BRIAN KIDD: Summer must be here: I’ve picked my first runner beans

Tumbling bidens in baskets are wonderful.
Tumbling bidens in baskets are wonderful.
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Thank you so much for your letters. I try to answer every one either here or to you personally.

If you send a sample, please remember: wrap it in DRY newspaper, no moisture, no polythene or Clingfilm and go to the post office to ensure the correct postage stamp is applied. Thank you.

This week’s postbag was interesting.

A lot of gardeners are complaining their hanging baskets are not so good this year. It appears they lack vitality and the flowers aren’t lasting as long as usual.

Hanging baskets can be really beautiful if we understand the plants are growing in small containers.

There are probably about 21 plants in a basket which has got little more than a bucket of compost in it.

The best plan is to take off every dead bloom every day. It’s really important to do this with petunias. If they are allowed to set seed, the parent plant will turn brown and die.

It can be difficult to find dead blooms, but after a few days the dead flowers become crisp. A pair of sharp scissors, using just the tips, will do the trick. The dead heads can go into the compost bin of course.

Bidens in baskets are just wonderful, the flowers tumble down to make a ‘waterfall’ of yellow blooms. In the early part of the season they just look like ferny foliage, but once they become established they will bloom their socks off right up until the frosts arrive – as long as they are deadheaded every day. All you need are those scissors.

Returning to that small volume of compost: make sure your baskets are fed regularly. This is vital and when I’m judging it is easy to see who feeds regularly.

Some gardeners buy the recommended feed but fail to use it. Make sure you do because it will transform your baskets.

Feeding is very important indeed and we need a different approach.

Chemical fertilisers feed the plants, but if we look at the biological process we need to feed the compost too. The plants will take out the nutrients and will grow beautifully.

Study the directions on the bottle of Maxicrop Complete liquid fertiliser and use the weakest strength every time the baskets are watered. Keep deadheading and you will have the best baskets ever.

If you suffer from the wind, use flat-backed, round-fronted baskets on a wall. The brickwork will protect the plants from the wind.

I’m a little happier with things at the allotment.

I picked the first runner beans last Saturday and in the polytunnel cucumbers are growing like mad along a wire frame. We should be picking the first one next week. They are being fed Maxicrop Complete once a week – wonderful liquid fertiliser.

I sow seeds of Petita and expect to be able to cut about 30, six-inch-long cucumbers. I grow this type because we can use a whole fruit in one go.


If your water butt is empty this is a good time to clean it out.

Put a piece of nylon stocking over the end of the down-pipe to prevent debris entering.

Cover the top of the butt to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs on the surface of the water.