BRIAN KIDD... on dirty water and rare bulbs

Echium - they love the Isle of Wight and... Portchester
Echium - they love the Isle of Wight and... Portchester
Now is the time to get to grips with your strawberry bed.

BRIAN KIDD: Strawberry fields forever – but renew them every three years

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Our gardening expert answers your questions and suggests jobs for the weekend

Q: At the allotment we use water from tanks and my sprayer blocks up. My wife said you would have the answer, but I said you would think it a silly question and we wouldn’t get a reply.
BS, Copnor

A: I try to answer all questions and there’s no such thing as a silly question. I too have to use water from a butt. I use a fine plastic tea strainer on top of the sprayer and carefully fill the sprayer. Any bits are caught in the strainer. After spraying, wash the sprayer with sieved water because there are often crystals left in the bottom of the sprayer.

Q: At Ventnor Botanic Gardens I saw plants about 15ft high. I’d like to grow one in a hot sunny spot in my garden. What is this plant called? H and T, Portchester.

A: This wonderful plant is called echium and you will be able to buy one at Ventnor for £4.50. I telephoned the garden and they have set one aside for you. It will flower next year and will be an amazing plant in your garden. Incidentally several gardeners are growing this at Portchester as the climate is usually nice and warm in winter.

Q: I keep pulling out the side shoots on my greenhouse tomatoes and wondered if I could get any to root. I was amazed they rooted in just over a fortnight but my dad told me they will not produce any fruits. What do you think?

LS, Fareham.

A: Yes, they will produce fruit and quite a few gardeners are rooting side shoots to attain fruits on the cuttings in autumn when the first crop has finished, If you don’t have space in your greenhouse grow them outside in large pots and put these pots into the greenhouse during the autumn.

Q: There are brown patches on our lovely lawn. Any idea what might be causing them? HV, Horndean.

A: Leatherjacket grubs and they are eating the roots. Soak the area with water and cover it with a mat or tarpaulin for three days. Pull off the covering, a pick up the grubs and put them in a small tray so birds will eat them. Starlings and robins love them.

JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

•If you want something rare, look out for Sternbergia bulbs. I mentioned this twice last year and none could be found locally. Get hold of some before they go. They love a sunny top with a shaded root and the five-inch high yellow crocus flowers appear in autumn.

•Take cuttings of pinks and carnations five inches long. Take off all leaves apart from the top seven and put them into a 50/50 mix of sharp sand and vermiculite. Water with a half-strength feed of Maxicrop Growth Stimulant.

•Thin bunches of indoor grapes. Hopefully the last thinning of the year. Dust sulphur powder on the stems holding the fruit and use copper mixture as a dry powder on any leaves which have powdery mildew.

•Disbud dahlia bloom buds every few days to encourage flowers on longer stems.

•Tie in chrysanthemums stems so they grow long stems with blooms.

•Divide or move peonies now. When replanting, ensure the tops of the rhizomes (thick roots) are on the soil’s surface. If planted too deeply, they don’t produce flowers. If you don’t want to move or divide them, scrape away the surface of the soil below the foliage so you can see the tops of the rhizomes. They will then flower next summer.

•When watering the garden, only water essential things. It is a waste of water spraying foliage. If the ground is very dry, water the soil on the most important parts. Put a bucket underneath baskets to catch surplus water. Please put water out for the birds.

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