BRIAN KIDD: Sorts out a problem hedge and gives you work for the weekend

A  blackberry growing through a hedge
A blackberry growing through a hedge
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Our gardening expert answers your e-mails and letters and sets you some tasks for the weekend

Q: We've just got home from holiday and our beautiful hedge is smothered in blackberry. My husband clipped the hedge and I found the blackberry roots growing right alongside one of the hedge plants. As we are now over 80 we can't dig out the roots. What would you suggest? F and P, Purbrook.

A: Take your time and cut off all blackberry branches putting the pieces in an empty dustbin with a liner inside. Leave two inches of the blackberry stems and dab the tops of the cut branches with SBK Brushwood Killer. Wear gloves all the time. This will enter the blackberry roots and kill it completely.

Q: I found a hen's egg in the compost. Is there an explanation? JT, Purbrook.

A: A fox has taken an egg from a box left by the milkman and has buried it to find later when there's a shortage of food.

Q: My dad was a great believer in using soot as a fertiliser. He used to put it into a bag and then into a water butt. He then dunked it up and down 10 times and used a tin mug in two gallons of water. Where can I get some soot? DL, Waterlooville.

A: I also use soot and looked up chimney sweeps in Yellow Pages. The sweep will make a small charge because there is not a lot of soot in chimneys these days.

Q: Is it too late to sow beetroot seeds? My first sowing had more misses than hits. LD, Gosport.

A: These can be sown right up until the end of July BUT water the area well for two or three evenings before sowing and then sow in moist conditions. Beetroot will not germinate in dry weather.


Sow another batch of dwarf French beans. Be prepared to cover them with cloches in September and they will provide lovely beans right up until the cold weather arrives in late autumn.

Feed indoor cucumbers twice a week with Maxicrop Complete liquid feed. This encourages rapid growth and more little cucumbers will form quickly. If white patches appear on the leaves, apply a thick dusting of sulphur powder to prevent powdery mildew from spreading.

Sow large-rooted radish for winter stews. Simply sow them in a drill outdoors.

Trim off dead flowers on the sunroses - helianthemum. This encourages new growth which will produce masses of blooms next summer.

Sow short rows of Autumn King 2 carrots. These can be left in the ground for digging during the winter. Cover the row with insect barrier mesh suspended by half-circles of plastic water piping to keep carrot root fly away from the seedlings.

Spray roses with Multirose to keep blackspot and rose-invading insects under control.

Sow cress three days before sowing mustard in trays anywhere indoors. Home-grown mustard and cress is very easy to grow and tastes excellent in salads. This is a good crop to introduce children to gardening.