Our horticultural hotshot answers readers' questions and has a whole host of jobs to be getting on with as the new gardening season gets under way.
Q: I had solid oak doors and made a cold frame with a sloping lid because, but I didn’t realise how expensive the glass would be – £32. FL, Cosham.
A: Clear plastic material is available from Keydell at Horndean. It's strong and can be cut with scissors to fit any size. You may have seen frames in boxes made of the same material. I've used this and it lasted seven years.
Q: My camellias were in bloom but the snow seems to have turned the blooms brown. Is it dying? VDL, Southsea.
A: Snow and frost did it but it will be OK and more flowers will appear quickly.
Q: My pot mimosa has grown to six feet in two years. It's been in flower outside for five weeks. I don’t want it to reach 25ft with flowers on long branches. SL, Bembridge.
A: Good old Isle of Wight! When it finishes blooming cut off all the shoots with dead flowers, back to two leaf joints, and take out 10in from the top. You will see a mass of short branches growing from the main trunk. They'll flower next February and are then pruned again. Repeat every year. If you do this your mimosa will look like a miniature Lombardy poplar rather like the one we have in our garden. Bembridge is well known for mimosa trees.
Q: We sowed 24 sweet pea seeds, three in a pot and put them into my empty cold greenhouse on the staging. Something got in there and scattered the pots and the seeds have all gone. It can’t be a bird as there are no gaps in the glass. What do you think has happened? FS, Clanfield.
A: A mouse. Sow more seeds and put the pots on upturned buckets away from shelves. The mice can’t climb up the outside of plastic buckets and they won’t be able to jump down from the shelves in the greenhouse either. Mice are clever and can gain access through the tiniest of holes or gaps.
JOBS FOR THE COMING WEEK
• It's more than likely the grass needs cutting. You did get the mower serviced didn't you? The grass is wet so drag a stiff broom behind you over the lawn. This will makes drops of water on the leaves fall on the ground. Leave for an hour then mow the grass. The grass will be easier to cut and this will transform the garden. The lawn is like a carpet. If it looks good, the garden is enhanced. Try to cut it regularly this year. Short grass takes less time to cut than long.
• Early carrots can be sown outdoors now. Prepare the ground by digging over the soil but DON'T put in any manure or compost. Ten days before sowing, rake in 2oz of blood, fish and bone. Sow early varieties such as Early Nantes and immediately cover the row with insect barrier mesh. Hoops of plastic water piping two metres long with thin wood pushed into the ends make a kind of tunnel. Cover the hoops with the mesh to stop carrot root fly laying eggs in the rows. Insect barrier mesh is available from Waterlooville Allotment Association at the trading hut in Forest End, Waterlooville. It is less than £2 a yard, two yards wide. You must be a member but it is not expensive to join. Open on Saturdays 10-11.30am.
• Plant onion sets now. Many gardeners will have done this already. Before planting, put the baby sets into a brown paper bag,add sulphur dust and shake the bag to cover the sets with it. This is a simple way of preventing onion rot.
• Herbaceous plants are starting to grow and this is the time to divide them and weed the border. After forking through, apply a really good feed such as Vitax Q4 fertiliser using 4oz per square yard and fork this in around the plants. Do this if the soil is not too wet. If not suitable wait a few days.
• Support those herbaceous plants in good time. Sprays of hazel pushed in around the outside of all the clumps will support new growth. The appearance of the border doesn't look good but the plants grow so rapidly in a month's time the hazel sprays won't be seen. If you visit Wisley you will see the gardeners there have already done this job.
• In the greenhouse plant freesia corms, five around the edge of a 5in diameter pot and push in hazel sprays around the edge of the pot to support the foliage. Just imagine that perfume in 14 weeks.
• Sow just 12 seeds of lettuce in the cold greenhouse. Be patient by sowing just one seed in single insert cells. These will be ready to plant outdoors in six weeks.
• Sow seeds in the same way for Brussels sprouts choosing early varieties. Please try F1 hybrids if you have not been successful with other types. These don't 'blow' into open sprouts like older varieties.See if you can find Crispus, the best I have ever grown. DT Brown seeds.
• Buy seed of curly kale, the tastiest winter cabbage. It looks good on the dinner plate because it is a lovely dark green (and it's good for you). Sow the seeds in a fortnight.
• Sow seed of beetroot, just a short row. These seeds can be sown at any time from now until the end of June.
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