This week’s questions from readers
Q: We have just been allocated an allotment and want to grow cauliflower – some which are not too large and ones which can be cut over a long period. What fertiliser is best? H and LH, Waterlooville.
A: Try Snowball. The curds are about the size of a saucer. Sow 12 seeds now and another dozen about four weeks later and continue to sow more each month. But do not sow this variety after May. Cauliflower grows well in firm soil and the best fertiliser is chicken manure pellets.
Q: Can you tell me what these roots are? I have masses of them in my new garden. I have never had a garden before. SL, Wickham.
A: These roots are from bindweed, an unwelcome weed. Dig out as much as you can and don’t plant any permanent plants until you get rid of this weed. In summer, if you see this climber emerging, spray the foliage with Roundup and repeat until it has been killed off. Check it isn’t coming in from next door too.
Q: We bought 12 wonderful orange polyanthus plants last autumn and planted them in a large tub. They have flowered all winter. Can they be split to make more plants? AL, Havant.
A: Wait until they have finished flowering and fork them out. Split them into two plants from each original and screw off all the leaves. Replant in rich soil, enhanced with fish, blood and bone fertiliser and try to keep them in partial shade all summer. Keep moist but don’t drench them. Plant out in October or November.
WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK...
It’s more than likely your grass needs cutting. If the grass is wet, drag a stiff broom behind you all over the lawn, this will make the drops of water on the leaves fall on to the ground. Leave it for an hour and then mow. The grass will be easier to cut and this will transform the garden. The lawn is like an outdoor carpet. If it looks good, the garden is enhanced. Try to cut the lawn regularly this year. Short grass takes less time to cut than long grass.
Early carrots can be sown outdoors now. Prepare the ground by digging over the soil but DON’T put in any manure or compost. Ten days before sowing the seeds, rake in 2-3oz of blood, fish and bone fertiliser and rake it into the soil. Sow early varieties such as Early Nantes and immediately cover the row with insect barrier mesh. Hoops made of plastic water piping two metres long with thin wood pushed into the ends of the piping make a kind of tunnel. Cover the hoops with the insect barrier mesh. This will stop carrot root fly from laying eggs in the rows. Insect barrier mesh is available from Waterlooville Allotments’ Association at the trading hut in Forest End, Waterlooville. It is less than £2 a yard and is two yards wide. You must be a member but it is not expensive to join. Open on Saturdays and Sundays, 10am until 11.30am.
Plant onion sets now. A lot of gardeners will have done this already. Before planting the sets, put the baby ones into a brown paper bag, add some sulphur dust and shake the bag to cover the sets with the dust. This is a simple way of preventing onion rot.
Herbaceous plants are starting to grow and this is the time to divide them and weed the border. After forking through, apply a really good feed such as Vitax Q4 fertiliser using 4oz per square yard and fork this in around the plants.
Support herbaceous plants in good time. Sprays of hazel pushed in around the outsides of all the clumps will support the new growth. The appearance of the border doesn’t look good but the plants grow so rapidly in a month’s time the hazel sprays won’t be seen. If you visit Wisley gardens, you will see the gardeners there have already undertaken this job.
In the greenhouse plant some freesia corms. Plant five around the edge of a 5in-diameter pot and push in hazel sprays around the edge of the pot to support the foliage. Just imagine, the perfume in 14 weeks.
Sow just 12 seeds of lettuce in the cold greenhouse. Be patient by sowing just one seed in single insert cells. These will be ready to plant outdoors in six weeks.
Sow seeds in the same way for Brussels sprouts, choosing early varieities, Please try F1 hybrids if you have not been successful with other types. The F1 hybrid types don’t ‘blow’ into open sprouts like the older varieties.
Buy seed of curly kale. This is the tastiest winter cabbage and looks good on the dinner plate because it is a lovely dark green, and it’s good for you. Sow the seeds in two weeks.
Sow seed of beetroot, just a short row. These can be sown at any time from now until the end of June.
Got a question for Brian? E-mail him via firstname.lastname@example.org.