Our popular gardening expert delves into his inbox.
Q: I have a huge water butt in the garden but the water is brown with rust. Is it any good for the garden or shall I empty it and start again? BD, Havant.
A: Start again. This gives you the chance to clean it out. It will quickly fill again!
Q: I have a lovely mint plant which I want to divide and give a piece to my friend. Is this a good time? KN, Bedhampton.
A: Yes, do it straight away if the soil is not too wet. Dig out the whole clump and use two garden forks back to back to divide the plant.
Q: What's the name of the sensitive plant which folds up its leaves when touched? I want to buy seeds for the children in my playgroup. AP, Fratton.
A: It's mimosa pudica. I have sent you the name of a seedsman where you can buy seeds as they are not easy to find at garden centres.
Q: I want to grow cucumbers in a growing bag. How many plants should be planted in it? FB, Eastney.
A: Just two. Buy Petita seed – half-sized cucumbers but you should get 30-40 fruits over a long period of time in your polytunnel. I have great success with this type and they are easy to grow
Q: I bought 10 tulip bulbs called Red Riding Hood. They are in bloom now but one has sent up 5 orange blooms on one stem. Is this unusual? VM, Paulsgrove
A: When the bulbs were packed, one bulb of a different variety got stuck and ended up in your packet. Orange Fusilier is possibly the name of your multi-headed tulip.
JOBS FOR THE EASTER WEEKEND
• A quick job is to remove all the dead flower heads from daffodils. Just take off the dead flowers and seed heads but leave the flower stem. This will make the bulbs aware they are no longer able to produce seeds and a hormonal reaction takes place in the bulb. Because the seed bearing has gone, the hormones rush to the tip of the leaves and send all the nutrients in the leaves down into the mother bulb. She then begins to produce a daughter and next year's flower begins to form in the centre of the mother bulb. Scientists will give you a more accurate description but I write plainly!
• Dig out some rooted strawberry runners. Take off the dead foliage and pot them into five-inch diameter pots in John Innes No3 compost – the only one suitable for this job. Put them in the cold greenhouse and you will be picking strawberries in mid-May. You will need to pollinate the flowers using an artist's brush. I do this every year and love early strawberries.
• Have you managed to prune HT and floribunda roses yet? Cut them back hard remembering the harder you prune them the more they grow, the more they grow, the more flowers are produced but they must have a good feed after pruning. There have been several letters from readers this week asking if it's too late because the buds are now shoots. It isn't too late, cut the branches down to the 3rd shoot on every branch.
•This is the time to sow seeds of early Brussels sprouts and summer cabbages, Duncan F1 is a good choice. Try to sow one seed in each cell of insert cells, 24 of which fit into a standard seed tray.
•Last year's fuchsias which have been overwintered in the greenhouse have now started to grow. Take them out of the pots, remove all the old compost, cut them back hard and pot them in fresh compost and water afterwards. If you do this, they will grow like mad.
•If you have a warm greenhouse, this is the time to sow tomato seed for growing in the greenhouse. If you can’t be bothered, tomato seedlings are on sale at garden centres. They are at the seedling stage, ready to be pricked out.
•We will be sowing runner beans soon. Have you bought your seeds yet? Everyone should grow runner beans, most people love the taste and remember, they can even be grown in a growing bag on a balcony and also look wonderful in a flower border.
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