Our gardening expert solves your problems and has a list of jobs for you this weekend
Q: I bought an orchid for 50p as it was nearly dead. I’ve watered it and a rosette of new leaves has grown. There are lots of tiny flies coming out of the compost. What can I do? GN, North End.
A: Take the plant out of the pot and wash the old compost off the root. You may see tiny white worms of sciarid fly. Wash these away. Re- pot in moist orchid compost after washing the pot. Plenty of light but not direct sun.
Q: I like reading your articles on allotments and have had one for a year. I grow new vegetable varieties but often they are not productive. I want to sow peas in cells. Which variety would you suggest? V H Fareham.
A: I have had the same experience. Not all new varieties are brilliant. I have gone back to Feltham First as I had the best crop in June and no maggots. I’ll sow them in the third week in November.
Q: My dad used to collect seaweed from the beach at Eastney and I thought I would do the same because his vegetables were marvellous. The tenant on the plot next to me tells me not to use it on potatoes. What do you think? FL, Eastney.
A: Potatoes do not like salt in the ground but if you wash the salt off the seaweed there will be no problem. It is best used when allowed to rot for three months. If you allow this amount of time there is no need to wash it. The seaweed can also be put in layers in a compost heap. Bear in mind, Maxicrop is a wonderful liquid fertiliser and is made from seaweed.
Q: We have just moved and there is a 10ft high hedge which hides an industrial building. We don’t want to take out this hedge but I am going to keep it at this height and have bought a telescopic hedgecutter which will trim the top. We both love colourful seasonal plants and we are planning to grow dahlias under the hedge next summer. What can we plant now for a spectacular display next spring? H and LU, Fratton.
A: Your letter has been abbreviated but dahlias will be brilliant as long as you give them plenty of water and Maxicrop Complete liquid feed next summer. If you plant wallflowers called Golden Bedder eight inches apart in three rows you will enjoy a wonderful array of sunshine next spring. You will love them because they enjoy dry ground and grow well in sun or shade.
JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
• Plant garlic as long as you live here in the south. Split the bulbs into segments called pips and plant them in well-drained ground where manure was incorporated last year.
• Sow seeds of Virginian stocks or night-scented stocks at the front of a border. These are hardy and will provide short plants about eight inches tall with small beautifully-perfumed flowers next summer.
• Save egg cartons so when seed potatoes are ready to be set up you will have plenty of containers in which to keep them upright. Seed potatoes will be in garden centres in January.
• Clean the glass on the outside of the greenhouse. There are glass cleaners especially for this job. Flash, the floor cleaner, also does a good job. • Put up polythene bubble insulation in the greenhouse. Choose a dull day to prevent becoming too hot or being uncomfortable because of the sun in your eyes. Plastic fixings can be purchased for this job, made especially for metal glasshouses, but drawing pins and cardboard squares can be used in wooden structures.
• Remove weeds from alpine plants and afterwards top dress the soil surface with stone chippings. This prevents heart rots and keeps mud off the foliage.
• Buy seeds of fragrant exhibition sweet peas. They are often sown in November by serious growers. You will see if they are perfumed. It will say so on the seed packet. Exhibition types have long stems.
• Cut off leaves on wallflowers which have powdery mildew. Don’t leave the pieces lying around.
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