GARDENING: Your questions answered and tasks for the week ahead

Leptospermum scoparium also known as Snow White Tea Tree. An evergreen shrub with small white flowers.
Leptospermum scoparium also known as Snow White Tea Tree. An evergreen shrub with small white flowers.
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Brian Kidd opens his inbox and solves your problems.

Q: I have a very pretty shrub in my garden [specimen enclosed in dry paper with no polythene] and it flowers for a long time during the summer. Please can you tell me the name? LW, Fareham.

A: Your specimen was in excellent condition, thank you. This delightful evergreen shrub is called leptospermum or the Tasmanian tea tree. It is not suitable for tea. It is usually a good looking shape but is it needs to be pruned. This must be done as soon as it finishes flowering.

Q: You can’t find mushroom kits at garden centres these days. How can I build one myself? GC, Old Portsmouth.

A: Buy a bag of horse manure and a packet of mushroom spawn online and the directions are on the pack of mushroom spawn. Mushrooms are best grown in a shed. The crop is unreliable when grown outside,

Q: Can I use sweepings from my vacuum cleaner in the compost bin? We have two large dogs and there will be a lot of hair. ST, Lee-on-the-Solent.

A: Yes, they will be fine. If you're ever in doubt just ask yourself, will it rot? If it will, it can go in the compost bin.

Q: I have been looking for sharp sand but the brand sold at my local garden centre looks more like grit and is a grey colour. I have found they sell sharp sand in 25Kg bags at Wicks. Is this OK for adding to John Innes composts? GC, Emsworth.

A: I have had a look at the type on sale at Wicks and this is absolutely fine for use in your potting composts.

Q: I have just taken over a small allotment and there is a huge stinging nettle growing on a large area of the grass path. I am concerned that my toddler will get stung. Is there a weedkiller which will not kill the grass or harm my little boy? A,P Milton.

A: Use SBK brushwood killer and keep your son off the area you spray. The stinging nettle will die but the grass will not be harmed.

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JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD

•Hardy annuals such as godetia, pot marigolds and cornflowers (lots of others too) can be sown directly into the soil for a quick display of flowers. Plant little pinches of seeds about a foot apart and in five weeks prick them out into where gaps can be seen. A nice job for children because these flowers bloom quite soon after sowing.

•Evergreen shrubs can be moved now. It may seem too late but lots of evergreens become scorched if they are moved during winter. Spray the foliage once a day to keep the leaves turgid, rather than keeping the soil too wet.

•Prune forsythia and other spring flowering shrubs as soon as the flowers finish. If this seems daunting, pull back an outer branch, you will see where the dead flowers are, look down to where there is a side growth and cut off the stem right down to that growth. Pull another branch towards you and do the same all around the shrub.

•Plant water lilies or split existing ones. When planting in baskets, use loam and cover the top with a layer of grit, this helps prevent too much soil leaving the surface of the container and stops the water becoming polluted.

•Sow seeds of primulas which are grown in greenhouses. Try some primula malacoides or primula Kewensis. Primula obconica is another beautiful plant but some folk are allergic to the hairs on the leaves, the others don’t cause this problem. Sow all primula seeds in the light. They won’t germinate in darkness.

•Plant dormant dahlia tubers outdoors but be prepared to cover the shoots as they grow above the soil otherwise frost will blacken the rapidly-growing shoots. Dahlia plants produced from cuttings must not be planted outside until the third week in May.

•There are some lovely clematis plants at garden centres and nurseries ready to plant. Plant your newly-purchased plant in well-prepared ground two inches deeper than the surface in the pot. Try to find a 12in-long piece of plastic down pipe to put over the stem and press the end of the pipe into the soil to a depth of two inches. This reduces the possibility of clematis wilt by more than over 75 per cent.

•Remove the dead leaves around the bases of bearded iris plants to enhance the overall appearance of the plant which is admired not only for the flower but the foliage too. It looks wonderful alongside all forms of hosta.