Our horticultural expert Sue Sanderson runs a fortnightly question and answer session - so if there is something that has been eluding you in your garden, post your question on our facebook page and she will get back to you during her next Q&A; session.
View the answers to our previous sessions.
I have an apple tree. When we first moved here it fruited. Now for the last three years it has had blossom on it but all the leaves die and nothing comes.
Hello Simon. It’s really impossible for me to say what the problem is without further information such as how and when the leaves die back. For example, curling apple leaves are often caused by pest such as aphids. Take a closer look at your tree to see if you can spot the problem.
In the first instance, if you can find no evidence of disease or pests then I would aim to improve the growing conditions of your tree. Compacted soil can be critical to the health of a tree, reducing air, water and the availability of nutrients at the roots. You can improve the soil conditions in late autumn by aerating the ground around the root zone. Simply penetrate the soil repeatedly across the entire root zone with a garden fork, preferably to a depth of around 30cm. Remember the root zone may spread beyond the extent of the canopy. Follow this by spreading a thick mulch of organic matter such as well rotted manure across the area but avoid mounding it up around the trunk. Don’t try to dig it in. Just let it break down naturally to improve soil fertility and retain moisture in the soil. This may not solve the problem directly, but will certainly improve your trees health and vigour which will make it more resistant to pest and disease problems.
Can you give me any advice on getting rid of fairy rings on our lawn, they are spreading out in ever increasing circles.
Hello Elizabeth. Fairy rings are quite interesting things really. They are caused by a fungus such as Marasmius oreades which grows within the roots of the grass. The fungus causes characteristic circles of toadstools in autumn, but are visible throughout the year as circular areas where the grass dies back. The spores are airborne so there is little that you can do to stop a colony forming in the first instance. Once a colony forms it begins to spread gradually outwards, dying back from the centre and so takes on a ring like appearance. Incredibly, a colony may spread up to 30cm a year! Fairy rings are not particularly harmful in any way.
In terms of control, I’m afraid that there is little that you can do. There are no chemical controls available. Given that the mycelium grows outwards through the soil then in minor instances you could dig out that area of soil (from beyond the outside of the ring, and to a depth of around 30cm) and replace it with fresh topsoil and turf. However, if you have lots of rings then this would be very expensive and make a horrible mess of your lawn. Being realistic, you may have to learn to live with them, as a colony can survive for up to 100 years! Sorry Elizabeth, that’s not the answer you were hoping for, is it?
We have recently moved and now have a south facing entry porch. I would like to place a plant in there in a big pot to add a bit green when coming in. But what is suited for this situation. It can get very hot in there with the sun on it (it's all windows), but it's not heated in winter. I was thinking of something that was on the bigger side, about 50 cm high or so... Any suggestions what type of plant would do well there?
Hello Elvira, I hope you’ve settled into your new home now. Given that this plant will be under cover throughout the year and therefore reliant on you for water, I would suggest a plant that enjoys Mediterranean conditions - hot and dry in summer, and cold and dry in winter!
My first thought is Lavender. There are some lovely English Lavenders that will be hardier in winter than the French ones , such as ‘Munstead’ or ‘Hidcote’. Once established these can easily reach about 45cm (18") high. Lavender has the added bonus of being beautifully fragrant, especially in a confined space.
If you want something a little more formal then maybe some topiary, although you will need to keep these fed and watered more often than Lavender. Box, Privet, and Lonicera nitida all make useful plants for topiary that can be trimmed to whatever size and shape you want. You can always add a splash of colour by adding a few Allium bulbs to brighten them up, if the container is large enough.
A standard Bay Laurel, Olive or even a