Questions, answers and jobs for the coming week

A French pigeon scarer.
A French pigeon scarer.
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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

Q: My mum has a heated conservatory and sits there most of the day watching the birds. She wants a camellia in a pot to furnish the space, but we think they should grow outside. LD, Drayton.

A: Find a good bushy one with lots of buds. This will continue to flower for many weeks and after flowering will still look good in the conservatory. When first introduced into Britain they were always grown in conservatories.

Q: I cut some of my begonia tubers in half last year and had two plants from each one. Can I do the same thing with gladioli corms? HA, Cosham.

A: No.

Q: I keep reading your advice about growing shallots. I would like to have a go, but live in a flat. Could I grow them in a growing bag? JD, Milton.

A: Yes, good idea. Place the bag where they are to be grown and cut out the top ensuring you leave a wide shoulder to retain the compost. Plant 12 bulbs an equal distance apart.

Q: We have a pond heater which worked well last winter, but found during the cold spell the pond’s surface froze. Is there a method of checking if the heater is still working? We don’t want to spend a lot of money. H and PE, Locks Heath.

A: The quickest way of testing is to unscrew the plug and replace the fuse. If this doesn’t work a new pond heater will cost about £15.

Q: Our spring cabbages have been eaten and only the veins are left. What’s caused this? P and FW Fareham.

A: Pigeons. Use netting supported by plastic water piping hoops.


Brush the lawn, it will enable you to pick up all the bits and pieces which can go into the compost bin and the lawn will look a lot smarter afterwards.

Sow single seeds of early cauliflower in insert cells in a cold greenhouse. You won’t need more than 12 because they all come to fruition at the same time. Sow another batch in the same way in a month’s time.

Autumn-fruiting raspberries can be pruned now. Simply cut off every shoot down to soil level then spread a four-inch layer of well-rotted manure over where they are growing.

Green-seeded broad beans can be sown now in a cold greenhouse or cold frame. Plant one seed in each insert cell and they will germinate in about three weeks. Don’t over-water the compost otherwise the beans will rot. Not every type of green-seeded broad bean is so hardy, so don’t sow them outdoors until the first week of April.

Seeds of fragrant exhibition sweet peas can be sown now – single seeds in deep pots. They need no heat but ensure they are well protected from mice. Look for the word Fragrant on the seed packet. Many varieties have no scent.

Plan to get as much digging done in the vegetable garden as possible. Continue to leave large clods on the surface so the frost can break the soil into a good tilth.

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