Brian Kidd with a tip about acorns and finds plenty for you to do in the coming week

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This week’s questions for Brian

Q: I have a camellia which is more than 6ft high and flowers well. I would like to take 2ft off it. When’s the best time? Also, my granddaughter has an oak tree with hundreds of acorns, Are they any good in the compost bin? PD, Baffins.

A:Prune the camellia as soon as it finishes blooming next spring. Don’t do it now because you will remove next year’s flowers. Acorns do not make good compost. Sweep them up and take them to the recycling centre or find a wildlife group which would like to plant them.

Q: I was given a tray of nicotiana sylvestris and I was a bit late planting them. I have one with pink flowers which is more than 5ft high. If I cut it back will it survive the winter? CW, Purbrook.

A: I am sorry to tell you that all nicotinas are half-hardy. If you want the species of sylvestris you will see these in seed catalogues. Sow the seeds next April.

Q: I have problems with a mandevilla which was growing well outside during the summer but now looks very sad. I also have problems with the leaves on my stephanotis, I have dabbed the leaves with meths but it still looks very sad. JW, Staunton on Wye, Herefordshire (my mother sends me your articles).

A: The mandevilla is starving. Buy a bottle of Maxicrop for tomatoes and give it a weak feed once a month instead of just water. The stephanotis also needs feeding because the leaves should be a lot larger and thicker. Also, spray the stephanotis with Provado, particularly the backs of the leaves, to kill off scale insects.

Q: I forgot to sow my spring hearting cabbages. Is it too late to sow them in my cold greenhouse? JD, Cosham.

A: I am pleased you bought the variety Duncan as this one can be sown at any time of year. Sow single seeds in cells in any seed compost and amazingly these seedlings will catch up with those everyone else sowed last September.

Q: Thank you so much for your excellent weekly gardening advice. Always very helpful. I am in need of your advice. I planted six fruit bushes in early May 2010. Two gooseberries, two early-fruiting blackcurrants and two late-fruiting redcurrants. I made the usual novice gardener’s mistake and planted them too closely. They have been pruned but their prolific growth does not allow easy access for picking. Is it possible to move the bushes now to give them more space? Or should I just learn from experience and replant with new bushes adequately spaced? Jane Bradley.

A: I am really pleased you enjoy reading the gardening feature in The News, I enjoy writing these articles and it’s great to receive good comments.

About the mddle of November is an excellent time to move plants around as the soil is still warm and moist. The important things to remember are to choose a pleasant day and the soil must not be waterlogged. Dig out as much root intact as you can and don’t allow the roots to dry out. If the soil is poor, add some organic matter or you can find especially-produced planting composts at garden centres. If not, buy a large bag of loamless compost and work this into the soil when you back-fill the holes.


Now there’s less foliage in the garden there appear to be more cats. Buy a pot of garlic paste and dip 6in sticks into the paste so 3in of paste is on the top of them. Push the sticks into the ground. Cats hate the smell of garlic.

If you can’t be bothered to clean out the pond (the best time is as soon as all the leaves have fallen) take out the water pump, give it a scrub and keep it in a dry shed all winter. If your pond is cleaned out at this time of year, the water is not too cold, there is less of a shock for fish and no frogspawn to worry about.

Bear in mind this is the best time to transplant trees and shrubs. You would be surprised at how many letters I receive asking if it’s too late in June! When transplanting or moving plants around, choose a nice day.

If fence posts need renewing look at Metpost fixings. They make the job a lot easier. Postmix is easy to use too. Dig the hole, put in the post and pour in the dry mix. Soak the ends of the posts in creosote substitute overnight. There’s nothing wrong with creosote substitute by the way. It’s good as well as cheap.

Check there are no rotten nuts in the bird feeders. Rotten nuts kill blue tits. Please put water out for the birds.

Plant seeds of early peas in cells in the cold greenhouse. Only two pea seeds in each cell, using the 24 cells which fit into a standard seed tray. No heat needed, just make sure they are in a place where mice can’t get them. Keep them on the dry side otherwise they will rot. Just be careful not to give them too much water.

Save up for a soil warming cable for the greenhouse or buy one as a present for the gardener in your life for Christmas.

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