Our horticultural expert delves into his inbox to solve your gardening problems and has a list of jobs which should be tackled this week.
Q: I have never been able to grow Brussels sprouts because of club root disease. I sterilised the soil with boiling water but the sprouts were tiny. Is there a variety resistant to club root? IC, Fareham.
A: Yes, a variety called Crispus which has strong roots and the sprouts are large. It will be difficult to find as it's a new introduction. If you can't find it I will try to get seeds for you.
Q: I read your article about pruning roses. How can I make my climbing rose flower right down the stems? DS, Petersfield.
A: Untie the entire structure and bend the branches down so they grow horizontally. Cut back all side branches to two or three buds. They will then grow like mad and flower beautifully. Feed with fish blood and bone fertiliser, four ounces per square yard forked in and watered afterwards.
Q: My japonica is blooming but last year the flowers were hidden by new thin shoots. FM, Bedhampton.
A: Cut every thin side shoot back hard leaving an inch on each. This will ensure an excellent display of flowers and even more next spring. Repeat every year.
Q: When can I cut back my penstemons? FP, Rowlands Castle.
A: This can be done right now but choose a pleasant day and when the ground is not frosted or too wet.
Q: I saw a lovely cold frame made from wood and fine corrugated plastic and was tempted as I like to harden off my plants before they go into the garden. What do you think? DA, Portchester.
A: Thank you for the leaflet. I too like to use cold frames.They are very handy when you need to over-winter tender plants too. An excellent birthday present for a good gardener!
JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
• Sow petunia seeds in a seed tray in the greenhouse. Avoid cheap bedding mixed types and try an F1 hybrid for best results. You will get bushy plants which won’t go spindly with just one bloom on the top.
• Bend over the tips of summer-fruiting raspberry canes to prevent them becoming too tall. This will increase your crop by at least 10 per cent – honestly.
• Top dress the raspberry area with a four-inch layer of well-rotted manure and an ounce of sulphate of potash over each square yard. This will enhance the taste of the fruit.
• Did you remember to cut the canes of Autumn Bliss raspberries right down to the ground? The fruit will be produced on all the new shoots which will grow like mad. Give them the manure and potash treatment too.
• Buy a new variety of dahlia each week. They are in stock but do check the height because quite a lot only grow to 18in. The heights are on the packs.
• Give greenhouse fuchsias a little more water. This is best done in the mornings so there is no surplus water lying around. As we know, it can still be very cold at night. Cuttings of fuchsia may be taken once the growths have seven leaves.
• Did you remember to start up any garden machinery so you know it’s OK after all the damp weather? Remember too, a new spark plug is a great help if the thing won’t start.
• Bring bags of seed-sowing compost into the greenhouse so the compost isn’t cold when seed-sowing starts. Remember too, if it’s cold use polythene to divide up the greenhouse so it is possible to keep a smaller area warmer with a little heater.
• Outdoor grape vines need to be pruned as soon as possible. Keep the main stems but prune every side shoot to buds as close to the main stem as possible. Top dress the area around the vine with well-rotted manure.
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