Brian Kidd on blind daffodils and soot

Daffodil Jet Fire.
Daffodil Jet Fire.
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This week’s readers’ questions

Q: I have grown a daffodil called Jet Fire for many years and it always flowered well, but this year there were no blooms. Why? DMS, Milton.

A: The main reason is that the leaves were pulled off while they were green. Give them a feed using rose fertiliser, Vitax or Growmore and don’t cut off the leaves. This is a really lovely short daffodil with an orange trumpet. Buy more bulbs in the autumn and plant them in a different place just in case the originals do bloom.

Q: I was interested in your reply to a reader who asked about using soot in the garden. My dad used it in water but I don’t know how much to put in a two- gallon can of water. He used to water all the vegetables with it. LB, Cosham.

A: Use one level tablespoon in two gallons of water. Use it on the soil, not on the leaves. If you want to keep celery clear of slugs and leaf miner, use two level teaspoons of soot in two gallons of water and use this all over the plants once a week when the sun is not on the foliage.

Q: I planted peas in a small tunnel at the allotment. I have only just got the allotment but wanted to make an early start. I am concerned there are no bees to pollinate the flowers. Have I made a stupid error? CM, Waterlooville.

A: I am really pleased you have an allotment and a small polytunnel. Don’t worry, peas are self-pollinating and don’t need any help from bees.

Q: I bought a dozen strawberry plants and was going to put them in pots but heard they are grown in growing bags by commercial growers. How many plants to a growing bag please? DM, Horndean.

A: Six plants to each growing bag. Place the bag where the crop is to be grown and cut out the top leaving an inch of polythene in the centre and a shoulder around the edge to prevent the compost pouring over the edge when watering. Feed once a week with Maxicrop Complete liquid fertiliser for three weeks then change to Maxicrop For Tomatoes once a week. Pollinate the flowers with an artist’s paint brush otherwise there will be no fruits,

Q: I have had a lovely camellia for at least 20 years and it has always flowered well, but this spring, after the wettest one on record, I have only had about three flowers on the plant. Can you tell me whether this is because it is waterlogged or could there be some other reason, please? Maggi Bridgman

A: Camellias love plenty of water but excessive water causes potash in the ground to drain away. The best thing to do is to give it sulphate of potash using a tea cupfull sprinkled around the canopy of the shrub and lightly forked into the soil. Do this now and repeat during the first week in September.


Take advantage of any dry spell to plant maincrop potatoes. Ensure the tubers are covered with at least five inches of soil. Scatter blood fish and bone fertiliser along the rows using 3oz per yard run and work it into the surface. Finish by leaving a ridge of soil over the rows. When earthing up, try to use sieved compost, but to each barrowload of compost add 1 lb of sulphate of potash well mixed with the compost. This reduces slug damage really effectively. The potash burns the slugs.

Ground dug over in autumn may now be smothered with chickweed and other rapidly-growing annual weeds. Walk on a plank and spray the weeds with Weedol 2. This will kill them in a few days but needs to be done before the weeds come into flower. Try to do it on a sunny day for the most rapid results and don’t allow the drift to touch cultivated plants,­ especially the neighbours’!

Antirrhinum, lobelia and stocks already pricked out into seed trays can be put outside now because they are fairly hardy. Have some fleece ready to cover them if the nights are cold.

Buy seeds of perennials. Most gardeners sow perennials in early May in seed trays in the greenhouse.

Think about fixing an automatic ventilator in the roof light in the greenhouse. They can be really useful, especially when you are on holiday.

Watch out for sudden hot spells. Plants in the greenhouse quickly scorch in hot sunshine. Have sheets of newspaper ready to cover them. This is very effective and free.

Take the red bracts off the tips of poinsettias now and cut back each stem by a third. The cuts will exude a white liquid which is poisonous. Use toilet tissue to mop it up and wash hands afterwards. The plant can be potted into the next size pot into John Innes No2 compost. Water it the day before repotting.

Canterbury bells are lovely plants and this is the time to sow eeds for blooms next year.

Remove dead flowers and seed heads on daffs and tulips.

Spray roses with Roseclear 2 to prevent disease.

Got a question for Brian? E-mail him here.