BRIAN KIDD: Readers' horticultural problems and jobs for the Easter weekend

Our gardening expert delves into his inbox to answer your questions

Friday, 14th April 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:52 pm
A triumph. Wallflower Golden Bedder

Q: I have 12ft-long border about a foot wide. The wallflowers Golden Bedder suggested by you last autumn are in full bloom and I will plant more next autumn. This border is in hot sun all summer and I need plants which don’t need constant watering. What would you suggest?
KN, Southsea.

A: Geraniums (pelargoniums). Just keep removing the dead flowers and they will bloom until winter.

Q: Can you tell me how to get rid of ‘mind your own business’?
SR, Portchester.

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A: Wearing tight disposable gloves make lots of holes in the base of a paint tin with a handle. Be patient and make the holes with a five-inch nail. Pour in sulphate of iron but only a couple of cups full. Shake the tin over the weed and overnight it will turn black and die. You will miss some, so repeat the procedure. Do it again on any surviving areas. Use the method again. Change your shoes before going indoors as carpets will be stained.

Q: I planted a eucalyptus and a photinia in a border which is on a slope and the ground is chalky. The leaves on both specimens are very pale and I would appreciate your advice please. SF, Peel Common.

A: Fork over the area to a depth of 4in and drench the soil very slowly with four gallons of Maxicrop Complete liquid plant food. I repeat, this must be done slowly. Buy a 25g bag of John Innes compost and put an even layer over the area using the entire bag. Keep this compost moist and both plants will be transformed in three months. This treatment will cost about £11.

Q: I only have a tiny garden but would like to grow strawberry plants in a 16in diameter hanging basket. How many plants and which compost please? KF, Hayling island.

A: Plant five an equal distance apart around the edge, not through the sides and one in the centre. Use John Innes No3 compost and liquid feed using Maxicrop for tomatoes as soon as they commence flowering. No slugs to worry about but look out for blackbirds! You will be eating strawberries from mid-June until the middle of July.


•Hardy annuals such as godetia, pot marigolds and cornflowers can be sown directly in the soil for a quick display. Sow pinches of seed about a foot apart. In five weeks prick them out where gaps can be seen. A nice job for children because these flowers bloom quickly.

•Evergreen shrubs can be moved now. Many evergreens become scorched if they are moved during winter. Spray the foliage once a day to keep the leaves turgid rather than keeping the soil too wet.

•Prune forsythia and other spring-flowering shrubs once they’ve flowered. Pull back an outer branch to see where dead flowers are. Look down to where there is side growth and cut the stem down to it. Repeat all around the shrub.

•Lots of people have magnolias which are far too large and it seems a pity to prune them. Take the bull by the horns and prune back as hard as you wish as soon as they finish blooming. Aim to create a neat-looking tree. You will then have blooms next spring.

•Plant water lilies or split existing ones. When planting into baskets, use loam and cover the top with a layer of grit. This helps prevent too much soil leaving the surface of the container and prevents the water becoming polluted.

•Sow seeds of primulas which are grown in greenhouses. Try some primula malacoides or primula Kewensis. Primula obconica is another beautiful plant but some folk are allergic to the hairs on the leaves. The others don’t cause this problem. Sow all primula seeds in the light, they don’t germinate in darkness.

•Plant dahlia tubers outdoors but be prepared to cover the shoots as they grow above the soil level otherwise a late frost will cause the rapidly growing shoots to become blackened.

•There are some lovely clematis plants at garden centres and nurseries ready to plant in the garden. Plant in well-prepared ground 2in deeper than the surface in the pot. Try to find a 12in-long piece of plastic down pipe to put over the stem and press the end of the pipe into the soil to a depth of two inches. This reduces the possibility of clematis wilt by more than 75 per cent.

•Remove the dead leaves around the bases of bearded iris plants to enhance the overall appearance of the plant which is admired not only for the flower but the foliage too. It looks wonderful alongside all forms of hosta.

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