BRIAN KIDD: The curse of the daphne sawfly and jobs for the week ahead

Daphne Jacqueline Postill  Picture: Magnus Manske
Daphne Jacqueline Postill Picture: Magnus Manske
Feed your cucumbers now.

GARDENING: Jobs for the weekend with Brian Kidd

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Our gardening expert digs deep into this week’s inbox

Q: My daphne Jacqueline Postill has small holes in the leaves and the flowers are late this year. I pruned it in July and September because it grew too high.
PB, Portchester.

A: The holes are caused by daphne sawfly. Look carefully and you will find the caterpillars in a web on the backs of the leaves. Squash them! I hope you will have some blooms. However, you are pruning at the wrong time. You must prune immediately the daphne stops flowering. It will then bloom well the following winter.

Q: I enclose a twig of a bush growing in a friend’s garden. It has lots of straight, bright red stems and we would like to know the name of it.
FE, Denvilles.

A: This wonderful shrub is cornus Westonbirt. It’s great when underplanted with white winter-flowering heathers. One of my tip top shrubs.

Q: We have a privet hedge which is more than 20 years old and a very helpful person from our parks department told us it is dying back because of honey fungus and there is no cure. We have taken out the dead ones and burned them together with the huge fungus. We have also removed black laces which were in the ground. You often seem to come up with a resolution can you help us please? G and PJ, Milton.

A: The products which were useful have been withdrawn but we can use common sense. All fungi hate iron and copper. Use four ounces of sulphate of iron in two gallons of water and drench the vacant area slowly and repeat again a fortnight later. Replant new privet about a month after the second application. Yew and holly are less likely to die so you could use these in the gaps.

JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

• Watch out for blobs of fungus on the top of fuchsias cut back when they were brought in from the garden in late autumn. This is a fungal disease. Use sulphur powder over the stems and the problem will be resolved.

• Freesia corms planted in pots in the greenhouse last August will need supporting to stop the foliage falling over the bench. Use sprays of hazel for this job.

• Remove yellow leaves on poinsettias. Stop leaves from becoming yellow again by reducing watering. Only water when the compost in the pot is dry.

• Once blooms on cyclamen have faded, remove them by giving the stem a quick tug. This will ensure the whole flower stem is removed correctly. Secret is to keep them cold, light and not too much water

• Hibiscus grown as house plants indoors should have finished flowering by now. Reduce the length of every flowering stem by two thirds. This drastic action will encourage new growth with lots of flowers during the summer and autumn. Repot into John Innes No3 compost. This is the best time for this job.

• Sow seeds of annual carnations in the greenhouse or on a windowsill.

• Remove dead flowers on outdoor polyanthus and winter-flowering pansies and lightly fork over where they are planted because the rain will have compacted the soil.

• Plant seeds of broad bean, the Aqua Dulce type. Don’t leave this job too long otherwise the beans will become smothered in blackfly in spring.

• If you are itching to get on with some gardening, sow a few single seeds in insert cells of spring cabbage or early cauliflower. Make sure you purchase the correct seeds. Avoid sowing varieties for autumn use!

• If you would like some really early beetroot, sow one cluster of seeds in insert cells. They can be sown in these cells outdoors in a protected place or in a cold frame. The advantage is that you will be able to eat the beetroot in June when the roots are the size of a conker. Beetroots are very tender when eaten really small and they are good in small gardens and can be used as an edging plant around a bed or border of flowers.

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