Questions, answers and jobs for the coming week

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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

Q: I bought a collection of ground cover perennials from a newspaper advert and the one enclosed is covering everything. Is it a weed? DL, Cowplain.

A: This is a beautiful wild flower called cranesbill. It is very hardy, the flowers last a long time and produce lots of seed. Keep just a few or they will take over the garden.

Q: I had no flowers on my peony so took your advice and moved them leaving the roots out of the ground. Thanks for the tip. Now I need help with roses. How can I get them to be beautiful.? SB, Southsea.

A: Feed the roses with Vitax Q4 pelleted fertiliser. I am pleased the peony has flowered.

Q: I took your advice about orchids surviving in a temperature of 7.2C (45F) and set our heating at 10C (50F) while we were on holiday. When we returned all my orchids were dead. GRH, Horndean.

A: I am very sorry indeed about this, but 7.2C (45F) is perfectly adequate for most orchids during winter. I hope you didn’t overwater them before you went away? They will not survive being wet during winter.

Q: I am going to grow wallflowers in a huge border. Can you tell me the name of a yellow variety as I have in mind a splash of sunshine next spring. When is the time to sow the seeds? JF, Hayling Island.

A: The best yellow variety is Golden Bedder. Sow the seeds in a week’s time, preferably when it is going to rain. Use ant powder on the seedlings to prevent flea beetle damage.

Q: My radishes are hard and woody and too hot. My dad grew lovely radishes the size of a marble and they were fleshy with no woody bits. FP, Cosham.

A: Simply water them more often.


Be prepared. Buy some copper fungicide to prevent potato and tomato blight. Spray when the weather feels humid and repeat after rain.

Tomatoes can now be planted in the open garden. Avoid strong winds. If it’s possible, give them a little protection.

Keep the hoe going especially while weeds are small. Pick them up and put them in the compost bin. They make a good layer between grass mowings.

When mowing don’t forget to sprinkle on one part urine to seven parts water after each box of mowings and try to cover the top of the compost heap to keep in the warmth. This will destroy grass seeds.

Sow a few more runner beans to follow those already planted. There’s a place in every garden for runner beans as it’s one of the most attractive climbing plants.

Continue sowing short rows of beetroot, spring onions, radish and lettuce. Just a few seeds every fortnight. You don’t need 300 lettuce.

Plant marrows outdoors now. Dig a bucket of well-rotted compost or manure into the soil, then put a four-feet-long cane alongside the plant and you will be able to water the root.

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