Our gardening expert answers your questions
Q: I’m thinking of growing potatoes in a container and intended to use some from a supermarket. My cousin says this is not a good idea. Grace, Milton.
A: Many people use supermarket potatoes with good results. It is not a good idea if you are growing several rows as specially-produced seed potatoes are grown in a clean environment and are virus-free. Potato virus is serious and affects crops grown in that ground for many years.
Q: I took your advice and removed all compost from the roots of my pot-grown roses and replanted them in fresh JI compost adding 10 per cent sharp sand. Last summer they were the best ever and they’re 10 years old. FP, Farlington.
A: Fresh compost does make a difference. Shrubs and trees can also be rejuvenated this way. Put little feet beneath the containers.
Q: I have just taken over half an allotment and the chap next to my plot told me the big bush in one corner is a blackcurrant. How do I prune it? FL, Portchester.
A: You will see little sprigs of black thick stems. This is where the bunches of fruit were last summer. These are cut right down to the base of the plant or to a side shoot which is grey in colour. Be bold. Keep in mind the harder you prune the better the crop will be next summer.
Q: We bought a red and white gloxinia early last summer and it bloomed right up until the end of November. The leaves are gradually turning nag brown. Can I keep it for next year? Sally, Old Portsmouth.
A: I am delighted you have been so pleased and the good news is YES you will be able to grow it again next year. Give it less water and the leaves will turn completely brown. In April knock the plant out of the pot and replant it in fresh loamless compost and keep it in the same place. Well done!
JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND (WRAP UP WARMLY)
• Set up seed potato tubers in trays somewhere light and frost-free. They need to be able to shoot. Egg cartons inside seed trays are ideal as the tubers won’t fall over. You should see tiny buds. Set the tubers so these are uppermost. Look at them occasionally in case some are upside down. The shoots need to be in the light as if planted with strong shoots, the crop will be much better.
• Produce as much garden compost as possible to use as a top dressing when earthing up potatoes in summer. Find stables where there may be manure available. Leave the manure in bags so it can rot down. Mixed with compost from the heap, this is also good to use to earth up potatoes and can reduce the problem of potato scab which causes marks on the new potatoes.
• If you usually order flower and vegetables as plugs, this is the best time to place your order because orders are set up in date order. By ordering early you can be assured of receiving what you want rather than being offered a Substitute.
• We are now enjoying two extra minutes of light each evening. It may seen cold but there is more strength in the sunshine and this is reflected in the garden. Ease the soil around bulbs and spring bedding. This will help new foliage emerge with ease. A hand-held garden fork is ideal for this job.
• Take dead leaves off the base of Christmas rose (helleborus) plants and scatter sharp sand around the plant to prevent blooms being splashed with mud.
• Make sure the birds have clean water every day. Did you buy some bird seed? If you did, then you are enjoying these delightful visitors who look forward to visiting your garden.
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