BRIAN KIDD: Replacing paved areas with a lawn and readers’ queries

One of horticulture's beauties - a white camellia
One of horticulture's beauties - a white camellia
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Our gardening expert answers your e-mails and letters

Q: We bought a camellia in a large pot and the label illustrates white single flowers. Several white blooms appeared but there is one flower which has red flowers with white lines. Is there something wrong?
GL, Cosham

A: Nothing’s wrong. This flower is known as a sport. Wait until more flowers appear and if they do, wrap a ribbon around that branch and take a cutting in July to see if you can fix a new variety. I have sent you a diagram and notes on how to get the cutting to root. Don’t try to take a cutting now, it’s too cold.

Q: I’m going to change our paved area to lawn. When is the best time to lay turf and are rolls a good idea? RP, Cosham

A: Turf in rolls is quick to lay and can be done at any time as long as the soil is not too wet or frozen. Buy a wide plank and walk on it all the time. Never walk on newly-laid turf until three weeks after laying.

Q: A couple of weeks ago on Radio Solent you told listeners to remove all the compost on roses in pots. How do you get the roses out of the pots and what compost should be used and how hard are they pruned? Angela, Horndean.

A: Use a garden digging fork plunging the tines really firmly into the ground and bang the edges of the pot on to the handle of the fork. Remove every bit of the old compost. Trim the roots if they are massive and replant in John Innes No3 compost but add 20 per cent sharp sand to the compost and mix well. Prune really hard leaving only three inches on each stem and in spring the bushes will grow rapidly. You will be delighted as this method works well with very old roses. Shrubs and trees in pots are treated the same way.

Q: My next door neighbour has a sumac tree that is sending up suckers in our lawn. I don’t want to do anything to upset our neighbour and don’t want to kill the tree, but would like your advice as you seem to come up with good ideas. JD, Fratton.

A: At the beginning of April use a thick, sharp carving knife and carve out each sucker. Apply a layer of root hormone liquid with a brush on to each cut. Instead of producing a shoot with stem and leaves, roots will appear on the cuts.

Q: I am going to change our paved area to lawn because I think this will make the garden appear larger. I will start digging out the paving once the weather gets a bit warmer, but my question is when is the best time to lay turf and do you think rolls of turf are a good idea? RP, Cosham.

A: Turf in rolls is very quick to lay and can be done at any time as long as the soil is not too wet or frozen. The secret of success is to buy a wide plank and to walk on the plank all the time. Never walk on newly-laid turf until three weeks after laying.


• Brush the lawn. You’ll be able to pick up all the bits and pieces which can go into the compost and the lawn will look a lot smarter.

• Sow single seeds of early cauliflower in insert cells in a cold greenhouse. You won’t need more than 12 because they all come to fruition at the same time. Sow another batch in the same way in a month’s time.

• Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries now. Cut every shoot down to soil level. Then spread a four-inch layer of well-rotted manure over the border where they are growing.

• Green seeded broad beans can be sown now in a cold greenhouse or cold frame. Plant one seed in each insert cell and they will germinate in about three weeks. Don’t over-water the compost or the beans will rot. Remember, all types of green seeded broad beans are not hardy, so don’t sow them outdoors until the first week in April.

• Begonia tubers can be planted in the greenhouse now.

• Seeds of fragrant exhibition sweet peas can be sown now. Sow single seeds in deep pots. They need no heat, but ensure they are well protected from mice. Mice eat sweet pea seeds as if there’s no tomorrow.

• Set yourself another target, plan to get as much digging done on the vegetable garden as possible and continue to leave large clods so fross can break the soil into a good tilth.

• If you are not happy with your compost, take out a trench for the runner beans, put the compost into the trench, cover it with soil and the soil bacteria will rot the material. Fork over some soil and start another compost bin.

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