Our expert solves your horticultural dilemmas and sets you to work for the weekend
Q: I wrote to you three years ago about an apple tree I grew from a pip. You told me how to prune it in summer and I now have more than two dozen apples, cooking apples. HD, Horndean.
A: I am delighted you wrote to me in the first place and more than pleased you are enjoying the apples. Summer pruning is a very good idea. Do it right now. Cut every side shoot back to three or four leaves every year.
Q: I bought an outdoor chrysanthemum a couple of years ago and it had a single yellow bloom. As the buds are forming this week I can see there are some red flowers coming out. Is this unusual? JL, Titchfield.
A: The red blooms are called sports. Mark the stems and once the flowers fade divide the clump and plant out again next year. Hopefully you’ll have both colours and may have a new red variety. Good luck.
Q: My lawn has several brown irregular patches and there are lots of starlings pecking the grass. Is the starling poo killing off the grass? CK, Drayton.
A: The starlings are pecking the lawn to feed on the leatherjackets which are eating the roots of the grass. Water the lawn and cover it with a tarpaulin and after three days roll up the tarpaulin and pick up the leatherjackets.
Q: We live on Portsdown Hill and try to grow plants in solid chalk. Cabbages grow well and we compost everything we can to attain more soil. My husband can get hold of masses of corrugated cardboard and I have my fingers crossed
that you will tell us we can rot this down to get more soil over the top of the chalk. GD, Wymering.
A: Corrugated cardboard will rot down really well if kept moist. I had a friend who lived in Candy’s Pit on Portsdown Hill and he even dug in tin cans to get a better soil. The tin cans broke down after about two years. Keep your eye out for masses of autumn leaves too. Don’t be too proud to pick them up from roads. Remember: one part urine to seven parts water, sprinkled not poured. Leaves rot down quickly in large former compost bags.
AND SO TO WORK...
•Daffodil bulbs can be planted between now and the end of November, five inches deep for best results. Buy a few each week and avoid cheap ‘mixed’. Get named varieties and plant in drifts rather than straight lines.
•Amaryllis, the hardy type, are available. They are £2.99 each. Buy three, plant in a sunny spot and you’ll be rewarded with flowers in the autumn forever.
•Enjoy garden centres? See if you can find autumn-flowering crocus corms. They’ll give a good show of pink flowers when the weather’s cooler.
•Cuttings of bedding geraniums will root easily if taken now. Cut off non-flowering shoots, cut below a node and pop them in alongside the parent plant. They root like weeds!
•Orchids, bird of paradise plants and any tender indoor plants which were put out in the garden for summer should be brought back indoors now.
•Think about getting hold of some manure. Keep it in the bags until you are ready to dig it in during the autumn.
•If mildew spoils the fruits on grapes, blow in some sulphur dust through the berries.
•Take cuttings of expensive basket plants such as Japanese petunias. If they aren’t producing enough new growth for cuttings, give the plants a high nitrogen feed or a teaspoon of Sulphate of ammonia in a gallon of water.
•Did you remember to plant freesia corms in pots in the greenhouse? Remember the perfume?