Our horticultural hotshot dips into his inbox and sets you to work.
Q: I have a nest box on a wall but birds won’ use it. Any ideas? SL, Copnor.
A: Move the box to another area ensuring the hole in the front faces north. Put a few bits of hay, dry grass or dead dry leaves in the hole. The birds will go inside to eat the spiders and with a bit of luck bring up a family there.
Q: Our Daphne Jacqueline Postill has been in bloom for more than a month and smells wonderful. It is getting too tall. When can I prune it? GB, Gosport.
A: Prune as soon as it finishes flowering, in about six weeks.
Q: My parsley has gone. All that's left are stems cut down to an inch above the soil. Surely no one has stolen it? SL, Fareham.
A: Pigeons have devoured the crop. Cover the plants with a fine mesh wire tunnel.
Q: Our polyanthus plants were expensive. Can we grow our own from seed? If so, when should we sow them in our unheated greenhouse? D and PE, Havant.
A: Mid-April on the surface of a seed tray in seed compost. Don't cover the seeds with compost but a light covering of vermiculite with a sheet of newspaper over the top.
Q: Can I use potatoes from the supermarket on my allotment? Potatoes at the garden centre are twice the price of those in the supermarket. CV, Cosham.
A: This is not a good idea. The garden centre tubers are free of potato virus diseases. If you introduced these virus problems on your allotment it will not be possible to grow good potatoes again.
JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
• Try to hoe through strawberry plants. Your ground will be compacted because of the wet weather. Easing the soil will introduce air and the plants will start into growth earlier which will help speed up fruiting.
• Did you get the motor mower serviced? If not, in another six weeks you will have to wait ages to get it done. If you can’t be bothered, at least start the engine to see if it is working after all the damp weather. The same applies to rotavators. If one won’t go, buy a new spark plug.
• Put your bag of seed-sowing compost in the greenhouse. It is amazing how it will warm up ready for seed-sowing a few days later.
• Buy some Salad Bowl lettuce seeds for sowing indoors in early April.
• This is a good time to plant new roses. Prepare the soil well. If it's poor, invest in a bag of shrub-planting compost. You will need the equivalent of a gallon bucket of compost for each new rose bush.
• If you grow ornamental grasses, some of them still look attractive because they are the evergreen types but some are past their best and look brown. Cut those which are brown down to the base, leave just an inch of stem and then fork over the soil. A scattering of grit over the surface will make this spot look more attractive.
• If you lifted a clump or rhubarb roots just before Christmas and it is still out there lying on the soil, place it in a black polythene sack and pop it in the bottom of the airng cupboard or underneath greenhouse staging. The lovely red stems which emerge will be tasty in about a month's time.
• Nerine bulbs can be divided now. These great favourites spread quite quickly and tend to be ignored. This is the time to divide the clumps and plant them elsewhere in the garden.
• If you can retain 10C in your greenhouse, you might like to sow some dwarf French beans. Once large enough,transplant them into pots. These will crop well in the greenhouse next June.
• Peas sown in insert cells in the cold greenhouse five weeks ago will be ready to plant outdoors now. Prepare the soil and if possible, cover the ground with some temporary cloches to warm it up. These will also help the soil dry out too. Get some hazel sprays to hold the pea foliage together and protect the new plants from pigeons otherwise they will be devoured in just a couple of days.
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