BRIAN KIDD: Your gardening queries answered and a range of jobs for the weekend

Capillary matting for watering plants.
Capillary matting for watering plants.
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Our gardening guru has tips for an inherited overgrown garden and a list of tasks to tackle

Q: We have just moved to an old property and the garden is overgrown. A lot of shrubs seem to be in good shape but before we try to make an impact I thought I’d ask for your advice. Caroline, Denmead.

A: First of all mow the areas which look as if they should be grass. The finished job will make you feel a lot better. Remove the blackberry bushes by cutting the stems off and cut the branches into pieces which will drop straight into a large bag held inside an empty dustbin. Dig out the roots. DO NOT USE A WEEDKILLER because the thorns will be a real nuisance. Wait until spring and prune the shrubs as soon as they finish flowering. You may see spring bulbs and lovely primroses in spring. After all this you can design the garden while enjoying what is growing there already. Keep in touch, I will always be pleased to give you advice.

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Q: I found a bundle of material with a label on which was written ‘capillary matting’. This is in my dad’s greenhouse. What do you think he used it for? HD, Cosham.

A: Your dad was certainly up to date! Capillary matting is placed over the level staging in the greenhouse and kept moist all the time. It is an ideal material which ensures plastic pots take up water through the holes in the base of each pot. If the matting is always wet the plants will never be over-watered, but it must be kept wet.

Q: A few weeks ago you wrote about sowing hardy annual seeds in a border and I did this with my two children and we all enjoyed the experience. Can you tell me the name of this ferny seedling please? It may be a weed because the seedlings have come up and look very strong. SL, Horndean.

A: I am delighted to tell you the seedling is a larkspur which is one of the best hardy annuals.

Q: I have an ants’ nest in a growing bag in which my tomatoes are growing in my greenhouse. I refuse to use a chemical but need to get rid of the ants. FV, Fratton.

A: Buy a packet of Ant Stop. It’s in stock at Keydell Nurseries at Horndean. Follow the directions to the letter and the ants will be gone after 10 days. I used this in my polytunnel and was very pleased it worked so well because the ants bit my ankles every time I went into the tunnel to do the watering and feeding.

Q: Is there a cheap way to get rid of a small area of moss on my drive? HD, Farlington.

A: Sprinkle salt over the moss and it will become black and die in three or four days. This must not be used on lawns or where other plants are growing.

JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND

•Reduce the water given to cacti and dust the pads with a small paint brush to smarten them.

•Take cuttings of zonal pelargoniums (geraniums). They root well at this time. Cuttings need to be four to five inches long. Remove any flowers and flower buds and leave just the top two leaves and growling tip. Make a sharp cut below a node and insert into sandy compost. Don’t over-water.

•Remove chickweed before it flowers or it will cover the soil in winter. Compost these weeds.

•Potted azaleas are now brought indoors. Clean the plants and give them a good shake to remove dead leaves. They always lose some leaves when initially brought back indoors. Water with rain water.

•Prune indoor hibiscus as soon as all the flowers have faded. Cut back all the side shoots by half and nip out the tip. Water only when the compost feels dry and don’t feed again until April.

•Amaryllis leaves should have died back by now. If not, cut off all the leaves and repot in John Innes No3 compost but no water until you see the flower bud next year. The flower bud will be fat. If watered too soon, there will be leaves but no flower, so wait until the fat flower bud is visible.

•This is a good time to fit another water butt. Put a piece of nylon stocking over the end of the down pipe to stop litter from entering. Rain water is very useful for all plants.

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