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Name: Vivien Henderson
Question: Please can you tell me why my crystal apple cucumbers have no fruit only blind flowers? There are plenty of bees around to pollinate them. Vivien
Answer: Hi Vivien, as you say 'Crystal Apple' is an outdoor variety of cucumber which requires pollination. It’s worth checking the flowers to see which type are being produced. Cucurbits have a habit of producing flushes of male flowers and no female flowers, particularly when they’re first planted out. The female flowers will have a tiny baby cucumber beneath, at their base (probably round in this case) while males just have a plain stem. If your cucumbers are growing in a greenhouse, bees may have trouble finding the flowers, even with the windows open. Plants growing in the open are much more likely to be pollinated. It’s also worth checking the general health of your cucumber plants, they like a sunny and warm position in the garden and are quite greedy feeders so will need regular feeding with a high potassium fertiliser. You can try hand-pollinating your flowers - simply use the tip of a fine, soft paintbrush and dab it gently into a male flower before transferring the pollen to the centre of a female flower. Give the flowers a good dab to make sure enough pollen has been deposited on the stigmas. I hope this helps Vivien, do let us know if there is no further improvement.
Name: Jenny Tennet
Question: Acer planted in a pot. Growing well but sprouting high branches. Want it to grow more as a bushy shrub. How and when do I prune to encourage lower growth?
Answer: Hi Jenny, the best time to prune Japanese Maples is when they are dormant, from November to January, as they are prone to ‘bleeding’ if pruned at any other time of year. Simply identify the long branches you wish to remove and prune them out where they meet a side branch. This should encourage the tree to branch lower down and create a more shrub-like habit. I would also suggest giving it a good mulch of well-rotted organic matter in spring to feed it up after heavy pruning, to encourage new growth. Take care not to mound mulch up around the stem though. I hope this helps, best of luck.