... and he has plenty of jobs to keep you occupied, even at this time of the year
Q: I have a lovely oleander tree in a large pot and have pruned it every year as soon as it finishes blooming as you advised me three years ago. It is a big bush now, just what I wanted. The thrilling thing to tell you is that all the flowers are pink, but there is one spray of orange flowers. Do you think this is interesting? HC, Petersfield.
A: Great news, it is likely you have a new variety. Take a cutting next July to see if you can establish it. This incident is called a sport or sport hybrid. Let me know if you get the cutting to root and if the flowers are orange because other readers would like to know.
Q: Just to say thank you. I dug out my begonia non-stop plants and they all had tubers. I have put them in deep boxes of peat. GD, Old Portsmouth.
A: Thank you for letting me know. I’m pleased you have saved the tubers.
Q: I am a teacher encouraging children to grow vegetables. What can we plant at this time of year which the children will find interesting? GK, Fratton.
A: Find a jam jar for each child and put in two Aqua Dulce Claudia broad bean seeds. Roll up two sheets of absorbent kitchen paper so it looks like the cardboard in a toilet roll and using a knitting needle or pencil push each bean seed so that it can be seen by the children. Pour in just half an eggcup of cold water. This will be absorbed by the paper. In two days the children will see the beans have swollen. After 10 a root will appear followed by a green shoot. Keep the paper damp. The beans can then be planted outside.
Q: We received a seedling catalogue from a firm offering what appears to be an amazing range of summer seedlings. Do you think it’s too early to place an order? GI, Widley.
A: No. This nursery has a good reputation. Look carefully and you will see the dates it will dispatch the seedlings. As you have a heater in your greenhouse I would suggest you ask then to deliver in late March. If there is likely to be a frost at the time of posting, they will wait until the weather is less cold.
TASKS FOR THE WEEK
The colder, windy weather is doing a great job breaking down the clods of soil which were dug over a few weeks ago. Keep off newly-dug soil otherwise the surface will be sticky and cling to your shoes.
Try to get tulip bulbs in during the next few days. This is an excellent time to plant them because they are far less likely to have slug damage. The cold weather induces slugs to go to sleep for a while.
Fork around parsley and thyme plants to ensure you have proper stuffing for the turkey or chicken at Christmas.
If leaves on Brussels sprouts continue to look brown or yellow at the base of the plants, take them off and put them on the compost heap.
Brussels sprouts which look as if they are rotting will recover in spring. The rotting is due to the wet weather. In March, the ones which look as if they were rotten will burst out into sprout rosettes which are delicious, just as good as spring cabbage.
Spring cabbages which should be ready for picking in May need protection from pigeons and slugs. Get nets for the pigeons and pellets for the slugs. The nets will stop birds getting the pellets.
Plants of lettuce variety Rosetta sown in the cold greenhouse eight weeks ago, recommended by me are now ready to be potted into 5in-diameter pots in John Innes No2 compost. Add 10 per cent extra sharp sand or sharp grit, mix well together and don’t over-water the plants. If the weather
remains mild, you will have lettuce for Christmas.
Look at the hyacinth bulbs you put into deep pots in October and left them on the garage floor in the dark. Bring them indoors once the buds are fouor to five inches, but not before.
Have you taken down the runner bean canes yet? No?, nor have I but mean to do it this week with a bit of luck!
Got a question for Brian? E-mail him via firstname.lastname@example.org.