for this time of the year!

Q: I've had an allotment for 14 months and didn’t realise how much time is required to keep it up together. The weeds! I have nearly got rid of the couch grass. About three-quarters of the plot is now clean. I was in a hurry to plant three new gooseberry bushes and they are smothered in couch grass. I want to replant them where I have dug out the couch grass but how can I get rid of it in the gooseberry bushes? JD, Fareham.

A: This is the best time to do this job. Dig out each bush, remove all the soil from the roots and the couch grass will come out in the soil. Keep the roots moist if it’s windy. Having removed all the couch, replant in a clean area. This action will not effect next summer's crop.

Q: I have been told not to put potato peelings in my compost bin. FN, Rowlands Castle.

A: Don't put potato peelings in a compost bin if you are going to dig the compost into ground for growing potatoes. Peelings are fine when the compost's for flower beds. You're risking small potato disease which devastates the crop and is difficult to control.

Q: My nan gave me a leaf from her mouse tail plant when I stayed with her during the last week of July. I put it into a pot in my daddy's compost and the leaf has grown quite large but there is only just the leaf. I wondered what was going on and very carefully lifted the leaf out of the pot with a dinner fork and there are lots of roots coming out of a brown lump about the size of a 5p piece. How can I get more leaves please? My mummy told me to ask you. Kevin, aged nine, Emsworth.

A: Dear Kevin, I am really pleased that you wrote to me. Thank you. If you ask your mummy to use a razor blade to make an X cut about two millimetres deep across the top of the lump which is called a callous you will see some leaves popping up in about three or four weeks.

Q: I work on reception locally and often buy flowers to put on my desk. I would prefer to buy a nice plant instead because the flowers don’t last long. At night the office is cold but the lights are always on. Can you suggest a nice flowering plant which is in a pot and tell me how long it will last? KB, Cosham.

A: I don’t often get letters from posh offices! I would suggest you buy an azalea. You will be able to find one with just a few flowers with lots of unopened flower buds. As long as you keep it watered the flowers will keep emerging for up to three months. As soon as a flower turns brown remove i. Please remember to keep it watered..

Q: We have just taken an allotment at Waterlooville and there is a tenant who puts yogurt pots over the tops of the bamboo canes on his plot. We have not seen him to ask why he does this. Any ideas? C and I, Waterlooville.

A: This is a good idea. The pots prevent damage to the face and eyes from the top of the canes.

JOBS FOR THE COMING WEEK

– Paths are slippery at this time. Try to clear leaves because you may slip if wet. If moss is making them slippery, water on Brintons patio cleaner diluted in water. This kills the moss. After watering the path, leave the solution for about an hour before brushing off the moss with a stout broom.

– Our lawns are still very wet. It would be wise to insert a garden fork into the turf to the full depth of the tines. Then scatter sharp sand over the lawn's surface. Brush this gently into the grass and this will prevent slipping.

– Thank goodness most of the leaves have fallen. It's been a mammoth task picking them up. If you have not done this, rake them up with the wind blowing towards the heap you are gathering. Once there's enough to gather, grab them and put them into old potting compost bags so they will rot and become leaf mould. Sprinkle on one part urine to seven parts water, the best activator and it’s free!

– At the allotment, because of the wet weather, some of the Brussels sprout buttons look as if they have rotted. Leave those which still look a bit green because after Christmas, they will burst open to form what looks like little cabbages. It’s a bit fiddly preparing them in the kitchen, but these can be very useful to eat and the leaves taste as good as spring cabbage.

– If you enjoy growing lettuce in a cold greenhouse, another batch of winter lettuce can be sown now for harvesting in March. Look for the variety Rosetta, produced by Suttons seeds.

– A horrible job but as soon as all the leaves have fallen, this is the time to clean out the garden pond. Water lilies can be divided now. You will need to do this if you found their leaves grew long stems which were nine inches over the top of the surface of the water. How do I know this? I’ve got to sort out ours!

– This is a very good time to think about changes in the garden, as we are all a day older than we were yesterday. What changes would make the garden easier to look after? Do you need that flower bed in the middle of the lawn? Why not move the bird bath into a border? Have a look, think about it.

Got a question for Brian? Click here and fire away.