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Brian answers readers’ horticultural questions

Q: The top leaves on my plum tree are crinkled and on the insides there are tiny insects.What are they and what can I do to resolve this problem? HK, Horndean.

A: The insects are plum aphids and they multiply rapidly. Spray them during the evening with an insecticide which will kill greenfly. If you don’t want to use a chemical, snip off the tips straight into a bucket and get the prunings out of the garden. Four ounces of soap flakes in two gallons of water is also effective, but spray once the sun is off the leaves.

Q: What type of grass is this and how do I get rid of it from my potato crop. I am new to gardening. FS, Milton.

A: It’s couch grass and is best removed when you are digging out the potatoes. When you undertake winter digging remove every piece of underground stem and you should be free of this problem next year.

Q: We bought some lovely verbena plants and there are little roots emerging from the ends of the stems. If we cut these off do you think they will root and flower this year? GR and P, Copnor.

A: Yes. Simply insert the cuttings in a sandy compost and keep moist and they will root in about three weeks and these plants will begin to flower in eight weeks. Verbenas are beautiful in pots, containers. baskets or borders and the bees love them.

Q: I can’t find golden rod at my garden centre. What’s the botanical name so I can find it?

GPF, Leigh Park.

A: The botanical name is solidago. This is a very common plant but I love it because it is trouble free and the bees find great quantities of pollen and nectar from the wonderful flowers. Solidago will grow in any part of the garden even in cold and shaded parts, but the soil must be well drained.


Water early potatoes with Maxicrop Complete general purpose liquid fertiliser allowing three weeks before gently removing some of the soil from the ridging. You will see little potatoes. Pull off just a few leaving the plant to grow on. If the soil is dry start watering as soon as the potatoes come into flower and you will increase the crop’s size.

Stop ants climbing trees by putting a band of grease all around the trunk.

Trim the lawn’s edges every time you mow.

Each time you add a four-inch layer of mowings to the compost bin add either 2oz of sulphate of ammonia or one part urine to seven parts water.

Remove side shoots on the tomatoes and give the plants a quick shake at lunchtime every day to ensure the pollen falls on to the flowers.

Take the tops out of chrysanthemums growing as spray blooms.

Sow maincrop peas in insert cells. Cover with fleece once they are planted outdoors and you won’t get maggots in them.

Try capillary matting so your plants remain watered while you are on holiday.

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