Brian Kidd helps two grandchildren join hands around a yew tree...

Will the grandchildren be able to hold hands around this yew?
Will the grandchildren be able to hold hands around this yew?
Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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... and finds plenty of work for you in the coming week

Q: About 15 years ago our grandchildren planted a yew tree seedling. It is now 10ft high. The branches are getting in the way and we would like to prune it so it looks like a green pillar. It may sound silly, but we would like to prune it so the two grandchildren can put their arms around it and hold hands. JF, Rowlands Castle.

A: What a good idea! Buy a pruning saw. Cut back every branch to the shape you need. Take out the top too. The tree will send out shoots in the summer. Use shears or an electric hedge cutter to create the column over the next couple of summers.

Q: I have an old shed with a tiled roof. Trouble is, moss grows like mad on the tiles and blackbirds keep pecking it off. I have slipped on the moss on the paths. Is there a way of keeping moss off the shed roof? KF, Widley.

A: Use a spring rake to sweep off most of the moss. Then buy copper piping, one pipe on top of each side of the roof held in place with pipe fixings. Rain will land on the pipes and after a short time will starve the moss. It will die and no new moss will appear.

Q: I tried to buy Cheshunt mixture which I have used for many years to prevent seedlings damping off, but was told it has been withdrawn. What can I use instead? FPL, Denmead.

A: You will find green drums of Copper Mixture at garden centres. Use one-and-a-half grams in four litres of water. Make up the mixture, put it in a plastic bowl. Allow the seed compost in the containers to soak up the solution.

Q: We have a grand magnolia and would like to root a cutting to give to our daughter for her new garden. I understand this shrub can be layered into the ground NC, Southsea.

A: Layering is undertaken in March. Find a branch which will be easy to fix into the soil. Fork over the soil and add a couple of cups of sharp sand where the layer is to be pegged down. Use a sharp knife and slit half way through the branch about four inches from the tip and try to slit through 2 nodes (leaf joints). Keep the wound open with a matchstick. Use two pieces of wreath wire bent over like hairpins to peg the tip into the soil. Keep moist. Roots will appear after 10 weeks but leave until autumn before severing the new plant.


Try to hand weed through strawberry plants. Use a kneeler and put the weeds into a bucket. The ground is very compacted because of the wet weather. Easing the soil with a hand fork will introduce air and the plants will start growing earlier. This will speed fruiting.

Did you get the motor mower serviced? If not, in another six weeks you will have to wait ages to get it done. If you can’t be bothered, at least start the engine to see if is working after all the damp weather. The same apples to rotavators. If one won’t go, buy a new spark plug. A new plug is the heart of an engine.

Put your bag of seed sowing compost into the greenhouse. It is amazing how it will warm up ready for seed sowing a few days later.

Buy some Copper Mixture. You will find it at your garden centre in green plastic containers. You’ll then have some ready to prevent potato and tomato blight. In June, when you need it, the garden centres will have sold it all.

Buy some seeds of Salad Bowl lettuce for sowing indoors in early April.

This is an excellent time to plant new roses. Prepare the soil well and if the soil is poor, invest in a bag of shrub planting compost. You will need the equivalent of a gallon bucket of compost for each new rose bush.

If you grow ornamental grasses, some Still look attractive because they are the evergreen types but some are past their best and look brown. Cut those which are brown down to the base. Leave just an inch of stem and then fork over the soil. A scattering of grit over the surface will make this spot look more attractive.

If you lifted a clump or rhubarb roots just before Christmas and it is still out there lying on the soil, place it into a black polythene sack and pop it into the bottom of the airing cupboard or underneath the greenhouse staging. The lovely red stems which emerge will be tasty in about a month.

Nerine bulbs can be divided now. These great favourites spread quite quickly and tend to be ingnored. This is the time to divide the clumps and plant them elsewhere in the garden.

If you can retain 50F in your greenhouse, you might like to sow some dwarf French beans and once large enough, plant them into pots. These will crop well in the greenhouse next June.

Peas sown in insert cells in the cold greenhouse five weeks ago will be ready to plant outdoors now. Prepare the soil and, if possible, cover the ground with some temporary cloches to warm it up and it will also help the soil to dry out too. Obtain some hazel sprays to hold the pea foliage together and protect the new plants from pigeons otherwise they will be devoured in just a couple of days.

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