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Facebook Q&A Session 13th January 2012


Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A Session 13th January 2012 - Your horticultural questions answered.

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

Name: Ungulu Kamo Damina

Question: T&M please is there any chemical or any means to slow the ripening of tomatoes?

Answer: Hi Ungulu, there are chemicals available to commercial growers and shippers to prevent fruit ripening but these aren’t available for use by home gardeners. Tomatoes are ripened by the presence of ethylene gas, produced by the plant naturally. Unfortunately you can’t stop the plant producing ethylene, but you can slow the whole process down by reducing the temperature and light levels around your plants. You do need to be careful though as prolonged low temperatures whilst the fruits are forming can lead to thick skins! If you’re growing your tomatoes in a greenhouse provide some shading and good ventilation during hot weather to try and slow ripening. Best of luck.

Name: Anna Flowergardengirl Looper

Question: Can you tell me if the new petunia Diamond Pearly Shades will bloom all summer? Does it need to be cut back like the old fashioned varieties? I live in zone 7a.

Answer: Hi Anna, our new Petunia ‘Diamond Pearly Shades’ will bloom from June right up until the first frosts! Although they are strong growers and will continue to flower without any pruning, they’ll benefit from some pinching back to help the plant remain bushy and floriferous near the base. Try pinching your petunias back in two stages (several weeks apart) to prevent your baskets or containers becoming bare. You only need to remove about half of the stem each time. I hope this helps.

Name: Lucy Garden

Question: I potted up the lily bulbs you sent me as one of the bulb special offers, and they started sprouting. Some are really tall - I'm worried that if we get cold weather, it'll kill them! Should I bring them inside?

Answer: Hi Lucy. We have been had such mild weather this winter that a lot of plants are starting into growth much earlier than usual. You needn’t worry about a cold spell killing the bulbs themselves as Lily bulbs are hardy - but a hard frost would certainly knock back any growth that they have made above ground. If they are in containers then it is worth moving them to a sheltered spot outdoors (next to a warm house wall) to protect them. Keep an eye on the weather - if a really cold snap is forecast then you can pop them in the shed for a few nights. Try to avoid bringing them into a heated room however, as this is likely to encourage rapid, soft growth which will have no resilience against the cold whatsoever.

Name: Glenys Furness

Question: Hello, I need some seeds for my garden. I don’t know what I want but they need to be suitable for kids/dogs/bunnies as I have all of them in my family. Flowers please as veg don’t seem to do well in my garden, its 50ft long, but we have beds down the sides. Looking to seeds to start off then transfer to beds. Any sort of lovely colourful plant so long as it’s NOT poisonous to Rabbits, dogs and children (which is where the issue comes in, as some that are suitable for dogs and children are no good for rabbits!)

Answer: Hello Glenys. There are lots of rabbit friendly plants that you can grow that will also be child and dog friendly. Bear in mind though that rabbit friendly plants are likely to be well and truly nibbled by your fuzzy friends so they may not last very long! I have owned rabbits and dogs myself and I found that they will generally avoid eating plants that are not good for them anyway, so don’t get too worried about the plants that you grow.

Herbs are often a good choice as many are safe for rabbits, children and dogs alike. Try mint, lavender, thyme, fennel, sage and rosemary. In small quantities these should have no adverse effects on your bunnies and you can use them in your kitchen too.

For shrubs try roses - rabbits love the taste of the petals. Blackberry and raspberry canes are also a popular choice with bunnies and harmless to dogs. Just plant them at the back of the border where your children won’t get prickled.

For annuals and perennials try asters, calendula, marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers, and wallflowers. This isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully it will give you a few ideas to get you started.

Name: Anna Mason

Question: I have a number of Clematis grown in containers with huge rootballs which I would like to replant against a fence in borders. What will happen if I do a bit of Guerilla Gardening and chop the rootball right down to plant in border (before growing season) need to do this as they are in very big tubs.

Answer: Hello Anna. I have had exactly the same issue with pot grown clematis in my own garden. Try to avoid simply cutting it down with a spade as this will remove many of the feeder roots. What you can do instead is gently loosen the compost with your fingers (you may need to start things off with a couple of garden forks back to back to get things moving). Starting from the outside of the rootball, gradually shake the compost from the roots to reduce the size of the rootball to more manageable proportions. This will also benefit the plant if it has become a little pot-bound as it will encourage the roots to spread outwards again once planted. Of course, you will still end up with a larger rootball than you would usually plant in the garden - but you will probably be able to reduce its size by around 40% without actually losing too many of the roots.

Name: Anna Mason

Question: Rose Rambling Rector just got so messy I decided to get rid of it and hacked back. I was going to dig up but found it was too major a task. It now has new shoots is it possible to train it a little tidier? It really is in the wrong place but I have to live with that.

Answer: Rambling Rector is a vigorous variety and will definitely benefit from some formative training. For the best performance, the best placed stems should be trained onto almost horizontal wires. Any crossing, damaged or misplaced stems can be removed at the base of the plant.

Once you have formed a nice framework you can focus on encouraging lots of flowers. Remove up to a quarter of the oldest stems at the base of the plant after flowering each year. New stems will arise to replace them and these can be trained onto wires as before. You can reduce any side shoots that are shooting from these main stems to four buds to encourage flowering shoots for the following season. Hopefully with some training and pruning your rambling rose will flower better as well as looking much tidier. Best of luck Anna.

Name: Sarah Griffiths

Question: I have received a set of minitature patio fruit trees (2 x apple and 1 x pear), when is the best time to plant them out into pots (are they okay to withstand frosts?) and should I use any particular soil, someone told me to use a mixture of normal soil and john innes number 3. Is this okay? Many thanks.

Answer: Hello Sarah. I’m guessing this was a Christmas present - what a lovely gift! Your patio fruit trees will be dormant at the moment so you can plant them outdoors whenever you are ready - they are perfectly hardy.

Patio fruit trees are ideal for patio containers but it is well worth investing in some good quality compost from the start as they will be in these containers for many years. John Innes No.3 is ideal as this compost has more structure than multipurpose compost, which tends to break down with time, becoming waterlogged in winter and very dry in summer - not a good long term growing environment for your plants! If you are on a budget then you could mix the J.I. No.3 with some multipurpose compost to stretch it further but I would personally just stick to J.I No.3 with a bit of slow release fertiliser mixed in. Hope that helps Sarah.