BRIAN KIDD: This week’s readers’ questions and weekend jobs

Strawberry Cambridge Favourite
Strawberry Cambridge Favourite

SOUTHSEA GREEN: Winter life at the community garden

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Our gardening guru solves your problems and sets you homework for the weekend

Q: I planted 12 strawberry plants called Cambridge Favourite. They are sending out long shoots with baby plants on the end. If I peg them down into pots as you mentioned, will they fruit next year? JD, Bosham.

A: Yes, they will. You will have the largest fruits in the first year and the best crop in the second. After that the crops will be poor.

Q: I read with interest you are changing part of your allotment to ‘no digging’. How are you getting on? OT, Fareham.

A: I started on a small area which was weedy with lots of dandelions and willow herb. These were dug out. This area’s now been hoed off every week for three weeks and weed seedlings are still emerging. My next step is to add a two-inch layer of compost over the area and keep hoeing once a week. I’ve never enjoyed using the hoe but find it easier because the soil has been hoed before.

Q: Is there a very safe organic spray which will control red spider mite? My runner bean plants are infested and the man in charge of allotments has confirmed this is the problem and advised me to write to you. DS, Portchester.

A: Use SB Plant Invigorator. Just 2mls in a litre of water. Apply once a week for three weeks. It would be a good idea to remove the worst brown leaves with webs and put these in a bucket to be burned before spraying the plants. Spray late in the evening please.

AND SO TO WORK – WITH YOUR WEEKEND JOBS

•Take cuttings about six inches long of indoor pelargoniums of all kinds. Leave one pair of leaves and the growing tip and cut just below a leaf joint. Insert in a sandy cutting medium and rooting should take place in less than a month. Keep the cuttings shaded and moist.

•Did you know this is the best time to take cuttings of all types of shrubs? Just take off the side shoots of any shrub - yes, even camellias – put the cuttings into a sandy compost mix in the shade and they will root in about three weeks.

•Bud roses on to rose stocks planted last October. If you have never budded roses before and you like a challenge, get hold of a good book about how to propagate plants. Propagation is very rewarding and will impress your friends.
•Do you need to replace the strawberry bed? This is the time to put three-inch diameter pots filled with compost into the soil close to where you see strawberry runners. Peg the tips of the runners into the compost by using wreath wires bent over like hairpins. The runners root in a few weeks and you will then be in a position to plant the new plants where you want them and at a time to suit you. Strawberry plants in pots can be planted at any time. Find the plants which produced the best fruit. Ones with red leaves are not good enough to propagate, be careful. You may be surprised at the size of the berries on the new plants. It makes all this effort worthwhile.

•After enjoying rose blooms as cut flowers, remove the dead head and all the leaves apart from the top pair and cut below the lowest joint on each stem. Place the stems in the greenhouse in a pottery vase (not a glass one). The stem bases need to be in the dark but the leaves must be in the light. Once the roots appear, fill the container with vermiculite, this will encourage masses of new roots. Pot each rooted cutting into four-inch diameter pots and plant out next spring.

•You can still plant runner bean seeds. If you live in a flat with no garden, plant them in a growing bag with 8ft-long canes. They are very beautiful plants. Do you want bees in your garden? Bees adore runner bean flowers because they are full of pollen and nectar.

•Sow a batch of lettuce to prolong the summer and feed indoor cucumbers once a week with Maxicrop Complete liquid fertiliser, the best liquid fertiliser ever.

Got a question for Brian? Click here and fire away.