Click here to view details of our previous Q&A sessions.
Name: Tracey Dawson
Question: Is there any edible crops I can grow in shade? Thanks.
Answer: Hi Tracey, you can certainly grow crops in partial shade although deep shade won’t give good results. Some plants actually crop better with some shade from intense heat and sunlight. You can grow cool-season crops such as peas, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, radishes, lettuce, salad leaves, spinach and Swiss chard in partial shade. Brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale all do well in partially shaded conditions too.
If the shading is light then runner beans will do well - they actually set their beans better in cooler conditions. You could also try herbs such as parsley, chervil and chives, which will grow happily in shadier conditions. With the exception of the parsnips all of the vegetables mentioned can still be sown now!
Most soft fruits will tolerate some shade, although you might get a slightly reduced harvest. You could try strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries and blueberries. Rhubarb also does well in partial shade. I hope this has given you some ideas Tracey; let us know how you get on.
Name: Susan Mulvey
Question: I have these grey fluffy growths on my mock orange. I gut a small piece and its bright green inside. do you think it could be fungal or a canker picture to follow.
Answer: Hi Susan, this is unusual but it looks like some sort of gall, which is an abnormal growth of plant tissue formed in response to a wound or insect activity. As you mentioned that the flesh was bright green when you cut into it, it is unlikely to be a fungal or bacterial infection. It could be the activity of gall mites - tiny microscopic insects which secrete chemicals that cause abnormal growth. It is common to see galls forming at this time of year due to the egg-laying activities of the mites. Although they look unsightly gall mites rarely harm the plant. If you only have a few galls you can simply remove the affected shoots - there are no chemical controls. If this isn’t feasible you can just leave the galls as they are, they won’t hurt your mock orange. I hope this helps Susan, let us know how you get on.
Name: Helena Fasching
Question: When can you prune a Catalpa?
Answer: Hi Helen, it’s best to prune your Catalpa when it is dormant between the autumn and late winter. They respond well to hard pruning so don’t be afraid take out larger branches if needed. Remember to always make a cut just above a bud and at an angle facing away from the bud. Let us know if you need any further help.
Name: Eunice English
Question: I lost a small fortune in plants last winter. Can you please suggest some hardy colour that can survive in exposed conditions?
Answer: Hi Eunice, the toughest plants are often trees and shrubs. You could try Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis) which has attractive white bark which illuminates the winter garden. Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) is a tree with very attractive late spring flowers. Another good one to try is Mountain Ash or Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) which has white flowers in the spring and red berries in the autumn. Shrubs which tolerate exposed conditions include varieties of Berberis, Deutzia gracilis (fragrant flowers), Mahonia (also fragrant), Spiraea nipponica and Sambucus nigra ‘Guincho Purple’. Good perennials for this situation include Daylilies, Hardy Geraniums, Aster alpinus, Centaurea dealbata (perennial cornflower), perennial sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius), Campanulas, Crocosmia (Montbretia) and Veronica spicata. If you like grasses then Purple Moor Grass (Molinia caerulea) is very tough too. Coastal plants such as Sea Thrift (Armeria), Sea Holly (Eryngium) and Potentilla (Cinquefoil) are excellent for exposed situations but do require good drainage. It’s also worth considering that even tough plants benefit from some protection in their first year whilst they establish. You could try creating a temporary shelter from windbreak netting or fleece to offer some protection over the winter months. Factors such as soil texture can affect a plant’s hardiness so this is worth considering, especially if you have heavy clay soil. It’s always a good idea to improve your soil with well-rotted manure, compost or recycled green waste before planting to improve drainage. I hope this helps you get started Eunice, wishing you luck this year!
Name: Jo Moore
Question: An elderly friend of mine is sad that he can’t afford bedding plants for the bed under his apple tree this year. I suggested some annual seeds. Is there anything we can still quickly sow that will flower this year in part shade?
Answer: Hi Jo. It is getting a little late now but if you are quick then there is still just enough time to sow quick growing annuals such as Calendula, Candytuft and Nigella. However these do prefer a sunny spot so they might be better suited to a different position in the garden. As your friend is on a budget then it is well worth asking gardening friends and neighbours if they have any spare bedding plants - there are normally quite a lot of leftovers being passed about at this time of the year, as people tend to grow too many and don’t like to waste them. Keep an eye out for busy lizzies and begonias which are particularly well suited to a slightly shadier position. Best of luck Jo.
Name: Jacqui Threlfall
Question: There are no buds on my rose, why is this.
Answer: Hi Jacqui. It is hard to be certain without a little more information. Let me suggest a few things and hopefully something will ring a bell with you! My first thought is that your rose may have been planted in the last 12 months. In this case it is probably still settling in. Plants need to develop a good root system and reach maturity before they can flower so be patient this year and hopefully next year you will see some blooms.
Take a look at your rose - Is the plant in good health or does it look sickly? Roses are notoriously greedy plants and require a rich, fertile soil, so it may be worth feeding it with rose fertiliser. A good mulch of well rotted manure in spring is also beneficial. If you are feeding your rose already then check the fertiliser to see whether it is particularly high in nitrogen as this may encourage lots of foliage at the expense of any flowers. At this time of the year you can switch to a more balanced fertiliser. Also consider whether the plant is getting enough sun. There are a few varieties that will cope in shadier conditions but most roses enjoy a sunny position with at least 6 hours of sun per day. Hopefully something here will sound familiar to you. If not then please post a picture and I will take a look.
Name: Vicky Deaville
Question: My back garden is like an allotment. I try to grow all my own veggies but this year I’ve noticed ants running all over my garden / veggies. Anyone got any ideas that I can do or use to stop them.
Answer: Ants are generally quite beneficial in the garden as they feed on sap sucking aphids and the honeydew that they produce. You could try applications of ant deterrent and watch to see where they move to. If you keep applying it wherever they move, then sooner or later they will find somewhere to live which will be less of an inconvenience to you. Applying broad greasebands or gluebands around the base of any containers you have may help to discourage them from setting up home in your plant pots.
It is also well worth encouraging insectivorous birds to your garden who will help to keep the ant population down. You should try to keep aphid infestations under control in your garden too, as aphids provide an excellent food source for ants - ants will even ‘farm’ aphids in order to harvest the sugar rich honeydew that they produce! Alternatively there are chemical ant killers on the market that can be used to good effect. You may want to use chemical bait that is taken back to the nest and shared among all of the ants, thereby ensuring that the nest is completely destroyed. You can pick this type of ant control up at most garden centres. Hope that helps Vicky.
Name: Be Jal
Question: Hi T&M can you tell me what’s happening to my begonias? the stems seem to be rotting away for no apparent reason.
Answer: Hi Be Jal. Fungal diseases such as verticillium wilt are a common cause of stem rot and are often exacerbated by over watering, high humidity and poor ventilation. It looks as though the compost is quite wet in your pictures so I would definitely ease up on the watering. Always let the compost dry out slightly before between watering and try to water from below rather than above to prevent the stems sitting wet. Also make sure that your plants are not crowded together as warm, wet conditions are perfect for the spread of fungal diseases. If they are in the greenhouse you can improve conditions by watering in the morning and leaving the greenhouse door open during the day to ensure adequate ventilation. Unfortunately you will need to remove and destroy the infected plants to prevent this problem spreading.