Click here to view details of our previous Q&A sessions.
Name: Ken Stockley
Question: Have a north facing fence and it looks ugly. Can you suggest quick growing covering plants?
Answer: Hi Ken. North-facing areas can be quite challenging but there are a number of climbers that originate from woodland areas that will be happy growing in part shade or fully shady conditions such as with a North-facing fence. You could try Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ which is an evergreen honeysuckle - they are vigorous climbers and the flowers smell fantastic throughout the summer months. You could also try Akebia quinata which is again very vigorous, with lovely bright green foliage (semi-evergreen) and fragrant purple flowers in the spring. Parthenocissus henryana (Virginia Creeper) is a vigorous, deciduous climber and has the most amazing red foliage in the autumn before the leaves fall. Clematis are a good choice for a shady position as they flower profusely - try Clematis alpina, Clematis armandii (which is fragrant) or Clematis montana. All are spring flowering and very vigorous - they should quickly cover your fence within a few years. If you were interested in free-standing shrubs which can be trained as wall shrubs you could try Berberis, Chaenomeles speciosa, Chaenomeles x superba (Japanese Quince) or Leycesteria. All are fast-growing and will cope well in shady conditions. I hope this gives you a few ideas to start with Ken!
Name: Claire Leivers
Question: I have a question, can you recommend a good indoor tomato?
Answer: Hi Claire. Depending on what type of tomato you would like to grow, there are lots of excellent varieties available for indoor cultivation. Good medium sized tomatoes include ‘Ailsa Craig’, ‘Moneymaker’ and ‘Alicante’. Good cherry tomatoes include ‘Falcorosso’ (bush variety), ‘Losetto’ (a good blight-resistant bush variety), ‘Gardener’s Delight’, ‘Suncherry Premium’ and ‘Sweet Olive’. If you were after a good indoor variety for making tomato sauces then ‘Roma VF’ (bush variety) is an excellent choice. If you were after a big beefsteak type tomato then ‘Country Taste’ grows well under glass. I hope this gives you a few ideas Claire, just let us know if you need any further help.
Name: Yvette Britton
Question: My courgette plants (safari & soleil from your seeds) and my runner beans (moonlight) don't seem to be growing very well (compared to previous years) and all have yellow leaves. Some of the courgette leaves are also going brown and crispy and shrivelled! I have fed them once a week (only the courgettes, not the beans) with liquid feed, but maybe they're not getting enough water? I'm struggling to find any answers on the internet and hope you might be able to help please? I have attached photos. Any help would be most appreciated.
Answer: Hi Yvette. There are several things this could be! Yellow leaves normally indicate a nitrogen deficiency although if you have been feeding your courgette, it should have picked up growth. If your soil is very sandy or stony it may be that nutrients are readily washing away - your soil will need improving (by digging in well-rotted manure or compost) every year to maintain good plant growth. Alternatively it could be temperature-related or leaf scorch. The leaves will often turn yellow, or brown and crispy (starting at the edges of the leaf) when plants are exposed to fluctuating temperatures or very bright and sunny conditions. If your plants were grown in an area of lower light or semi-shade, then moved to an open and full sun position this could be the problem. It could also be caused by a substantial difference in temperature between the place you grew them and the place they are planted now (for example moving suddenly from a very warm place to very cool conditions). Waterlogging will also cause leaves to turn yellow and plants eventually wilt. If your soil has a sticky, clay texture this could be the cause.
If this is just a case of transplant shock your plants will recover in their own time! You could also try improving your soil. The soil should ideally be improved with compost or well-rotted manure before planting as this will improve its ability to hold nutrients and water, or in the case of having clay soil, will improve drainage. If you haven’t already improved your soil it is worth adding a mulch around the base of your plants now. You could try Comfrey pellets or any controlled-release fertiliser mixed with compost or well-rotted manure. Spread a 5cm layer around the base of your plants, taking care not to mound it up against the stems. With a little patience you should start to see some improvement as your plants settle in. We hope they pick up soon Yvette, let us know how you get on.
Name: Black Tulip
Question: Hello, i received my rose 'royal occasion' from you 3 weeks ago and it looked pretty dead to me but i realise it is sent out in a dormant state. how long until i can expect to see some signs of life please?
Answer: Hi Black Tulip. Bare-root roses can look daunting when they first arrive but they are very good at establishing roots once planted. They will take a while to get going as they re-establish their root system. The key is to make sure you keep them well watered, particularly during hot weather so there is no check to their growth. The time until the leaves emerge can vary between plants and is also heavily reliant on soil moisture and weather conditions. Now we are experiencing consistently warmer temperatures I would expect to see leaf growth in a matter of weeks. In a few weeks time, if you are concerned about whether your rose is alive, you can scrape back a small portion of the bark with your finger nail; if it is green or white then your rose is living, if brown it may be dead. I hope you start to see some signs of life soon! Do let us know how you get on.
Name: Rachel Elizabeth Wakefield
Question: Hi T&M. I bought some long white cucumber seeds from you earlier this year and they are doing rather well, however, there are a lot of male flowers forming and i was wondering whether these should be removed to prevent bitter fruits?? or are they needed to pollinate the female flowers?? I've had a look on the packet but it doesn't mention anything about the male flowers. many thanks.
Answer: Hi Rachel. Cucumber ‘Long White’ is an outdoor/ridge cucumber variety with both male and female flowers and will need both in order to set fruit. If you put your cucumber outside in a sheltered spot, the bees will happily pollinate the flowers for you!
