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Facebook Q&A Session 22nd March 2013


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 22nd March 2013 - Your horticultural questions answered.

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Name: Sarah Jackson

Question: My contorted hazel regularly sends up ramrod straight suckers from near the base. I keep cutting them out but is there a more permanent solution?

Answer: Hi Sarah, contorted hazels are often grafted on to a vigorous rootstock which produces the suckers you have described. If you can, it’s best to try and buy a contorted hazel growing on its own root system. Unfortunately all you can do is to keep cutting back the suckers annually to help direct energy into the slower growth of the contorted branches. Cut the suckers as close to the point of origin as possible. If it won’t cause too much damage to the tree then tear, rather than cut, the suckers away as this will ensure that dormant basal buds are removed, reducing the chances of re-growth. Best of luck Sarah.

Name: Sherry Bevan

Question: I've had my garden 'redone' and I now have empty borders and an empty vegetable patch at the back waiting to be filled but I don't know where to start. In the past I have successfully grown butternut squash and tomatoes. One of my daughters wants to grow carrots and raspberries. Are these all good for relative beginner to vegetable gardening? Would people recommend I buy a mixed pack of plants for the flower borders? Is there a good tool somewhere I can use to plan what it should look like? Thanks

Answer: Hi Sherry, it’s worth thinking about the fruits and vegetables you eat most! You may find our ‘top ten easy to grow vegetables for beginners’ a useful guide and our ‘top ten easy to grow fruit for beginners’. Raspberries and tomatoes are excellent plants for beginners to try. Carrots need a nice loose soil and results can be disappointing in areas with big populations of carrot fly, which tunnel into the roots and destroy crops. Butternut squash is fairly easy to grow in a fertile, moist soil. With my vegetable plot I dedicate an area to permanent plants such as raspberries, strawberries and herbs and then make sure I leave a few beds free for annual crops such as carrots and broccoli, which I edge with quick-growing salad crops such as lettuce, beetroot and radishes. I would say grow as much as you think you can look after this year and you will soon get a feel for it! Gardening is a bit of a learning process.

For the flower borders, buying a ready mixed pack such as one of our annual collections or perennial collections is certainly an easy way to get started. If you would like a low-maintenance perennial border that grows back each year it’s worth thinking about how you would like the borders to look, maybe drawing a few plans on paper, before rushing into buying anything. A well-planned, coherent design will have a lot more impact than a collection of plants bought at random. This year you could try growing annual plants while you plan a more permanent design. To help you find your perfect plants try using our Garden Plant Selector. I hope this helps Sherry, best of luck with your new garden.

Name: Roy Williams

Question: Hi my lily bulbs are being eaten by white worm things, what is best way of stopping this and how do I protect them as I’ve got a lot of lilies? I grow them in both containers and the ground but mainly in the ground in a few different flower beds. Got a few different kinds tree lilies and lot of smaller ones.

Answer: Hi Roy, a big problem I have with my container-grown lilies is vine weevil - small C-shaped grubs with chestnut brown heads that love to munch through fleshy lily roots and bore into the bulb. They are not as common in garden borders - they prefer the open structure of compost. However it’s not unheard of for them to attack border plants, particularly if there is a large population present. It could also be wireworms, which are the larvae of click beetles - the larvae are white when young but develop a tough golden skin as they grow.

The best course of action if you have vine weevils or wireworms is to be vigilant and treat the affected areas regularly with biological or chemical controls. Chemical controls such as Provado Vine Weevil Killer can be used to drench the compost of container-grown plants but cannot be used in open soil as they will kill all soil dwelling creatures, including worms. Biological controls such as nematodes can be used in both containers and open ground as they are harmless to wildlife (and pets and children). They are effective in killing the larvae in the soil and can be applied once the soil has warmed up to at least 5°C (they are simply watered into the soil). The optimum time to treat vine weevil is from midsummer onwards once the new larvae have hatched. Wireworm can be treated at any time throughout the spring and summer (although if using nematodes this will depend on soil temperatures). I hope these suggestions help Roy, best of luck in treating your lilies.

Name: Christina Goozee

Question: This is my "Standard" Rosemary which I don't think likes winter as it seems to be dying. I have brought in to the heated conservatory and I’m hoping it will recover?

Answer: Hi Christina, unfortunately this looks like it could be dead. Rosemary plants don’t tolerate extreme weather well - their official hardiness rating is ‘frost hardy’ so they will survive temperatures down to -5°C (23°F) with the occasional dip to -10°C (14°F), provided the soil is very well-drained. Container-grown plants are at further risk due to their roots being exposed - it’s advisable to bubble wrap pots for the winter or place them against a house wall for shelter. Standard plants are always more vulnerable in winter as the cold can damage the exposed main stem and cause die back of the whole plant. If you wanted to try growing a rosemary standard again it may be best to bring it indoors to a cool, bright room or frost-free greenhouse for the winter and water sparingly. I hope this helps Christina.