Our horticultural hotshot solves your problems and has a list of jobs to be getting on with – weather permitting.
Q: Can you remind me how to get rid of Mind Your Own Business? You told us about it before but I've lost the product's name. And, can you tell me the name of the specimen enclosed. JB, Emsworth.
A: Sulphate of iron. Make holes in the base of a paint tin which has a handle and pour in the iron. Wear disposable gloves all the time. Shake the tin so the leaves are covered with the iron. Overnight the weed will turn black. If any green remains, repeat. The plant's name is salvia Hot Lips, good plant for sunny, warm, well-drained soils.
Q: I'm nearly 90 and can’t do much in the garden these days. How can I get rid of moss and weeds in my lawn? HF, Cosham.
A: I've sent you details of an excellent company which will be able to restore your lawn at a low cost.
Q: We own a fish and chip shop and sell pickled shallots which we buy in sacks and pickle on the premises. Can we grow our own from these? J and LP, Southsea.
A: Yes. Plant them on the shortest day six inches apart in rows a foot apart. Fork them out in August next year.
Q: Please can you tell me what is killing my lawn? Sample sent. GN, Emsworth.
It's a fungal problem called fusarium. We can’t get the chemical needed to control this but I have sent you the details of a company which will eradicate the disease.
Q: I have an allotment and love it. My problem is there was a rat in my compost bin. I was not going back there again as the rat actually ran around in daylight. My neighbour killed it with his spade. How can I stop rats getting into my compost bin please? JG, Copnor.
A: Remove all the compost and put it into the ground and start again. Fork over where the bin is to go and put a square of fine rabbit wire netting over the soil where the bin is to be placed. Push the bin on to the wire netting and rats will not be able to enter again. Your question will be of interest to lots of readers.
JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
– For instant colour buy winter-flowering heathers in pots. They're already in flower and if planted out now will give your garden a winter glow. No heather likes chalk so plant them in a raised area or in a container of acid compost. The best is John Innes ericaceous mix.
– Plan ahead. After digging the area where you'll plant summer cabbages, scatter on a thick dressing of garden lime, but don’t apply it where other crops will be grown.
– Buy a packet of exhibition onions so they can be sown on Boxing Day in your greenhouse. My dad always did this to get away from the children for an hour.
– If you are buying a Christmas tree with a root, pot in up into garden centre potting compost. It's much easier to handle and the tree is more likely to survive. Remember too, if you buy a small one, already in a pot and moss is growing on the surface, it is far more likely to survive after Christmas. A lot of people think it is a pity to buy a Christmas tree which has no roots because the poor thing has been sacrificed. If you feel that way, buy an artificial one like me! If however you buy a Christmas tree without roots, buy a water retainer so the trunk can absorb water during the festival. Cut an inch off the bottom before using the water retainer. This reduces needle-drop. Top up the water retainer just before going to bed BUT THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS MUST BE UNPLUGGED. We don't want any readers killed by electricity!
– Blackbirds are eating holly berries as if there is no tomorrow. So pick some ASAP if you want berries for indoor displays otherwise you will need to buy some of those which are on wires and they have to be twisted on to indoor decorations. I don’t mind having to do this because the berries are natural food for the lovely blackbirds.
– Are you going to make a holly wreath with a red ribbon to go on your front door? This job is made easier if you buy a circle of Oasis at the garden centre. Simply soak it for an hour and then thrust in the fresh holly, ivy and mistletoe with baubles and the ribbon and everyone will feel welcome into your home.
– On the mundane side, try to get some more digging done on the veg patch. Leave it rough so frosts will break down the clods.
– This is a good time to undertake fruit tree pruning, particularly apple trees. Buy a good pruning saw and secateurs and remove all branches which are crossing and scraping.
Got a question for Brian? Click here and fire away.