Questions, answers and jobs for the coming week

Seaweed: great for the compost heap, but no good for potatoes
Seaweed: great for the compost heap, but no good for potatoes
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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

Q: We have been away for a while and before we left our raised beds were dug over but they are now smothered with weeds. Is there a quick way to kill them? H and IR, Fareham.

A: Keep an eye on weather forecasts and spray Weedol 2 evenly over the weeds on a windless day. If the weather is sunny the weeds will turn brown in a few days.

Q: We have masses of seaweed on the beach near our allotment. Can it be dug into the ground straight away? HS, Eastney.

A: Yes it can, but don’t bury it under a crop of potatoes because they hate salt. The salt can be washed off with a hose on your path or drive. Seaweed is an excellent manure if added to your compost heap. Use a four-inch layer followed by a four-inch layer of grass mowings, then another four inches of seaweed. A layer of vegetable peelings is a good alternative or even cleanings from a rabbit pen. Sandy soils are transformed when seaweed is dug in.

Q: I have just taken over half an allotment at Waterlooville but need some advice. Where can I go? I went to our library and looked at a book but I need to talk to someone. LF, Waterlooville.

A: There is an allotment association trading centre at Forest End, Waterlooville and it is open every Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 11.30am. If the people on duty can’t resolve your problem, write a note to me, give it to one of the volunteers and I will telephone you. An excellent book for allotment holders is called The Vegetable Garden Displayed.

Q: My friend has a wonderful camellia called Debbie. When would be the best time to take a cutting please? JF, Eastney.

A: The best time will be the third week in July. I have sent you a diagram showing how to prepare a cutting.

Q: My dad has died and I have found these bulbs in his shed. What are they please? DP, Drayton

A: These are gladiola corms. Plant them now four inches deep and they will be in flower in early August. When they bloom they will make you think of your dear dad.


Hardy annuals such as godetia, pot marigolds and cornflowers (lots of others too) can be sown directly into the soil for a quick display of flowers. Plant little pinches of seeds about a foot apart and in five weeks, prick them out where gaps can be seen. A nice job for children because these flowers bloom quite soon after sowing.

Evergreen shrubs can be moved now. It may seem too late but lots of evergreens become scorched if they are moved during winter. Spray the foliage once a day to keep the leaves turgid, rather than keeping the soil too wet.

Prune forsythia and other spring flowering shrubs as soon as the flowers finish blooming. If this seems daunting, pull back an outer branch, you will see where the dead flowers are, look down to where there is a side growth and cut off the stem right down to a side growth. Pull another branch towards you and do the same all around the shrub.

Plant water lilies or split existing ones. When planting into baskets, use loam and cover the top with a layer of grit, this helps prevent too much soil leaving the surface of the container and prevents the water becoming polluted.

Sow seeds of primulas which are grown in greenhouses. Try some primula malacoides or primula kewensis. Primula obconica is another beautiful plant but some folk are allergic to the hairs on the leaves, the others don’t cause this problem. Sow all primula seeds in the light, they don’t germinate well in darkness.

Plant dahlia tubers outdoors but be prepared to cover the shoots as they grow above the soil level otherwise frost will cause the rapid growing shoots to become blackened.

There are some lovely clematis plants at garden centres and nurseries ready to plant in the garden. Have a look at Keydell. Plant the newly purchased plant in well-prepared ground two inches deeper than the surface in the pot. Try to find a a foot-long piece of plastic down pipe to put over the stem and press the end of the pipe into the soil to a depth of two inches. This reduces the possibility of clematis wilt by more than 75 per cent.

Remove the dead leaves around the bases of bearded iris plants. This will enhance the overall appearance of the plant which is admired not only for the flower but the foliage too. It looks wonderful alongside all forms of hosta.

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