Thompson & Morgan
Facebook Q&A Session 29th November 2013


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 29th November 2013 - Your horticultural questions answered.

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Name: Hannah Bufton

Question: I planted Mme Alfred Carriere as a climber this year. Should I prune it? Or leave for a year !Monty pruned his 2 year old one on Gardeners World, but someone else advised leaving climbers to get a foot in the door, so to speak.

Answer: Hi Hannah. It won’t do any harm to give your climbing rose a light prune this year to encourage branching and improve the framework of the plant. In any case you will still need to undertake some training to tie any new stems onto their supports. The main thing to remember is that roses are quite greedy plants and will need a good feed in the spring after pruning. A mulch of well rotted manure and an application of slow release fertiliser around the end of March will give your rose a real boost.

You can start by removing any dead, damaged or rubbing stems. Train the remaining main stems as horizontally as possible to encourage more flowering side shoots to form low down on the plant. Do the same next autumn as well. From the third year, the main stems will probably only need reducing to maintain the plant within the available growing space, while side shoots should be reduced to 3 buds. I hope this helps Hannah.

Name: Lesley Gilbert

Question: Hi Sue, Please when is the best time in general to cut back a huge bank of ivy that covers the wall of my garden. I love it as do the birds for the berries and cover, the insects for the flowers but I’m betwixt and between as when to tackle it, as it desperately needs taming, whilst still trying to allow the wildlife to benefit too.

Answer: Hi Lesley. From a horticultural perspective the best time to prune your Ivy would be in early spring before new growth starts. From a wildlife perspective there is probably never a good time but it is more a question of when you will cause the least disturbance!

As you may know, it is an offence to destroy or damage an active nest under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. For this reason the RSPB recommend that hedges are not pruned between March and August which is the main breeding season for birds. If you think it likely that birds may nest in your ivy then you will need to avoid pruning during this period.

Taking this into account, and also remembering that the flowers and fruit of Ivy appear quite late in the season, I would suggest that you prune your ivy at the end of February/ early March. This should hopefully not disturb your birdlife too much but would allow the plant plenty of time to recover before flowering and fruiting in late summer. I hope this helps your decision Lesley.

Name: Emma Stevens

Question: Is it too late to hack some more off of next door's trees?

Answer: Hi Emma. It really depends on what type of trees they are. If they are deciduous trees then ‘yes’ you can prune them any time from now right through to the end of February. Although members of the Prunus family are best pruned in summer to avoid the risk of silver leaf disease - this includes cherries and plums. Evergreens are best left until spring after the risk of frost has passed.

Although legally you are allowed to cut any part of a plant which is encroaching on your property boundary without giving notice, it’s always a good idea to mention to your neighbour that you are intending to do this beforehand as a matter of courtesy.

Name: Tony Jarrett

Question: Can we grow the sort of oregano the Italians use without a greenhouse pls?

Answer: Hello Tony. I’m slightly intrigued by your question. As far as I am aware the Italians use the same oregano as we do - Origanum vulgare. This is a hardy perennial herb so you can plant it out in the garden and harvest the leaves each summer. You can also dry the leaves for use during the winter months. Make sure you choose a lovely sunny spot to grow it in as this will improve its flavour.

Name: Santosh Rana

Question: What is best way to make compost. Leave vegetables peels in compost bins or just spread the peels onto the soil to rot. Saw rats in compost bin?

Answer: Hi Santosh. The best way to make compost is to put your vegetable peelings in the compost bin along with plenty of other ‘green’ waste. The heat created within a compost bin helps the decomposition process so that they rot down much quicker. Spreading peelings directly on the ground will take much longer to decompose and is likely to encourage even more vermin.

Regarding the rats in your compost bin, these can normally be discouraged by using your compost bin regularly and turning the compost often. Rats dislike disturbance so this acts as a fairly effective deterrent. Rats also prefer a dry environment so ensuring the correct balance of green and brown waste will also help to deter them by keeping the compost nicely moist.

Name: Paul Britton

Question: Hiya, I have a wall planter with Begonia "Inferno" planted from corms in June, started in greenhouse. When &what do I do when they stop flowering, still in bloom now. Thanks very much, cheers.

Answer: Begonia ‘Inferno’ are really quite spectacular aren’t they? They are fibrous begonias and it is easiest to buy fresh plants each year. However, if you have a heated greenhouse then you could bring containers of them indoors for the winter. They will need bright, filtered light and a minimum temperature of 10C (50F). Check for pests and diseases before you bring them in and cut them back by about half. As a safeguard you could try taking some cuttings from the pieces of stem that you have removed, in case the main plant doesn’t survive the winter.

They will probably become dormant during the winter months, so you can reduce watering and keep the compost just moist until they begin growing again next spring. You will need to keep an eye out for botrytis though, as they are quite prone it.

Name: Craig Simpson

Question: Hi Sue!! I'm same as Paul above. My apricot shades tubers are still going strong!

Answer: Hi Craig, good to hear from you! You can keep your Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ for next year. Once the foliage has died back naturally (which should be starting now) you can either store them in their pots in a cool, dry place or lift and clean the tubers and store them in containers of dry sand or peat. Keep them at a temperature of 5-10C. It’s best to dust the tubers with a fungicide before storing them to prevent them rotting. If you decide to keep them in their pots, allow the compost to dry out and begin watering them again in the spring.

Name: Brian Seaton

Question: Am finally moving down from a full-size fruit and veg. plot to containers. Is it possible to grow primocane Blackberries eg. Reuben in a container with supports. If so what size pot?

Answer: Hello Brian. It sounds like you are looking forward to downsizing! Blackberry 'Reuben', like most primocanes is ideal for growing in a container. It has a sturdy upright habit so you wont need to provide much support. Its a good idea to give your blackberries plenty of space. A large 25 litre pot would be ideal for planting up one of our 3 litre sized plants initially. Use a soil based compost mix such as John Innes No. 3 mixed with some well rotted manure or compost to give your plant the best start. Best of luck with your new container crops.