Rats in your compost? Brian Kidd tells you how to beat them

Wire mesh will keep these chaps out of your compost.
Wire mesh will keep these chaps out of your compost.

BRIAN KIDD: The amazing life of plants and how to make them thrive

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... and has plenty of jobs to keep you occupied in the coming seven days

Q: My neighbour gave me two lemon geraniums – one in a pot, the other is in the garden. The one in the garden is much larger. How can I over-winter it and when should it be cut back? BH, Locks Heath.

A: Keep the one in the pot indoors during winter and repot in spring. The one outside might get through the winter, but cover it with several layers of fleece when frost is forecast. Any pruning should be done as soon as the flowers fade.

Q: My compost has not rotted and I saw a rat going into it. I want to start again and use your 1-in-7 routine. How do I get rid of my existing compost? HB, Cosham.

A: Dig over a small area of soil and place a piece of rabbit wire on top of the ground. Put the compost bin on top of the wire mesh. Take a bucket of your unrotted compost and place in the bottom of the bin. Sprinkle on one part urine to seven parts water, then add another layer. Add another layer when you need to pee again. It’s a good idea to put a bucket alongside the dustbin and once full put the contents into the compost bin adding the magic formula of course. If you don’t fancy following this advice, use a compost activator!

Q: I’m thinking about exhibiting at our local summer flower show. What would you advise me to enter? I am pretty good at vegetables. HS, Waterlooville.

A: Get hold of a show schedule and grow for the show. Often extra points can be gained by entering classes such as Any Other Vegetable. Careful schedule-reading is a bit like reading an exam question. properly!

Q: I want to put my geraniums in boxes in the greenhouse. Last year the leaves rotted. How can I prevent this? Mavis, Southsea.

A: Cut the geraniums back really hard removing every leaf. Put the roots in dry compost and keep the compost on the dry side all winter in a frost-free greenhouse. If fluffy spots appear on the tops of the cut stems dust over with sulphur dust.

JOBS FOR THE COMING WEEK

Early broad bean seeds can be sown now. Aqua Dulcie Claudia is one of the best. It’s very hardy. Avoid slug damage by sowing a single seed in each cell of an insert tray. The 24 cells to fit a standard seed tray will be best. This gives you the opportunity to plant them at a time suitable to you.

Plant a clump of rhubarb. Early Timperley is the earliest but Victoria is the lovely red-stemmed variety. Existing rhubarb can be lifted and divided now. For an early crop, dig out a large crown and leave it on top of the ground to become frosted during the winter. Then it can be forced in the airing cupboard in the dark.

Save rain water for acid-loving plants you may receive at Christmas. Azaleas and potted heathers love rain water.

Buy shallot bulbs because good gardeners plant them on the shortest day. Shallots are easier to grow than onions and they have a special flavour. Did you know shallots can be cooked the same way as onions? Did you know shallots’ new leaves taste better than spring onions?

Weeds in the lawn can be tackled one square yard at a time. Lay a plank on the grass, kneel down and remove the weeds by hand. An old-fashioned daisy grubber is useful or a sharp knife.
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Christmas presents for gardeners. Azaleas, heathers, poinsettia, orchids in pots. Stainless steel tools. A soil warming cable. And ladies PLEASE, we blokes don’t want socks, handkerchiefs, ties and after shave. Women only buy after shave for men so they have something for a raffle in the New Year.

Got a question for Brian? E-mail him via features@thenews.co.uk