Questions, answers and jobs for the coming week

Gooseberry sawfly caterpillar
Gooseberry sawfly caterpillar
Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

My gooseberries looked wonderful and I picked a lot of fruit. All the leaves have gone and this happened in just a few days. Do birds eat the leaves? HG, Cowplain.

The defoliation was caused by gooseberry sawfly caterpillars (pictured). These little monsters strip the foliage in less than a week. In the autumn cut out the lowest branches on the plants so you form a short trunk. Next May paint the trunk with Trappit Barrier Glue. When the berries are half size, take a cane and tap the branches sharply so the caterpillars fall to the ground. Squash them with your foot. Any you miss will not be able to cross the glue barrier. If this is too much bother, spray the bushes with an insecticide which will kill caterpillars during the end of May next year.

A friend tells me there are strawberries which produce fruit all summer. What are they called?

JF, Horndean.

There are several varieties, but they are not very good as far as flavour is concerned. The best-tasting variety is Aromel. It produces fruit in late June and there will be fruits again in August until the end of September. Trouble is that you need to grow a huge number if you want a good crop. 

I sowed a row of wallflowers and the leaves have been nibbled and turned brown and crisp. BP, Anchorage Park.

This is the flea beetle. Dust the seedlings with ant powder on a dull day and it will solve the problem.


Take cuttings of pinks and carnations 5in long. Trim off all leaves apart from the top seven and insert them into a 50/50 mix of sharp sand and seed compost. Water them with a half-strength feed of Maxicrop Growth Stimulant. It’s amazing how this encourages easy rooting.

Thin bunches of indoor grapes. Hopefully this will be the last thinning of the year. Dust sulphur powder on the stems holding the fruit and use sulphur powder on any leaves which have powdery mildew.

Disbud dahlia bloom buds every few days to encourage flowers on longer stems.

Tie in stems of chrysanthemums so they grow long flower stems.

Divide or move peonies now. When replanting, ensure the tops of the rhizomes (thick roots) are on the soil’s surface. If planted too deeply, they won’t produce flowers. If you don’t want to move or divide them, scrape away the surface of the soil below the foliage so you can see the tops of the rhizomes. They will then flower next summer.