Questions, answers and jobs for the coming week

Get rid of the rats in your compost bin.
Get rid of the rats in your compost bin.
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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

Q: I bought a forsythia Lynwood hybrid three years ago. I saw it in flower at Wisley where it was magnificent. It has never grown well and I am disappointed, What would you suggest? GJ, Cosham.

A: The reason why this super shrub has not grown well is because it was planted in solid soil. Dig it out and dig over the area to the full depth of a spade. Break up the ground, apply 4oz of Vitax Q4 fertiliser worked into the soil and lightly press firmly with your hands.

Q: Do you know where I can buy English bluebell plants? GE, Lovedean.

A: You will find them in pots at Keydell Nurseries, Horndean.

Q: I am frightened of rats which are in my plastic compost bin at the allotment. It is full and I want to use the compost. AP, Eastney.

A: Go to the allotment shop and one of the men will push the bin over for you. The rats will run off. Don’t stop composting. Buy a sheet of rabbit wire large enough to cover the base of the bin and this will stop the rats from entering again. Lots of readers are doing this.

Q: We have a lovely large group of hardy cyclamen coum in a border next to our lawn and have found nine cyclamen seedlings growing in the grass. When and how can we transplant them into another border? HD, Hambledon.

A: Use a daisy grubber plunged three inches into the soil and lever the cyclamen out with a small divot of grass. Carefully pull away the grass so the corm and roots are exposed and plant into the new border.

Q: My broad bean plants have brown blotches on the leaves, how can I control this? AL, Waterlooville.

A: If you go to your garden centre you will find a drum of copper fungicide. Spray the plants using the dilution rate recommended for fungal diseases.


In the greenhouse or on a windowsill in the spare room sow some cosmos seeds. They will bloom all summer if they are deadheaded regularly.

This is a good time to split clumps of nerine bulbs. Remove groups of five and replant in another part of the garden making sure only half the depth of the bulb is below the soil’s surface. They love a sunny place and the books tell us they prefer well-drained soil, but at home they are in soil which remains wet most of the winter but they are in a sunny place.

Think ahead. Where are cabbages to be planted? All types of cabbage need lime in the soil. Apply lime at a rate of 4 oz-8oz per square yard where cabbages are to be planted. Scatter over blood fish and bone meal where seeds are to be sown in 10 days. Rake the fertiliser into the top four inches of soil as soon as it is applied.

See if you can find little plants of Brussels sprouts called Cromwell. This variety has replaced the best early one called Peer Gynt. If you can’t find seedlings at your garden centre grow some from seeds. Seeds can be planted now, but sow them in insert cells. When they are large enough to plant in rows remember 2.5ft is the minimum distance between the plants and the soil must be firm. These sprouts will be ready to pick in early September and will last until November if you buy enough plants.

Isn’t it annoying to see all the weeds appearing on the ground we dug earlier in the season? Don’t walk all over the soil, put down that plank and walk on the plank to prevent over compaction of the soil before hoeing or perhaps you can carefully spray the weeds with Weedol 2, this saves a lot of work but don’t allow the drift to go on to other folks’ crops or on to plants you need to grow.

Move snowdrops and winter aconites now the flowers have died off. Leave the seed heads on the plants. You will also see them advertised ‘in the green’ in the adverts at the back of the monthly gardening magazines, only £10 per 100 seedlings.

There is still time to prune bush roses. Simply prune back the branches down to where you see a strong-looking shoot which is pointing away from the stem, not towards the centre of the bush.

Got a question for Brian? E-mail him by clicking here.