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

Dandelions in your drive?
Dandelions in your drive?

HMS Collingwood staff triumph in first attempt at Britain in Bloom

SOUTHSEA GREEN: Tomatoes without soil

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Our gardening expert dips into his inbox and sets you to work

Q: We love sumachs but they throw up suckers all over the lawn. We’ve moved to Widley and want another as the children love to touch its ‘horns’. Which is the one with the best red foliage? L and K, Widley.

A: Rhus typhina. The cultivar called laciniata is more attractive but the autumn colour is yellow.

Q: I love it when you include children in your features. My grandson who is nearly seven took a sideshoot off a tomato plant in my greenhouse, potted it up and it’s growing well. He has taken it home. Can you tell him it will grow in a window. NH, Eastney.

A: Dear John, well done. Yes the tomato will grow indoors in a light window. Ask mum and dad to buy a cane six feet long and push it into the pot’s soil. Tie the stem to the cane so it will stay upright. You’ll be picking tomatoes in six weeks.

Q: I have lots of dandelions growing on my Tarmac drive. Is there an easy way to get rid of them please? I don’t want to buy expensive weedkiller which will get left in my shed. FP, Cowplain.

A: Yes. Use a sharp knife and cut off the foliage leaving just the cut stem. Then sprinkle about half a teaspoon of ordinary table salt over every cut stem. This works every time. If you miss any they will grow again so repeat the process. I do this at home.

Q: I bought some Brompton stocks and they are very tall, about 15in high. Would it be a good idea to take out the tops? ND, Emsworth.

A: . They will send out sideshoots in spring. I am glad you are growing these beautiful hardy flowers because they are perfumed and flower between the spring-flowering plants such as wallflowers and the summer bedding such as begonias and busy Lizzies.

JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

•Check greenhouse heaters are working.

•Deadhead dahlias. Remove two little buds beside each of the centre buds to ensure blooms have long stems.

•Keep picking over dead flowers and leaves in the greenhouse to prevent fungal problems.

•Water indoor plants less frequently. Touch the compost and water only when surface feels dry.

•Do some winter digging incorporating manure or compost where potatoes, peas and beans will go.

•Remove yellowing leaves on Brussels sprouts. Keep the ground firm and use canes to support them if you’re in a windy area.

•Prick over the soil around spring-hearting cabbages and hand-pick caterpillars or dust with pyrethrum powder if you can’t find them.

•Sort out the strawberry bed. If the plants are old, there are plants at garden centres. Why not buy a strawberry barrel, no more weeding through the strawberry bed! Use John Innes No3 compost for a strawberry barrel. Loamless compost is not suitable.

•Pick up fallen leaves and put them into large former compost bags turned inside out so that you are looking at black bags. Use one part urine to seven parts water each time you put in a 12in layer of leaves. Close the top of the bag and put a piece of paving stone over the top. This makes leaf mould in a year.

•Hand-weed between wallflowers because chickweed soon smothers them. Chickweed grows very fast in October because it is absorbing nitrogen from the soil. Nitrogen is the element that makes plants grow and the chickweed prevents nitrogen from being washed into the subsoil. The chickweed is full of nitrogen therefore it is a good idea to compost it as long as it isn’t in flower. If in flower, the seeds form in the compost bin and will grow again when the compost is used as a top dressing.

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