Name: Dzejn Doe
Question: Hello :) Can you tell me which plant is this? It looks like some kind of mosses... Thank you :)
Answer: Hi Dzejin. It’s a fascinating little plant but I’m afraid we don’t know what it is. I think you are probably right that it is a creeping moss of some sort.
Name: Helena Fasching
Question: I bought this Lily Calla in a supermarket. Can i leave it outside now and will it survive the winter if I bring it inside?
Answer: This is a zantedeschia, but they are often called arums and sometimes mixed up with callas. There are a few frost hardy varieties, mainly varieties of Zantedeschia aethiopica, but most are tender and require a minimum winter temperature of 10C/ 50F. You can certainly keep it outside for now in a sunny spot of your garden. Keep it well watered and feed it every 2 weeks until the flowers fade. Just remember to bring it in before the first frosts, and keep it just moist over winter in a warm position indoors. It’s a lovely plant Helena.
Name: Helena Fasching
Question: What is the best way to store palms during the winter and from when and until when should they be inside maybe the shed?
Answer: Hi Helena. There are a number of ways that you can protect your palms during winter and the method that you choose will really depend on where you live and the severity of the winters there. Palms are always much more vulnerable to the cold when they are young. From Autumn to Spring you will need to pay particular attention to your local weather forecast and make sure that you are prepared with plenty of fleece so that you don’t get caught out by an unexpected cold snap.
You could certainly move them into your shed during particularly cold periods and wrap them with a couple of layers of fleece on very cold nights to give them some extra protection. Alternatively you could pop a small greenhouse heater in there to raise the temperature - just remember to ventilate the shed during the day. If your shed has windows that emit plenty of light, then they could happily stay there for the duration of the winter. But if it is dark inside then you will need to keep moving them back outdoors to a sheltered position during milder periods.
If there is not enough room in your shed then you will need to move them against a warm house wall or similarly sheltered spot and wrap them with fleece or hessian. Tie all of the foliage loosely together to make the job easier and then wrap the plant completely from the bottom to the top with several layers. You will need to remove the wrappings during mild periods to allow ventilation and prevent moisture building up beneath the wrappings as this may cause the plant to rot.
Name: Heather Walker
Question: My camellia survived the winter, but every bud was frost damaged. Do I prune the damaged ends of the shoots and hope that they will all start regrowing, as a few already have done?
Answer: Hi Heather. What a shame that you lost your flowers this year! You can certainly prune out any damaged stem tips now and they will reshoot quite quickly at this time of year. This Winter it might be worth throwing a couple of layers of fleece over the plant on particularly cold nights to give it a little more protection.
Name: Kevin Joseph
Question: Could you guys at T&M please tell me why every time my Busy Lizzie Sunpatiens Volcano comes into flower about a day after the flower just fades away. Please take a look at the picture.
Answer: Hi Kevin. It’s good to see that your Sunpatiens is looking nice and healthy. They love to be in full sun so you have planted it in the right position. But as Judi mentioned, adverse weather conditions can quickly damage the flowers - wind and rain are particularly destructive. When watering, take care to water the compost rather than over the flowers as this will also damage them. It is still quite a young plant so be patient with it. With maturity Sunpatiens just get better and better and make really impressive patio plants by their third year. Make sure that you bring it into a greenhouse or conservatory over winter to protect it from the cold.
Name: Carol Burton
Question: This is a photo of the grubs that I found in my moonlight beans today, it is the same as the grubs I found in the last sowing I made of them. Any ideas what they are?
Answer: It looks like you are having a problem with Bean Seed Fly which lays its eggs on organic matter in the soil. The maggots feed on the developing shoots as germination begins, thereby destroying your crop. But don’t worry Carol - there is still plenty of time to sow some more. Make sure that you are using fresh compost - avoid using leftover compost from last year. Sow your beans in the greenhouse or indoors to avoid the flies coming into contact with them. If this is not possible then cover sowings and the young seedlings with a cloche or fleece to protect them. Hopefully this will solve the problem.
Name: Sarah Lane
Question: Could I ask your advice; I have a 30ft south facing brick wall and would love to train one or two fruit 'trees', I have heard of Cordons, Fans and Espaliers. Which of these are the easiest to grow and maintain? - Any varieties you would recommend for a novice gardener?
Answer: Hi Sarah, that sounds like an ideal wall for fruit trees! I would strongly recommend buying a good book on the subject to help guide you. I would recommend any of the styles of training you’ve mentioned; the simplest is probably a cordon as it is only a single stem to train and maintain, with the more complex form being a fan. Be aware that only pear and apple trees are suitable for cordon or espalier training; stone fruits such as plums, cherries and peaches don’t fruit well with restrictive pruning and are only suitable for fan training. You can also train redcurrants and gooseberries as cordons or fans.
When choosing a variety of apple or pear, make sure you choose a spur-bearing, not tip-bearing variety. Spur-bearing varieties will produce fruit the whole length of the stem so are ideal for training, whereas tip-bearers, as their name suggests, will only bear fruit at the end of the branches. You will also need to be aware that many varieties require a pollinating partner in order to pollinate and set fruit. Egremont Russet, Cox’s Orange Pippin and ‘Red Falstaff’ for example are spur-bearing and will pollinate each other so would make ideal subjects for training. If you’re interested in growing pears then ‘Conference’ and Williams’ Bon Chretien’ would make ideal pollinating partners and are also spur-bearing. All varieties of stone fruits are suitable for fan training - the only thing to be aware of is that plums and cherries may need pollinating partners unless they are self-fertile. I hope this helps Sarah - it sounds like a fantastic project and we’d love to hear how you get on.