Gardeners' question time with Brian Kidd

Chinese witch-hazel. Picture: Shutterstock
Chinese witch-hazel. Picture: Shutterstock
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Our gardening expert gets to grips with your problems.

Q: Why are pots of Chinese witch-hazel so expensive? They are two or three times more expensive than other shrubs. Will cuttings root? NP, Fareham.

A: Most are grafted in greenhouses and are referred to as being bench-grafted. They take a long time to grow large enough to be sold. Cuttings are not a good idea. The plants have a very short life span and often die when they are in full flower at Christmas.

Q: I used to make all my own potting compost and used the John Innes formula. But it is no longer possible to buy what is known as the base fertilser. Is there an alternative? Can you help? HD, Purbrook.

A: Yes, use Vitax Q4 fertilser, four ounces to a bushel (eight dry gallons) for John Innes No1 compost. You will know the amounts for stronger composts because you have made the compost years ago.

Q: I have found a box of dry gladioli corms in the shed. Is it too late to plant them? SK, Havant.

A: No, they will flower in late August. Don’t be tempted to plant them in shallow soil. They like to be planted with four inches of soil over the top of the corms. Plant in groups of three or five as this provides a great arrangement.

Q: My compost does not rot and I want to use your urine-in-water method. What can I do with the unsuccessful compost? HC, Hilsea.

A: The one-in-seven method will transform you original compost because it needed more liquid. If you want to make a new start, dig a trench, put the compost into it and cover with soil.

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