Questions, answers and jobs for the coming week

Solar chicken wire?
Solar chicken wire?
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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

I put freesia corms into pots as you suggested and they are growing well, but how can I stop the leaves falling over? KG, Cosham.

Get some hazel sprays. Push the sprays into the sides of the pots and their natural shape will keep the foliage together. A lot of professional growers use this technique.

We have rats at our allotment and I intend to buy some rat bait. How can I stop other animals eating it? FE, Waterlooville.

Put a piece of paving on the ground near the shed and find some guttering about 18in long. Place the bait on the stone and cover it with the guttering. Put a brick on top of the guttering. Look at the bait station every day and you will find the bait has been eaten. But after three or four days it will be left untouched. This means the rat is dead. Always wash your hands when checking the station. If you have to keep doing this, get in touch with your council’s pest control officer.

When I was an apprentice gardener at Bolton we were shown how to connect chicken wire (pictured) to a 12-volt battery to warm the greenhouse soil. I wish someone would invent a solar power system to do the same thing. HS, Havant.

We have a number of clever readers and someone out there may have the answer. With the introduction of new types of battery it must be possible and there are lots of gardeners who would be interested. I will let you know if anyone writes to me.

I have a load of rubbish which should be composted. Any ideas how to get rid of it? I am then going to start again and do it properly. HL, Denmead.

Take out a trench and put it into the base. Cover it with soil and grow runner beans in that spot next year. Try to get this done straight away so the soil bacteria can break it down into humus.

We have found a bag of tulip bulbs and the shoots are yellow and about three inches long. Is it too late to plant them? G and LP, Fratton.

Get them in as soon as possible but make sure there are about three to four inches of soil on top of the bulbs. Shallow planting is the main cause of failure with tulips.


For instant colour, have a look at winter flowering heathers. They are already in flower and if planted now they will give your garden a glow during the winter. No heathers like chalk so plant them in a raised area or in a container of acid compost, the best one is John Innes ericaceous mix, the ordinary John Innes composts are not suitable.

Plan ahead, after digging the area where summer cabbages are to be planted, scatter on a thick dressing of garden lime but don’t apply this where other crops are to be grown.

Buy a packet of exhibition onions so they can be sown on Boxing day in your greenhouse. My dad always did this to get away from we children for an hour on Boxing Day.

The blackbirds are eating holly berries as if there is no tomorrow. Pick some as soon as possible if you want berries for indoor displays, otherwise you will need to buy some of those which are on wires and they have to be twisted onto the indoor decorations. I don’t mind having to do this because the berries are natural food for the lovely blackbirds.

Are you going to make a holly wreath with a red ribbon to go on your front door?

This job is made easier if you buy a circle of oasis at the garden centre. Simply soak the oasis circle for an hour and then thrust in the fresh holly, ivy and mistletoe with baubles and the ribbon and everyone will feel welcome into your home.

On the mundane side, try to get some more digging done on the vegetable patch, leave it rough so that the frosts will break down the clods.

This is a good time to undertake fruit tree pruning, particularly apple trees. Buy a good pruning saw and secateurs and remove all branches which are crossing and scraping.

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