Gardeners’ question time with Brian Kidd – Dec 30

Old bed sheets used as shading in the greenhouse.
Old bed sheets used as shading in the greenhouse.

Brian dips into his inbox and solves your horticultural headaches.

Q: We’ve bought some new bed sheets. I use some old ones to cover the floor when decorating so would it be all right to use the old ones as shading in the greenhouse? MS, Bedhampton.

A: Old sheets are a good idea as they will provide plenty of light but will cut out the strong rays from the sun. I have included your letter because a lot of excellent gardeners find greenhouse shading very difficult to achieve. To hold the material to glazing bars little D-shaped plastic fixings can be bought at garden centres. On wooden structures an inch square of cardboard and a strong drawing pin will do the job.

Q: I am new to gardening and have a small sunny garden. Can I grow strawberry plants in hanging baskets? VP, Southsea.

A: Yes, Choose 18in-wide baskets and grow seven plants in each using John Innes No3 compost.

Q:We bought a 4ft Christmas tree in a pot and would like to grow it in the garden. Will it grow too large? DV, Havant.

A: It will be 20ft high in 15 years. After Christmas buy a pot the same size as the one it is in. Bury this pot in the garden and pop your tree, still in its pot inside the one you sank. Keep the tree watered in dry spells and try to remember to twist the tree once a month so you are severing the roots. If you do this you will be able to bring the tree indoors next Christmas and for several more years and it will not grow too high.

Q:My dad used to grow wonderful cauliflowers and always used chicken manure from his hens. Can one buy chicken manure and if so, where? TR, Cosham.

A: It is great to hear from new gardeners and I am always pleased to give you advice. Chicken manure in pellets is available at all garden centres. It is cheap and will produce really good cauliflowers and broccoli too. Fish blood and bone is a great alternative and can be used anywhere for everything that grows.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Got a question for Brian? Click here and fire away.