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Facebook Q&A Session 11th July 2014

Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 11th July 2014
- Your horticultural questions answered.

Our horticultural expert Sue Sanderson runs a fortnightly question and answer session - so if there is something that has been eluding you in your garden, post your question on our facebook page and she will get back to you during her next Q&A session.

View the answers to our previous sessions.

  • Jane Durston
  • How do I manage water melon plants to ensure goods crops?

  • Sue - T&M Horticultural Expert
    Sue Sanderson - T & M Horticulturalist
  • Hi Jane. Watermelons are tropical or sub-tropical plants so they are best grown in a polytunnel or greenhouse although make sure you regularly ventilate the structure to prevent pests and diseases. Melons are most successfully grown in rich, fertile soil. A liberal application of well-rotted manure or garden compost should be dug into the soil before planting. Watermelons are extremely vigorous (they can spread 3-4 metres) so give them plenty of space - plant them about 1m apart.

    After planting, keep them well watered but they must not sit in wet soil for long periods as this will cause them to rot. Feed with a balanced fertiliser every two weeks until the fruits begin to develop. Pinch out the growing point on each plant when they are about 2m long, to encourage laterals to form.

    When the flowers form, choose five female blooms per plant (female flowers have a small bump underneath them). Using a fine paintbrush and the pollen from the male flowers, you can begin to hand pollinate your chosen female blooms. As the fruits begin to set, remove any further flowers and feed with a high potash feed. Be extra careful with your watering as the fruits develop. Overwatering as the fruit develops can make the melons watery and tasteless. I know it sounds complicated, but it is well worth the effort! Best of luck.

  • Bob Newlands
  • Is leaf curl on tomato plants down to the difference in temperature between day and night?

  • Sue - T&M Horticultural Expert
    Sue Sanderson - T & M Horticulturalist
  • Hi Bob. Tomato leaves do often curl as a result of differing day and night temperatures, but this is nothing to worry about. They will usually grow perfectly well despite their curling leaves, and this often rectifies itself as the season progresses anyway. It is worth just checking your plants for aphids however, as these can cause similar symptoms. Best of Luck Bob.

  • Pauline Petros
  • I very cleverly (or as I thought) grew a fig tree from a fruit I bought. 6ish years on its 6ft - it set 8 fruits this year but they're not ripening and are dropping off one by one - will I never get fruit because they're not getting fertilised?

  • Sue - T&M Horticultural Expert
    Sue Sanderson - T & M Horticulturalist
  • Hello Pauline. Unfortunately fig trees that are grown from unknown seed are pretty unreliable. There are a number of reasons why the fruits may be dropping, but yes, it is possible that they have not been fertilised if they are dropping whilst still very small. Another reason might be that the plant has suffered water stress during a period of hot weather. Inconsistent moisture levels may cause fruit drop, particularly if the plant is grown in a container where it is more vulnerable. Have you noticed any indications of disease that might be affecting your plant? This can also cause fruit drop, although you would normally notice some other symptoms too.

    Given that this is the first year it has shown signs of fruiting I would be inclined to give it the benefit of doubt. Cropping is likely to improve with maturity so enjoy it for its foliage for now and see what it does in future years. If you have the space then you could buy another fig to try to improve the chances of pollination but this is by no means a certainty!

  • Jane Wade Was Jones
  • I would like to move some fuschia bushes - they are about 18 inches high. Can I move them and if so when / how?

  • Sue - T&M Horticultural Expert
    Sue Sanderson - T & M Horticulturalist
  • Hello Jane. You can move them now if you want to, but you will need to be prepared to water them regularly until they are fully rooted in to their new positions. Moving them now is also likely to disrupt flowering as they will divert all of their efforts into producing a new root system.

    Ideally shrubs should be moved in autumn or spring while the soil is warm and moist, as this helps them to re-establish. Prepare the new planting hole before you begin lifting the plant from its current position. Choose a cool overcast day to prevent the roots from drying out too quickly. Give the main stem a wide berth and aim to lift as big a root ball out as you can manage so as not to disturb the roots.

    Re-plant your Fuchsia in its new home immediately. Dig plenty of organic matter (well rotted manure or garden compost) into the new planting hole. Firm the plant into its new hole and water well every day, especially in dry periods until the plant has re-established. I would also recommend mulching around the plant as well to retain moisture at the roots. Best of luck.

  • Ravi Lal
  • I have a mock orange. It is 7 years old but has never flowered, I give it a light pruning now and then to keep it tidy and in shape. Give it a Miracle-Grow fertiliser.. Still a mystery to me, can you assist me or any keen Gardeners ??

  • Sue - T&M Horticultural Expert
    Sue Sanderson - T & M Horticulturalist
  • Hello Ravi. Does it appear to be in good health otherwise? Philadelphus enjoy a fertile well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. It is always a good idea to review the growing conditions of your plant in case there is something in its environment that is affecting its growth in general.

    Philadelphus flowers on the previous year’s wood and requires annual pruning to make the most of the blooms. It’s best to prune in midsummer (after flowering) to ensure that sufficient new growth can be made during the remainder of the season to ensure flowers in the following year. Cut back the stems to a healthy bud and remove a fifth of the old stems to ground level. It is possible that you have previously pruned it just a little later in the season and the subsequent growth was not sufficiently mature to flower the following year.

    You might also want to try using a High Potash feed to promote flower induction. Try to avoid feeds with high levels of nitrogen as these will promote lots of lush foliage at the expense of flowers. I hope that your Philadelphus plant flowers for you soon Ravi.

  • Sue - T&M Horticultural Expert
    Sue Sanderson - T & M Horticulturalist
  • Hello James. No it’s not too late to sow biennials. How about some Stocks or maybe some Foxgloves? Echiums make a bold statement, or for something more traditional you could try Sweet Williams!

  • Pamela Howat
  • I have a clematis which has been lovely but since last year it's been getting covered by what looks like mildew. What could be the cause and what can I do to help the plant?

  • Sue - T&M Horticultural Expert
    Sue Sanderson - T & M Horticulturalist
  • Hi Pamela. Powdery Mildew is quite prevalent at this time of year and affects a wide range of plants. It is often associated with humid conditions and the plant becoming dry at the roots. It can be controlled by spraying with a fungicide. There are lots available, just check the manufacturers label to make sure you choose one that is suitable for clearing powdery mildew on ornamentals.

    Prune out and burn any infected plant material to reduce the spread of spores, and try to prevent the plants becoming dry at the roots by ensuring that they are adequately watered. You could also apply a mulch in spring to help conserve moisture in the soil throughout next summer.

    In autumn, remember to clear any neighbouring plant debris away from the area as this is likely to harbour over-wintering mildew spores. Finally, try to maintain good air circulation around the plants by not crowding them together.