Our gardening guru answers readers’ letters and e-mails and puts you to work for the coming week, weather permitting
Q: I have a problem with what I think are hoverflies burrowing in my lawn. What can I do to get them to move as they are spoiling the grass. They have now hibernated. SS, Cosham.
A: They may be a species of wild bee. Many people read these features and may have an answer. I’ll let you and other readers know if I get any information. I suggest leaving them alone. Hoverflies and all kinds of bees are great pollinators.
Q: Can you tell me what is attacking my moth orchid? The edges of the leaves are being nibbled. Could you also identify the leaf from a plant which has arrived in a pot in the garden?
A: There’s a caterpillar lurking in the compost or at the base of the pot. Put the plant in a dark room for two hours and see if you can find it. The leaf looks like a sweetcorn plant. If it dies in winter I am correct. If it survives the winter ask me again once a flower appears.
Q: You often mention soil-warming cables and I am saving for one. How do I install it? KF, Fareham.
A: Use a small strong door as a base and screw 10-inch wide pieces of wood around the edges to form a frame. Put an inch of builder’s sand in the base and install the cable as on the instructions. It’s very easy to do. Cover the cable with another inch of sand and keep it moist all the time. Use sheets of glass over the top of the frame. A plant propagator of this size will transform your greenhouse not only for seed sowing but also space for seedlings such as begonias which are slow growers in winter.
Q: My dad only keeps one room warm but I would like to buy him a flowering plant which would look nice in his hall which is lovely and light as he has a glass door. What would you suggest? JF, Emsworth
A: Buy him an azalea with currently ust one or two flowers and it will produce more flowers for many weeks in a cold light room. Potted cyclamen also grow well in cold light rooms.
JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
• Paths are slippery. Try to clear fallen leaves because you may slip in the wet. If moss is making paths slippery, water on Brintons patio cleaner diluted in water to kill the moss. After watering the path, leave the solution for about an hour before brushing off the moss with a stiff broom.
• Our lawns at home are wet. If yours are too it would be wise to insert a garden fork into the turf to the full depth of the prongs before scattering sharp sand over the surface of the lawn. Brush this gently into the grass and it will prevent slipping when walking on the lawn.
• Most of the leaves have finally fallen from the trees. It’s been a mammoth task picking them up. If you have not done this yet, rake them up with the wind blowing towards the heap you’re gathering. Grab them and put them into old compost bags so they will rot and become leaf mould. Sprinkle on one part urine to seven parts water.
• Because of the wet weather, some of the Brussels sprout buttons look like they have rotted. Leave those still a bit green as after Christmas they will burst open to form what look like little cabbages. It’s a bit fiddly, preparing them in the kitchen, but the leaves taste as good as spring cabbage.
• If you enjoy growing lettuce in a cold greenhouse, another batch of winter lettuce can be sown now for harvesting in March. Look for the variety Rosetta, produced by Suttons seeds.
Now for a horrible job...
• As soon as all the leaves have fallen, which should be any time now, then it is time to clean out the garden pond. And water lilies can be divided now. You will need to do this if you found the leaves of the water lilies grew long leaf stems which were nine inches over the top of the surface of the water. How do I know this? Because I’ve got to sort out ours at home.
• This is a very good time to think about changes in the garden. As we are all a day older than we were yesterday, what changes would make the garden easier to look after? Do you need that flower bed in the middle of the lawn?
Why not move the bird bath into a border? Take a good look and during these long, cold nights, have a think about it and perhaps sketch out a few ideas.
Got a question for Brian? Click here to e-mail him.