BRIAN KIDD: ...on orchids, digging and a cabbage called Duncan

Orchid - thriving ones can be divided now.
Orchid - thriving ones can be divided now.
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Our gardening expert answers your questions and suggests jobs for the week ahead

Q: My little boy planted an apple pip in a pot of compost five years ago on his birthday. We’ve had just one huge apple and I cut it into four so we could all enjoy it. It is in a two-gallon bucket of good compost. Can we keep it in this as we only have a tiny garden?

A: I enjoyed your letter and pleased your son was rewarded with an apple. Yes, it can be kept in this container, but a container half as big again would be better. Take the tree out of the bucket, remove all compost and repot it in John Innes No3 adding 20 per cent sharp sand. You will have more fruit next year. I have sent your little boy a diagram of how to prune his lovely little tree. Well done.

Q: I have an orchid which has been flowering for months. There is a shoot alongside the main plant. Can I split the plant? BW, Waterlooville.

A: Buy a pack of orchid compost and a transparent pot and split the plant now. You’ll find where to make the cut if you shake off the old compost. Pot each part in the new compost and water with rain water. Keep both plants in the same situation because the original plant is thriving.

Q: Your idea of growing Duncan cabbage is brilliant and I grow them in troughs through the year. They are attacked by slugs and I go out in the dark and kill them. How can I stop them getting into my containers? HF, Cosham.

A: Good news! You will find copper strips with sharp teeth at Keydell Nurseries. Fix them with push-in pins along the tops of the containers leaving no gaps. Slugs cannot crawl across copper strips. I am going to buy some wooden laths and am going to make an edging around my next planting of Duncan.

Q: We planted gladioli corms last April in groups of five in our border, one of your ideas and they were beautiful. We have dug them out and every one has a large orange lump with 2 corms on each of the tops. Do we plant the whole clump as they are? J and PL, Widley.

A: Remove each of the corms and throw away the orange part. You will have another good show next year. Keep them in a rat-proof, dry, frost-free place all winter.


o This is an excellent time to book the mower in for a service. If done now it will be back in three weeks. Leave it until the spring and the grass will be growing like mad while you wait for the job to be done.Thin out autumn-sown carrots. Earth the soil up over the bases to prevent the tops becoming green. Keep the crop covered with insect barrier mesh because carrot root fly is on the wing again.

o Sow autumn-sown varieties of broad beans. It is essential the right ones are sown. Aqua Dulce types are suitable. Sow single seeds in insert cells for best results. Plant out when the seedlings are two inches tall.

o Take old leaves off rhubarb now. Use them between a layer of mowings in the compost bin. They help it break down at this time of year.

o How are you progressing with the winter digging? Just saying...

o Shall we leave fallen leaves on the lawn or pick them up? If you love your lawn you will pick them up regularly.

o If you usually put leaves in a wire mesh cage, line the inside with old compost bags making sure the black colour of the bags is facing the garden – it looks smarter. This lining of polythene keeps the leaves moist and speeds decomposition.

o Buy some tulips. These are best planted in late November when fewer slugs are around. Get hold of some sharp sand to put into the planting holes. This reduces slug damage.

o Make sure anything which is going on to the bonfire is kept dry to reduce the amount of smoke. PLEASE check there are no hedgehogs underneath the bonfire. Thank you.

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