BRIAN KIDD: Killing worms and poorly poinsettias

Our horticultural hotshot solves your problems and comes up with a list of jobs to be getting on with as March approaches.

Friday, 16th February 2018, 5:56 pm
Updated Friday, 16th February 2018, 6:03 pm
A withered poinsettia. This may not be your fault.


Q: My lawn has lots of worms and little piles of soil are spoiling the surface. When the grass is mown it looks a mess. How can I kill them? HC, Hayling Island.

A: It is not wise to kill worms but there is a solution which may take about a year. Use a quarter of an ounce of sulphate of iron per square yard applied through a fertiliser distributor walking backwards to avoid footprints on the grass. This acidifies the soil and the worms will go to a nearby border where they can continue their excellent work.

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Q: Can I use corrugated cardboard in my garden? I have a huge roll. FS, Bosham.

A: Yes, tear it into pieces and place between layers of grass clippings in the compost bin. Put a single sheet on the soil's surface where shrubs grow. Keep in place with bricks. The cardboard will rot and form humus.

Q: Woodlice are back. Any ideas? DP, Southsea.

A: Make use of them. I'm not joking. Sweep them up with a dustpan and brush and put them in your compost bin. They will break down the contents well and usually stay in the bin.

Q: I can't bend down as I am over 80. Is there any way of being able to sweep up my path and collect the sweepings without bending down? GD, Copnor.

A: I saw a chap in the car park where we do our shopping and he had a long-handled dustpan.You can buy them online. I think your letter will be appreciated by other senior readers.

Q: I want to grow some white short gladioli for my daughter's wedding in August. Where can I get them and have they got a name please? HD, Emsworth.

A: There is one which will be perfect and needs to be planted in mid-March. It is called gladioli The Bride. You should find this variety at your garden centre.


'¢ If leaves on a poinsettia have fallen, it may not be your fault. It might have been over-watered before you bought it or it was too cold where it was sold. Make the best of the red bracts at the top. Pick sprays of evergreens or pieces of conifer and stick these in the pot's compost. This makes the bracts look less naked and no one will notice what you've done!

'¢ Did you install a soil-warming cable in the greenhouse? They are cheap to run if you install a thermostat. I would not be without ours.

'¢ Germinating seedlings must have good light '“ not enough and stems become long, thin and weak. Wash greenhouse glass. Flash is ideal .When rinsing, add two tablespoons of vinegar in a gallon of the water to get rid of limescale.

'¢ Check indoor plants for whitefly. If you see any, squash them and rub off eggs on the backs of leaves. This prevents a build-up of thousands of them.

'¢ In the greenhouse, hang yellow traps just above the plants. Give the plants a gentle shake occasionally and whitefly will fly on to the sticky traps.

'¢ If you have frogs or toads in the greenhouse, they will need water so they can spawn. A sunken dustbin lid filled with water fits the bill. The rim must be at the same level as the soil level otherwise they won't be able to get in and out.

'¢ Don't leave it too late. There are only seven weeks left to move trees and shrubs.

'¢ Prune blackcurrant bushes. Remove the wood which fruited. You will see where the fruit was because there will be fine stems left behind where the fruit was last summer.

'¢ Remove the lowest side shoots on gooseberries so the fruit will grow on clear stems. This helps enormously when you are bending down picking the berries.

'¢ Prune HT and floribunda roses in the next fortnight. Cut stems back hard down to outward-pointing buds. In April give the bushes a feed using Vitax Q4 fertiliser forked in and a teaspoon of Epsom salts around each and hoe this in. Epsom salts encourages excellent leaves and reduces black spot disease.

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