BRIAN KIDD: Your letters and this week's gardening tasks
Q: I bought amaryllis bulbs and they have wonderful leaves but no flowers. How can I get them to come into flower? BS, Southsea.A: Feed them with full-strength liquid fertiliser for tomatoes once a month from now, but stop in August. At the end of August stop watering and put the pots on their sides indoors in hot sun so the foliage will die off. In October cut off all the foliage and repot in DRY John Innes No3 compost. DO NOT WATER. Put the pots in a light place and do not water until large fat buds rise from the top of the bulb. This can be done any time between February and April next year.
A: Feed them with full-strength liquid fertiliser for tomatoes once a month from now, but stop in August. At the end of August stop watering and put the pots on their sides indoors in hot sun so the foliage will die off. In October cut off all the foliage and repot in DRY John Innes No3 compost. DO NOT WATER. Put the pots in a light place and do not water until large fat buds rise from the top of the bulb. This can be done any time between February and April next year.
Q: I grow Begonia corms and have had problems with vine weevil grubs which eat all the roots. I cannot find my usual vine weevil killer. Can you tell me where I can buy some? PO, Gosport.
A: You will find Ultimate Bug Killer in stock at Keydell Nurseries. We went there last Friday to check that it is in stock. Make up the solution recommended for spraying but drench the compost in the pots to kill off these grubs.
Q: My Mexican orange evergreen shrub has come into flower but it has become too large. When can I prune it and could a six-footer be cut down to a three-footer? NP, Cowplain.
A: Prune it as hard as you wish and it will grow well afterwards. After pruning fork over the ground and apply fish blood and bone fertiliser three to four ounces per square yard and fork in again and then water afterwards.
Q: My ornamental quince (Chaenomeles) is coming into flower but all the flowers are hidden by shoots and masses of leaves. A similar one at the end of our road is in full bloom and there are no shoots hiding the flowers. Have you an explanation please? HS, Horndean.
A: Your neighbour is pruning his shrub at the correct time which is right now. Simply cut back all the sideshoots with no flowers. Do this with a great deal of patience pruning one section at a time and within an hour you will be rewarded with a fabulous array of flowers you couldn’t see before you pruned it. Brilliant question.
Q: We bought 10 raspberry plants called Autumn Bliss recommended by you but only one has thrown up a shoot from the soil. Shall we write to the supplier and complain? FN, Cosham.
A: Give them a good soaking. My newly-planted canes have not sent out basal shoots yet. Keep your receipt just in case they are dead. Shoots will appear in two or three weeks. JOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
• Wall baskets, which have flat backs and rounded fronts, are excellent in windy areas. This is a good time to buy them so they can be rawlplugged into the wall. It’s too early to plant them. Wait until the middle of May. Hanging baskets, however, may be planted and hung up in the greenhouse so they begin to grow well before being hung up outdoors in mid-May.
• Try to remove all weeds before they flower. On allotments, chickweed rapidly smothers the soil’s surface and this weed produces seeds within a few days of being hoed off. Pick up the weeds and put them in the compost bin. Add an activator of one part urine to seven parts water, sprinkled not poured. This formula heats the compost and the weed seeds will be cooked.
• Sweet pea plants can be planted now. Most serious growers will have removed the tips of the plants several weeks ago because they know that the first stem on sweet pea seedlings die. Seedlings purchased from garden centres on the other hand are bought because people suddenly remember how nice they are! If the tips have not been removed, remove the tip and the top pair of leaves, this encourages a strong basal stem which will provide long stemmed flowers.
• Plant out Brussels sprouts plants two-and-a-half feet apart, NOT CLOSER. Sow another batch of main crop peas. If short of space, sow them into insert cells and they can be planted out in 6 week.
•Scatter soot or slug crystals where the potato shoots are emerging but avoid contact with the foliage. The slug crystals will not harm the birds. Well-rotted compost is excellent to use to earth up the potatoes. Mix 1lb of Sulphate of potash to each barrow load of compost and use this as a ridge. The new potatoes grow in the ridge and the potash burns the slugs. It is possible to grow potatoes with slug damage but they are always damaged if the crop isn’t dug as soon as the haulms die off.
• Sow another batch of 12 lettuce seed. You don’t need 500 lettuces. Try the variety Salad Bowl, this is the one which the plant is left in the soil and the leaves are cut off when you need them. It is a good crispy lettuce and has a good taste.
• In small gardens or in a small area on the allotment, sow short rows of spring onions, radish, carrots,
• Hispi cabbage and beetroot. Cover the row of carrot seed with insect barrier netting to prevent carrot root fly from laying eggs in the soil alongside.