Our horticultural hotshot raids his inbox to answer your questions.
Q: I have bought a small polytunnel for the allotment but I'm told I have made a great mistake because the wind will blow it away. What do you think? M, Widley.
A: Ask for permission from your allotments officer before you put it up. Polytunnels are best positioned so the longest part runs north to south. Dig a trench all around the base and bury the polythene so the edges are covered with about 10in of soil. Get help and avoid a windy day.
Q: I have a very wet area and would like to plant a red bark cornus. I love this shrub for its winter effect. KP, Waterlooville.
A: Cornus Westonbirt would be perfect. We have one at home growing in an area which is always wet. Ladies' mantle would look good planted in the same bed.
Q: I read your article about growing lettuce Salad Bowl in a container of flowers. I grow mine in a basket on a wall and it looks lovely. I cut leaves twice a week, there are no slugs and pigeons don’t eat it. PG, Old Portsmouth.
A: I've included your letter because we all love to try new ideas. I'm pleased you've been successful.
Q: I have sown two packets of Petita cucumbers because you have such a good crop. As soon as they produce the first large leaf they fall over and die. What is going wrong please? VC, Farlington.
A: Cucumber seedlings suffer from stem rot. Do not allow water to touch the base of the stem. This can be done by making a band to go around the stem. A two-inch long length of toilet roll inner card does the trick Use sticky tape to keep the ends together when you have cut it and placed it around the stem.
Q: We have a cornus Miss Satomi with pink flowers, but this year one white flower has appeared. Is this normal? We also have cornus China Girl with white flowers. Could this have Anything to do with the white flower appearing on the pink Cornus? Ted Saunders, Portchester.
A: This is rather unusual and you may find it will happen again in future years. It is casued by the genetic make-up of the variety as one of the parents was white. Thank you for the pictures.
Q: For about a year I have noticed that the compost I buy in bags from garden centres is difficult to water. I have no lawn or borders, but I have lots of pots. I know EU directives have changed a lot of our chemicals, but have they also changed our composts? Are they as good as they used to be? Is there anything I can add to the new compost to make it easier to water?
A: You are right. Regulations came into force and compost producers have to include more recycled material such as garden waste taken to recycling centres. Best thing is to buy John Innes composts but add 10 per cent extra sand and mix well before placing into containers. At garden centres you will find potting sand but I use sharp sand which I buy in 25kg bags. I find this excellent.
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