Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions
I always have a good crop of marrows, cucumbers and courgettes but every year they are attacked by a white mildew. Can this be prevented? TP, Waterlooville.
Yes, buy a drum of Bordeaux mixture from your garden centre. Mix the correct amount in water and spray all over the foliage. You will see the blue colour on the leaves and mildew will not appear. Repeat after rain. This also controls disease on plants already infected. Bear in mind, mildew is caused by dryness at the roots.
We love dwarf tulips and plant them in groups on our rock garden but because squirrels dig them out, decided not to grow them any more. Is there a way of stopping the squirrels (pictured)? FL, Widley.
Yes, this is particularly useful as you like to plant them in groups. Plant the bulbs so they have six inches of soil over the tips of the bulbs and use hanging baskets placed on the ground upside down. Push the rims of the baskets into the ground. We find this very effective at home.
I have an ants’ nest in my greenhouse. How do I get rid of it? I can’t use insecticide powders because of my asthma. BD, Farlington.
You will find Ant Stop in cardboard boxes. Keydell have this in stock. Inside the box there are sachets. Sprinkle a sachet along where you see the ants running and within a few days they will be exterminated. I used this in my polytunnel and it worked like magic.
We have just moved to Denmead and there is a huge cooking apple tree which is about three times too large. Can this be pruned now as we can’t really get into the garden? G and LR, Denmead.
Yes it can be pruned now. I have sent you the name and address of a tree surgeon who will do the job correctly. It will not cost a great deal and you will have the assurance it will be done correctly.
I grow patio fruit trees in large pots and notice that despite feeding they seem to lack vigour and the fruits seem small. Any ideas? FP, Denvilles.
In November take the trees out of the containers and shake off all the old compost and repot using John Innes number 3 compost but add 10 per cent sharp sand and mix this well. Put little feet underneath each pot and you will see a remarkable improvement next summer.
JOBS FOR THE WEEK
Buy colchicum bulbs for the grandchildren. Put one in an egg cup on their bedroom windowsill and soon you’ll have a beautiful water lily-like flower. Afterwards plant in the garden. They will naturalise, producing blooms each autumn.
This is the last call for sowing a new lawn. Get it done before October as grass seed germinates well while the ground is warm and, in theory, damp.
Patches on lawns can be repaired quickly. Put 1lb of good quality grass seed to 10lb of moistened seed compost and mix well. Place in a black polythene bag for a week to chit the seeds. Prick over the grass with a fork, then scatter over the chitted seed and compost. Water afterwards. This amount will repair about five square yards.
Sow larkspur seeds in little patches where they are to flower. They are perfectly hardy. Choose a sunny area in well-drained soil.
Give Autumn Bliss raspberries a high potash liquid feed if there are lots of green berries and flowers. You’ll have ripe fruit in four weeks.
Plant daffodils but don’t forget other little gems such as chionodoxa, scilla, iris reticulata and anemone blanda. These all give us something to look forward to seeing in the spring.
Hoe through wallflower plants or, better still, hand-weed the rows because chick weed quickly smothers wallflower plants at this time of year.
Remove runners on newly-planted strawberry plants or layer them into three-inch diameter pots if more are needed.
Pot up strawberry plants needed for greenhouse culture. Loamless compost is not suitable. Much better results are achieved using JI 3 compost. The plants must remain outside in the cold until the end of January, to prepare them for greenhouse culture.
If you have a question for Brian please e-mail him via firstname.lastname@example.org.