BRIAN KIDD: Your questions answered and jobs for the week ahead

Our gardening expert dips into his inbox

Sunday, 9th April 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:31 pm
Hellebore Christmas rose

Q: Are the enclosed seedlings weeds or from a cultivated plant? The seedlings have three leaves. There are no other plants in my garden with three leaves. AL, Cosham.

A: You have a hellebore (Christmas rose) growing nearby as these seedlings are from one. The results may be interesting. Pot them singly in three-inch diameter pots in loamless compost and they will bloom after two years.

Q: When’s the best time to lay a lawn using turf? I’ve dug the area and hoed it several times to get the surface level. 
GD, Whiteley.

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A: It can be done now, but allow time for your order to arrive. It’s best to order two weeks in advance or buy it in rolls at DIY stores or garden centres. Rolls of turf are very easy to lay, but get hold of a builder’s plank so you walk on the plank and NEVER on turf as it is being laid.

Q: My dad always dipped his new runner bean canes in cement and water to stop the ends rotting. Any idea what quantities of cement and water? GD, Cowplain.

A: You need an old paint tin which is about 10 inches deep. A small packet of cement powder about 1kg in weight. Put the cement in the tin and pour water in but keep mixing all the time until the water is three inches from the top.

Drop in four or five canes just for 10 seconds and the ends of the canes will be covered. Lay the canes on their sides to dry overnight. This will prolong the life of the canes. Creosote substitute can be used as an alternative. Three inches of creosote substitute, allow to soak for 10 minutes but do not insert the canes into the soil for 10 days. This will prevent damage to plant roots.

Q: How can I kill ivy which grows all along the base of the fence in my drive? There are no other plants, just this annoying ivy. I have been pulling it out of the fence for three years to stop it breaking the fence panels. GKL, Horndean.

A: Your letter and my answer will help a lot of people. Use SBK brushwood killer. Read the instructions before you buy the product. This needs to be sprayed on to the leaves in dry weather. A further application is a good idea after three weeks. Problem solved!


•Things quickly get out of hand at this time. Keep weeds under control while small. When hoeing, pick up all the weed seedlings because heavy overnight dew causes them to root again.

•Plant main crop potatoes, 15in between the tubers and at least two feet between rows. If you have an allotment, try to leave a wider gap between each double row so it is easier to spray with copper mixture in mid-June to prevent potato blight.

•Sow runner bean seeds indoors using one seed to each cell of insert trays. Look for the 24-cell size which fit into a standard seed tray. Some manufacturers produce the cells in modules of 12 cells,. You will need two of these to fit into a standard seed tray. Remember, it isn’t necessary to have a vegetable garden because runner beans on a wigwam shape of canes look very beautiful in a flower garden too.

•Rake deeply a piece of pre-dug ground and spread over 3oz of blood fish and bone meal over the raked surface, then rake again ensuring the fertiliser is well mixed into the soil. This will prevent foxes digging the ground.

•Sow main crop carrot seed but cover the row with insect barrier mesh to prevent carrot root fly from laying eggs alongside the seedlings. The eggs turn into grubs which ruin the carrot root.

•Sow seeds of leeks within the next few days but keep the seed covered with insect barrier mesh and once the seedlings are planted in blocks or rows, cover entirely with the insect barrier mesh to stop leek moth. Leek moth chews the foliage – a very invasive pest.

• Try to prolong the strawberry crop. Hoe and weed through the plants and apply Vitax Q4 fertiliser between the plants and fork it in with a hand fork. Cover about one third of the crop with cloches making sure they have glass at the ends of the rows to prevent the plants being in a cold tunnel when the weather is windy. Those under cloches will be ripening 10 days before those without the cloches, This extends the fruiting period and avoids a glut of fruit which may have to be given away.

•If you have spare strawberry plants or you may be prepared to buy some, plant 12 in separate 5in diameter pots in John Innes No3 compost and put them on a shelf in the greenhouse. Fruit is normally picked about eight weeks afterwards but the blooms will need to be pollinated with an art brush to ensure successful fruiting.

• All potted plants grown indoors or left for effect in the greenhouse can be fed with a weak liquid plant food from now until the end of September. Feed a weak feed only once each month choosing a plant food for tomatoes.

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