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.
Here at our school and in the usual chaotic manner we have planted a selection of early and main crop Potatoes. However, all the bags we planted have been jumbled about and it's not impossible to tell them apart? So in reality a 2 part question - does it matter that we don't know which ones are which (even though they were planted at different times they all look the same now) and when is the best time to harvest the potatoes.
Hi Andy. Don’t worry, it really doesn’t matter. It just makes harvesting them a bit more exciting - sort of a ‘potato lucky dip’! Your potatoes will let you know when they are ready to be harvested. Once they have flowered you will notice that the foliage will start to turn yellow and eventually die back. This indicates that your potatoes are ready to be harvested.
Do genetically modified crops use the bacteria found in tree warts to bridge the species gap?
Hello Fall. The bacteria that you are referring to is called Agrobacterium tumefaciens. It causes crown galls on trees. It’s a long time since I tinkered with plant DNA at college and I am by no means an expert in genetic engineering, which is a very complex subject. However, I can confirm that this bacteria has DNA transmission properties which have been largely exploited in delivering foreign genes into plants. It’s a fascinating process, and there is plenty of reading to be found on the subject if you are interested and enjoy reading scientific papers!
Is it safe to cast a clout yet?
Hi Emma. There’s a lot of truth in some of these old phrases. I believe the saying goes, "Ne’er cast a clout till May be out", with May being in reference to Hawthorn flowers. They are certainly in full bloom here so if you are getting too hot in the garden then I’m sure you could risk taking off your jacket now!
In terms of your plants, you can start to harden the larger ones off now but keep an eye on the weather in case we get a cold snap. Obviously this is a greater risk the further north that you live, so if you are on a particularly cold or exposed site then give it another couple of weeks just to be sure.
What do you think to this article in the Mail online - Problems growing tomatoes? Feed them ASPIRIN say scientists to fight disease and boost yield!
Hi Steve. Here is a link to the original study. This sort of study is always interesting as it lends scientific weight to methods that have been tinkered with by gardeners for years.
As I understand it, spraying your plants with aspirin is intended to be a preventative measure rather than curative. Salicylic acid which naturally occurs in plants has been indicated to trigger the plants natural defences. Aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) is a derivative which appears to induce similar effects.
I would anticipate that the dilution of the aspirin and the timing of application are fairly crucial however. Also the effectiveness is likely to be variable depending on the incidence of blight at the time - in wet summers when the disease is prevalent I am doubtful that this method alone would be sufficient to stave off blight. It would be an interesting plant trial for a willing gardener - perhaps you could conduct your own experiment Steve? I’d be fascinated to hear the results.
Hi Sue can you tell me what this tree is? I would really like one for my garden, sorry for the poor quality photo, it was raining when I spotted it! Pink fronds that look like feathers, flowering now.
Hi Clare. It looks like a Tamarix (or Tamarisk as it is commonly called). It makes a very pretty large shrub or small tree, and is particularly useful for coastal sites as it withstands salt laden winds well. Unfortunately we don’t sell it but a quick Google search should find you a supplier online.
Hi Sue, could you please tell me why the buds on my clematis are dying?
Hello Marj. It’s really impossible to give you a definitive answer without seeing the plant. Try taking a look further down the stem to check whether there has been some damage - slugs and snails can often cause damage to the base of young stems at this time of the year and the first obvious signs are often when the buds begin to wilt. Alternatively it may be a disease such as Clematis wilt which tends to hit plants just before the buds open. Are there any other symptoms? If you have a picture and a bit more information then I certainly try to give you a more complete answer.