Questions, answers and jobs for the coming week

Red Duke of York
Red Duke of York
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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

Can you tell me what is attacking the geraniums in my garden and gardens nearby and how to resolve the problem please? MB, Southsea.

This is a disease called geranium rust and if you look carefully you will see the rings of the rust spores. Remove all the infected leaves and then spray underneath then over the top of the leaves with Systhane fungicide. Spray again in the spring and repeat after three weeks. This will prevent a further attack.

We might seem to be strange but neither of us likes the taste of new potatoes. Is there a variety which doesn’t taste like new potatoes? My local garden centre tells me there isn’t one. KP, Hedge End.

I grow Red Duke of York (pictured) because it doesn’t have the new potato taste. You would be surprised how many people hate the taste of new potatoes. In addition, new potatoes are not good for roasting. Red Duke of York is.

We lost an apple tree after a gale last year and I had to remove the roots. I thought grass seed would grow OK but the soil has sunk. Is there an easy way to fill the area to get the grass level again? I am nearly 82. HD, Cosham.

Ignore the grass which is growing. Pour a bag of John Innes No1 compost into the area and get a builders’ plank. Pull this backwards and forwards so the dip is filled and the final surface is the same as the surrounding grass. Resow with grass seed in April. This is the easiest way for those over 30.

I have been allocated an allotment and am wondering if it would be a good idea to spray the whole plot with Roundup to kill the weeds, but my neighbour three plots away says it is best used from March until September. I would like to use a rotavator to do the digging but would appreciate your advice please. GD, Fareham.

I sent you a copy of this reply because you could use the Roundup now if you add a sachet of Weedol 2 to the mixture and apply during a fine spell when there is no wind. Please don’t rotavate at this time. It is far too wet. The best idea is to apply the weedkiller, wait for three weeks to allow it to work and then do winter digging. Invert the dead weeds and leave the surface really rough. Rotavators are ideal during the spring when the soil is drier.


Paths are slippery at this time of year. Clear fallen leaves because you may slip when it’s wet. If moss is making paths slippery, water on Brintons patio cleaner diluted in water. This kills the moss. After watering the path, leave the solution for about an hour before brushing off the moss with a stiff broom.

Our lawns are still wet so it would be wise to insert a garden fork into the turf to the full depth of a garden fork and then scatter sharp sand over the lawn’s surface. Brush this gently into the grass to prevent slipping when walking over the grass.

Thank goodness most of the leaves have fallen. It has been a mammoth task picking them up. If you have not done this yet, rake them with the wind blowing towards the heap you are gathering. Now stuff them in old compost bags so they will rot and become leaf mould. Sprinkle on one part urine to seven parts water – the best activator and it’s free.

If you enjoy growing lettuce in a cold greenhouse, another batch of winter lettuce can be sown now for harvesting in March. Look for the varieties Rosetta or Winter Imperial.

Because of the wet weather some of the Brussels sprout buttons look as if they have rotted. Leave those which still look a bit green because after Christmas they will burst open to form what look like little cabbages. It’s a bit fiddly, preparing them in the kitchen but these can be very useful to eat and the leaves taste as good as spring cabbage.

A horrible job, but as soon as all the leaves have fallen this is the time to clean out the garden pond. Water lilies can be divided now, you will need to do this if you found the leaves of the water lilies grew long leaf stems which were nine inches over the top of the surface of the water. How do I know this? I’ve got to sort ours out.

This is a very good time to think about changes in the garden, as we are all a day older than we were yesterday, what changes would make the garden easier to look after? Do you need that flower bed in the middle of the lawn? Why not move the bird bath into a border? Have a look, think about it.

Bordeaux Mixture has been withdrawn from sale, this is an absolutely outrageous decision as at present there is nothing else to replace it BUT as soon as there is a replacement I will let you know.

If you have a question for Brian please e-mail it to him via the address at the top of this feature.