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.
Is it possible to take cuttings of a rose, as we are putting the house on the market and i would love to take a cutting of my one rose as i am happy to buy some new when we move but this one is special and i would love to keep it.
Hi Joanne. Yes you can certainly take some cuttings from your rose. It’s a fairly straightforward process and they don’t require much attention. Cut out some strong, healthy stems from this year’s growth - do not use older wood. To prepare the cuttings, simply cut your chosen stems into lengths of about 25cm. You will need to cut just above a bud at the top of each cutting and just below a bud at the bottom. Remove all of the foliage except for one leaf at the top of each cutting.
Dip the base of the cuttings into a rooting hormone if you have some available, before pushing them into a pot of gritty, well drained compost. Don’t use multipurpose compost. John Innes No 3 or even some well drained garden soil is preferable. You can fit several cuttings to a large pot if you position them around the edge of the pot.
Place the pot in a sheltered, shady spot and keep them well watered. They will root over the winter months and by next summer should be ready for potting up into individual pots and growing on. Best of luck with them, Joanne; and good luck with your house move.
Hi Sue, is there a rule of thumb re sowing seeds? Do we use seed trays and 'prick out' or cells then pot on? Also do I need to Vermiculite or just use the compost to cover? Thank you
Hi Cat. This is a great question - with a simple answer. If you are dealing with larger, quick growing seeds such as Sunflower, Sweet Pea, Marigold, and Calendula for example, then you can get away with sowing them straight into cells in late spring and early summer. Because these seeds germinate and grow quickly, then they will need the space provided by a cell much sooner than smaller seeds would, and they will not be at such a risk of rotting.
Most other seed will be best started in seed trays. Many need light to germinate so it is important to read the sowing instructions carefully. As a rule of thumb however, you can cover the seed with a sprinkling of vermiculite that is roughly equal to the depth of the seed, i.e larger seed can have a good sprinkling, while very tiny seed probably won’t need any at all. I hope that makes sense to you. I would always recommend following the sowing instructions as some seed do have very particular requirements.
Please can you recommend a green manure for planting on the veg patch over winter - to cover the bare soil vacated by the onions and carrots. Hello Sarah. There are a number of different Green Manures that you can use. Choosing the most beneficial one really depends on what you are trying to achieve.
If your soil is on the heavy side then a Grazing Rye might be useful. It has extensive roots that will improve the soil structure. Alternatively you might just have time for a crop of Buckwheat which can be dug in at the first frosts. This has a very deep root system that will break up heavier soils and sub soil. Crimson Clover is better on sandy soils to add water retentive humus.
On soils that are low in fertility thenPhacelia is particularly useful and not too troublesome to dig in. I hope this helps you to decide, Sarah
When is the best time of Autumn to cut back / prune my apple & cherry trees. Also how far from the branch - meaning the minimum of branch left. They are not OLD TREES 5yrs, still small girth. I want to prune hard as the rain this year has made thin branches & Apple Tree top bent over branches @ top. Also what's the latest I can buy from T&M a very sweet Apple tree this year, I will also have a Pear tree from T&M this yr. approx November delivered. Sincere thanks.
Hello Ann. Your apple tree is best pruned during the winter months. Begin by removing any dead, diseased or misplaced branches entirely. Does your apple only produce fruit at its tips? If so then it is probably a tip bearer and so you will only need to shorten the main branches by a quarter of the previous season’s growth. The laterals can be left unpruned.
If your apple produces fruit from spurs further down the branch then you can shorten the main branches by a quarter of the previous season’s growth. The laterals can be cut back to 5 buds from where they join the main branches.Regarding your Cherry tree, you should avoid winter pruning as this leaves cherry trees prone to silver leaf disease. Established cherry trees with a decent framework should require only occasional pruning to remove damaged, badly placed or diseased wood, and to shorten strong growing laterals by half. If you are planning to order some more fruit for delivery this autumn then I would recommend that you place your order early to avoid disappointment.
Hi I would like to improve the privacy in our garden as we are slightly over looked by neighbours. Can you recommend some plants that would help us achieve this, that are perhaps fast growing and easy to maintain? Thanks
Hello Liz. Most people opt for a well positioned small tree to improve garden privacy. I would suggest a deciduous tree such as Sorbus vilmorinii. This is a particularly compact rowan tree that ultimately reaches around 3-4 m high. Another reasonably small native tree is the Hawthorn. This also has creamy white flowers and red berries which the birds love. Both Rowan and Hawthorn are fairly resilient and don’t need a lot of maintenance once established. Other small trees to consider are Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Ballerina’, Prunus ‘Shogetsu’, Acer griseum or even one of the smaller Magnolias.
If you would like something a little more exotic looking then maybe try some Bamboos. You could create a fabulous screen! Be careful to choose a clump forming one as some varieties can travel great distances and become somewhat invasive.
Another option might be to add some trellis to your boundary fence and plant some quick growing climbers. You could try Clematis armandii, which is evergreen and produces white, fragrant flowers in the spring and Lonicera periclymenum 'Serotina' (honeysuckle) which is very fragrant. You could also try Clematis tangutica, Clematis montana, Jasminum officinale, Akebia quinata, Passiflora caerulea (passion flower) or even Wisteria if you have the space. I hope that gives you some ideas.
Hi Sue, I've recently inherited some hebe's (not sure of variety) that have previously been in full shade and under watered. They are rather leggy and collapsing in the centre. I have replanted them and they are doing quite well, but I was wondering whether there was anything I could do to reinvigorate them and reform the nice bush shape. I have the same issue with some bush type jasmines, when should I cut these back to get healthy vigorous growth? Thanks, James
Hi James. Hebes are best pruned in late Spring so I would leave them as they are for the time being. I would be inclined to give them a light trim all over. This may be enough to stimulate sufficient vigorous growth to make them bushier. Give them a good feed after pruning with a slow release fertiliser. If all else fails then they will sometimes tolerate hard pruning, and it’s certainly worth a go as a last resort if these plants are looking really shabby. Regarding your Jasmines, these are best pruned in summer after flowering. Jasmine flowers on wood produced in the previous year, so aim to only cut back stems that have already flowered rather than the new growth that will carry blooms next year. Cut the selected stems back to a healthy bud close to the base of the plant, and don’t forget to feed the plant afterwards. Best of luck with it.
Bramley apples very badly infested with worms-the crop almost ruined.
Hi Fred. That’s a great shame but there is little you can do to salvage your crop this year as the damage has already been done. However it is well worth identifying the larvae in your apples so that you can guard against them next year. The most obvious cause is Codling Moth. These larvae have white bodies and brown heads. They feed from the core and make tunnels to the fruit surface where they emerge in late summer. Next May it might be worth placing some Pheromone traps in your tree to monitor when the moths are present. This will help you to ascertain the best time to spray, but you will normally find that they reach their peak around mid June.
If the tree is small enough then you can spray with an insecticide that contains the active ingredient deltamethrin such as Bayer Provado Ultra Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer. You will need to respray again about 3 weeks later. I hope you have a better crop next year.