BRIAN KIDD: Readers' questions and jobs for the weekend

Here's this week's posers for Brian

Saturday, 13th August 2016, 6:00 am
Sorbus aucuparia Autumn Spire

Q: I have four roses in a bed which have no leaves, but there are little fern-like growths in the joints. Other roses are okay. I have fed them all with fish blood and bone and sprayed them with Multirose, but the affected ones stay the same. Shall I keep them or replace them? PW, Copnor.

A: Sadly, the roses with the fern-like growths have been accidentally subjected to lawn weedkiller. Dig them out and plant new ones in November. Dig out a gallon bucket of the existing soil for each new rose and replace this with John Innes No3 compost. Don’t skimp. It will take a whole bag of compost for these four plants. This will prevent what is known as rose sickness in the ground.

Q: We have a sorbus aucuparia Autumn Spire. We have been growing it for two years. Last year it was perfect, but this year it flowered but soon afterwards the leaves went brown and crisp over about 50 per cent of the little tree. Can you tell us what is wrong and what to do please? I and MD Baffins.

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A: The tree has been attacked by phytopthora which is a fungal disease caused by wet winters. Trim back all the dead parts and then spray the tree with Fungus Fighter and apply about a gallon to the roots too. If you can’t find this use Copper Mixture. This is in green drums at Keydell Nurseries, Horndean. Use a heaped tablespoon in a litre of water as a spray and two tablespoons in a gallon of water applied slowly over the roots. New leaves will appear three weeks after treatment. Repeat next spring as soon as the buds break into new leaves.

Q: I bought some seeds of White Egret orchid and three germinated. One died but the others survived. One has yellow flowers, the other is pink. I have put them outside. I have written to the supplier but have had no reply yet. Can you tell me what the plants are? GE, Southsea.

A: These are seedlings of centaurea, certainly not White Egret orchids. Don’t discard them. They will flower well in a sunny border. I hope you get another packet of the seeds you ordered.

Q: I bought a small polytunnel for my fairly large garden and am amazed how hot it gets inside. There are dozens of slugs climbing up the inside and I want to get rid of them before planting. What would you advise? HV, Denmead.

A: Use tissues and wipe them off and kill them. Use Eraza slug pellets over the soil. This will kill off any in the ground. Eraza is a really good slug and snail killer and birds will not be harmed as they will not get into the polytunnel.

Polytunnels are much cheaper than glasshouses.


- Sow seeds of spring cabbages now. Choose new varieties such as Offenheim 2 or Duncan, both F1 hybrids which won’t bolt if we have a sudden hot spell next May. The cabbage will be green too, not a slimey yellow.

- Prune off summer-fruiting raspberry canes as soon as they finish fruiting and ensure the area in which they are growing is not allowed to dry out. New canes should be appearing from the soil. These canes will bear next year’s fruit. Tie the new shoots to wires as soon as they are long enough.

- Get into the habit of summer-pruning apples. Look at the main branches and there will be side shoots growing out of them. Cut the side shoots back to half their length. This will induce fruiting spurs and a better crop the following year. Try to summer-prune every year.

- Sow seeds of indoor cyclamen in the greenhouse or on a windowsill. They take a long time to germinate because they make a tiny tuber before the first leaf can be seen. See if you can find a scented type.

- Stop watering indoor amaryllis. Put the pot on its side indoors in the sun. Now the foliage will die down. In October cut off the leaves even if they are green. Pot the bulb in the same size pot in DRY, not even moist but DRY, John Innes No3 compost. Keep in the light with NO WATER until the fat flower bud emerges next February.

- Ensure azaleas, rhododendrons and in particular camellias are really moist at the roots. This will ensure the buds won’t fall off next spring. Premature camellia bud drop in spring is due to the roots being dry in August and into the autumn.

- Plant corms of freesias indoors in a large cool window or better still in the greenhouse. Plant five in a five-inch diameter pot and get hold of some hazel fans to support the long grass-like foliage. It gets very long and untidy. The hazel fans keep the foliage together and as a result the flowers will be on long stems, not curly useless specimens. Imagine the perfume at the end of February onwards.

- Lift main crop potatoes as soon as the foliage dies down, the longer they are left in the soil, the more slug damage will be seen. If you want to save time, cut the haulms down and remove the weeds. It is surprising how much time can be saved. ­ Oh and do this job on a nice day!

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