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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

Q: I was given a wonderful azalea from my son and it had more than 100 flowers. I would like to keep it but it might need a bigger pot. What compost should I use? HF, Cosham.

A: Buy an ericaceous potting compost which you will find at any garden centre. The more expensive ones are best. Water the azalea the day before you repot it.

Q:I planted some broad beans between kitchen paper in a box exactly as you suggested a few weeks ago but only seven seeds produced roots. I am not going to do this again and want an explanation please as I feel you have let me down. DL, Horndean.

A: The reason is because the seeds were poor quality. If none had germinated it could have been because of over-watering. You had seven which rooted which means you followed my advice. There is still time to sow some more and I have sent you a packet to give you encouragement.

Q: I was delighted to see frog spawn in our pond. The tadpoles started to swim and I used a net to sweep up more than 100 and put them in an old sink with rocks in the centre so they can escape when they turn into baby frogs. I am glad I did this because there is not a single tadpole left in the pond. There are no fish in the pond. Can you tell me why the tadpoles disappeared? SP, Cowplain.

A: It is likely a grass snake or adder has visited. Both devour every single tadpole. I am glad you put some in an old sink. Cover the top with fine netting in case the snake returns.

Q: Our broad beans usually have brown leaves at the base just around the time when the flowers come into bloom on the broad bean plants. You always tell us it is best to prevent problems. What can we do to prevent this please? JD, Portchester.

A: Spray the plant with copper fungicide, you will find this in green drums at garden centres. (It is in stock at Keydell Nurseries) Yes, prevention is the best idea.


Things quickly get out of hand at this time. Keep weeds under control while they are small. When hoeing, pick up all the weed seedlings as heavy overnight dew causes them to root again.

Plant main crop potatoes 15in between tubers and at least two feet between rows. If you have an allotment try to leave a wider gap between each double row so it is easier to spray the crop with copper fungicide in mid-June to prevent potato blight.

Sow runner bean seeds indoors using one seed to each cell of insert trays. Look for the 24-cell size which fits into a standard seed tray. Some manufacturers produce them in modules of 12 cells. You will need two of these to fit a standard seed tray. Remember, you don’t need a veg garden because runner beans on a wigwam of canes look lovely in a flower garden too.

Rake over a piece of pre-dug ground and spread 3oz of blood fish and bone to each square yard over the surface. Rake again ensuring the fertiliser is well mixed into the soil. This prevents foxes digging the ground.

Sow main crop carrot seed. Cover the row with insect barrier mesh to prevent carrot root fly from laying eggs. alongside the seedlings. The eggs turn into grubs which ruin the carrot root.

Sow seeds of leeks within the next few days but keep the seed covered with insect barrier mesh and once the seedlings are planted in blocks or rows, cover entirely with the insect barrier mesh to stop the leek moth. Leek moth chew the foliage­ and are a very invasive pest.

Try to prolong the strawberry crop. Hoe and weed through the plants and apply Vitax Q4 fertiliser between the plants and fork it in with a hand fork. Cover about one third of the crop with cloches, making sure they have glass at the ends of the rows to prevent the plants being in a cold tunnel when the weather is windy. Those under cloches will be ripening 10 days before those without the cloches. This extends the fruiting period and avoids a glut of fruit which may have to be given away.

If you have some spare strawberry plants or you may be prepared to buy some, plant 12 in separate 5in diameter pots in John Innes No3 compost and put them on a shelf in the greenhouse. Fruit is normally picked about eight weeks afterwards but the blooms will need to be pollinated with an art brush to ensure successful fruiting.

All potted plants grown indoors or left for effect in the greenhouse can be fed with a weak liquid plant food from now until the end of September. Feed a weak dilution only once each month choosing a plant food for tomatoes.

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