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Facebook Q&A Session 26th July 2013


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 26th July 2013 - Your horticultural questions answered.

Click here to view details of our previous Q&A sessions.

Name: Rachel Denham

Question: Can you tell me why my baby cucumbers go yellow and shrivel up when there are others growing away without any problems. This happens most years when I grow them in my greenhouse. Open to suggestions. Am I doing something wrong?

Answer: Hi Rachel, it sounds like your cucumbers haven’t been pollinated - shrivelling and turning yellow before they start to swell. If this is what is happening then you probably have an outdoor cucumber which produces both male and female flowers (such as 'Burpless Tasty Green') and requires pollinating. In a greenhouse there is often low insect activity so you may need to pollinate by hand to improve the fruit set. Alternatively you could grow an all-female greenhouse cucumber such as 'Tiffany' which doesn’t need pollinating to set fruit. Take care when growing all-female varieties; if their flowers become pollinated by a male flower the fruits will be bitter. Outdoor and greenhouse varieties are best grown well apart. Our article on 'How to grow cucumbers' has lots more information which you may find useful. I hope this helps.

Name: Robert Horn

Question: Can someone please tell me what is doing this to my Fuchsia?

Answer: Hi Robert, this looks like it could be scorch, which can be caused by strong winds or excessively high light levels coupled with a dry atmosphere. It can also be caused by over-fertilisation, where the salts interfere with the uptake of water at the roots, causing leaf spots and damage to the leaf margins. Dryness at the roots exacerbates the problem as dehydrated leaves are more susceptible to scorching. You could try holding off on the fertiliser for a few weeks and allow any fertiliser salts to be washed away naturally with your normal watering regime. Make sure the soil isn’t allowed to dry out, but also ensure the roots aren’t sitting in wet compost either. From the photo it also looks like an insect has had a nibble at a few leaves and there looks to be some distortion, which could suggest a sap-sucking insect such as aphids. It might be worth checking the underside of the leaves and controlling any insect pests you find. I hope this helps Robert, let us know if you need any further assistance.

Name: Tracey Townsend

Question: At what time of year can I plant more roses and clematis, and what can I plant in a full sun area and partial shade area?

Answer: Hi Tracey, the best time of year to plant roses and Clematis is in the autumn when the increased rainfall, cooler temperatures and relatively warm soil will help them establish well. For plant ideas, you may find our Garden Plant Finder useful - simply select whether you’re looking for flowers, fruit or vegetables and then select 'sun or partial shade' or 'full sun'. A full sun area is defined as having at least 6 hours of strong sunlight per day. Once you’ve searched and brought up the results you can further define whether you would like seeds or plug plants. I hope this helps Tracey, best of luck with your garden plans.

Name: Dot Murphy

Question: I have been growing your runner beans for many years, but the last couple of years some of the beans reach the top of sticks, form beans, then start to go yellow and die, despite well watered. This applies to pots as well as in the garden, can you advise please?

Answer: Hi Dot, sorry to hear about your bean plants. Runner beans suffer from a few pests and diseases which may be causing this problem, including red spider mite, halo blight and sclerotinia. In hot dry summers, spider mites thrive on runner bean plants and will over-winter each year on the bamboo canes, ready to infect new plants. They cause the foliage to turn bright yellow and with heavy infestations will quickly cause plant death. The best course of action is to spray plants with a spray based on plant oils - they’re normally labelled as ‘organic’ and will say if they’re suitable for use on edible crops. There are unfortunately no chemical sprays suitable for use on edible plants. Make sure you spray underneath the leaves as this is where they hide.

Halo blight is a bacterial disease which causes brown, water-soaked spots on the leaves and beans, surrounded by a halo of yellow. In severe cases it can become systemic and cause yellowing and death of new foliage. Sclerotinia is a fungal disease which can cause plants to suddenly turn yellow, wilt and collapse. Fluffy white growth then appears on affected areas of tissue. Unfortunately there is no chemical control for Sclerotinia and it can remain in the soil for many years. The best course of action if you believe your beans have halo blight or sclerotinia, is to remove and burn all affected plants or dispose of them in household waste (not composting). Crop rotation will help to keep infection to a minimum. I hope this helps Dot, let us know if we can be of any further help.

Name: Jackie Mason

Question: I have problems with growing garlic - it does grow but takes 18 months. I plant in the autumn expecting a crop around next July, but all foliage has died down and there is no growth under the soil, but the following spring I get foliage and the garlic grows. Any thoughts?

Answer: Hi Jackie, it could be that your garlic isn’t receiving the cold period it needs to initiate clove development, or perhaps isn’t growing sufficiently in the autumn and spring to mature by summer. If your garlic is planted in a very sheltered spot, perhaps against a wall which retains heat from the sun throughout the night, it could be getting too much warmth. Alternatively if your soil is clay, lacking nutrients or has a low pH below 6.5 (acid soil) this could cause slow development. Garlic struggles in poorly-drained, heavy soils, preferring a light soil in full sun. If your soil is heavy, try planting the cloves in module trays of multi-purpose compost and place in a cold frame over winter. They can then be planted out in the spring, having had a sufficient cold period. Garlic also likes a neutral to alkaline soil so if your soil is acidic, try applying lime in the autumn and winter. The bulbs should be planted so the cloves are an inch below the soil surface (2.5cm). I hope this helps Jackie, best of luck with future crops.