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Facebook Q&A Session 20th September 2013


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 20th September 2013 - Your horticultural questions answered.

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Name: Sandra Jones Haynes

Question: Can I ask some advise again please I have got a Mexican hat plant, which is over two foot high. Only got one stem to it and I have re-potted it at the beginning of the year, do I cut it back the stem to make it bush out please. I have got loads of plantlets on it. Thanks for your help.

Answer: Hi Sandra, Mexican hat plants (Kalanchoe daigremontiana) do have a habit of becoming leggy, particularly when grown indoors. If you would like to encourage a bushier habit you can prune the main stem to the height you require, cutting just above a leaf joint. Avoid removing more than two thirds of the plant to allow it to recover well. I hope this helps Sandra.

Name: Joan Watson

Question: Can I ask your expert how to overwinter Pelargoniums bought as small plants? They’re too pretty to just throw away so hoping for some tips Joan Watson. Dundee

Answer: Hi Joan, Pelargoniums can be successfully over-wintered provided they’re kept frost-free. If they’re planted in the ground you will need to gently dig them up, taking as much of the root ball as you can, and replant them into pots of multipurpose compost. Check the underside of the leaves for pests and treat any infestation as soon as possible, as they will quickly multiply once under cover. Water the plants and place them in a bright, cool (but frost-free) greenhouse or conservatory. A cool windowsill would also be fine. The secret to over-wintering Pelargoniums is to keep the compost almost dry during winter as they are very susceptible to rotting in cool conditions. You can plant them out again after the risk of frost has passed in May next year. I hope this helps Joan, good luck.

Name: Wakki Jakki

Question: I have a beautiful Alstroemeria last year I put it behind the pots and barrel water feature. Come spring I found it to move it back in the garden and the pot had totally cracked in half. I had to rescue it so transferred it into another pot. It struggled to produce flowers but is out in abundance now thank goodness. At the time I wanted to split it so I could have another pot but daren't now as it has only just recovered. How do you split them? Can you be brutal and un-pot it and separate it like that or can or how do you grow them from cuttings.

Answer: Hi Wakki Jakki, Alstroemeria can be a bit sensitive to disturbance as you’ve found, and its best to only move or divide well-established clumps which are at least 3 years old. If you don’t mind the wait it would be safest to let your Alstroemeria re-establish in its pot before dividing. When you do come to divide your plants, dig them up with a garden fork and gently separate the tubers, taking care not to damage the roots more than necessary. This should be carried out in the autumn or very early spring. Select the healthiest tubers for re-planting and throw away any weak or old sections. Re-plant the tubers about 20cm (8") deep. Unfortunately Alstroemeria does not root well from cuttings - it’s best to propagate through division. I hope this helps, best of luck.

Name: Phil K Franks

Question: Can you pull any rhubarb stalks at this time of year? As mine has got loads on it, seems a shame to let them die back.

Answer: Hi Phil, it does seem a shame to just let the leaves die back but it really is the best thing for the plant! By removing the leaves you would be removing an enormous source of energy and nutrients which the plant stores for use over winter, and for new growth in the spring. By letting your rhubarb die back naturally it will ensure a healthy plant next spring and summer. Also, this late in the season the stems can be very fibrous and unpleasant to eat. I hope this helps.

Name: Deborah Atkinson

Question: Just wonder want I can do to get rid of black flies on my roses?

Answer: Hi Deborah, the most commonly used non-chemical remedy is to spray them with soapy water. You can buy insecticidal soaps but many people make up their own using a teaspoon of washing up liquid diluted in 3 litres of water. The aphids are unable to breath under a coating of soap and subsequently suffocate. If you intend to try this then be sure to spray them on a dull day as spraying in full sun is likely to scorch the foliage. You can also buy organic sprays based on natural substances such as pyrethrum - they will need spraying on the insects themselves to ensure control.

Other popular methods include squashing groups of them between your finger and thumb or blasting them with a hosepipe to knock them off of the plants. (Be careful not to damage your plants with the pressure of the water.) You can also spray your roses with a chemical insecticide - either ones that kill on contact, or ones that enter the plant’s vascular system to give complete control. Contact insecticides include Bayer Sprayday Greenfly Killer and Westland Plant Rescue Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer. Systemic insecticides include Bayer Provado Ultimate Bug Killer, Scotts Bug Clear Ultra and Westland Plant Rescue Bug Killer Ornamental Plants. I hope this helps clear up the blackfly on your Roses Deborah.

Name: Diane Allen

Question: Had a bumper crop of Brown Turkey figs this year - can I freeze them? And how do I go about it? Any advice much appreciated thank you.

Answer: Hi Diane, you can certainly freeze figs. As with most fruits and vegetables they will lose their firmness and become soft and mushy once defrosted - you may prefer to use them in jams and desserts once frozen. I’ve heard fig and ginger jam is delicious! To freeze figs, it’s a good idea to cut the stems off first in case you wish to use them straight from the freezer at any point. They can then be frozen whole or chopped. To stop them sticking together, simply space them out on a tray, and place in the freezer for up to 12 hours. You can then transfer them to airtight bags or tubs before putting back in the freezer. I hope this helps Diane, best of luck.

Name: Wrink Keydink

Question: I have potato blight/rot. Can I grow anything in their place? Or must I treat the soil?

Answer: Hi Wrink, blight spores over-winter on dead plant tissue and infected potato tubers left in the ground. There is some ongoing research into the spore’s ability to over-winter in the soil but no conclusions have been reached yet. Blight spores are mainly carried in on the wind and there’s nothing you can apply to the soil to prevent it. Fortunately this disease only affects tomatoes and potatoes. There are some steps you can take to help control blight - take a look at our 'How to Stop Blight' article for further advice. I hope this helps Wrink, best of luck next year.