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Facebook Q&A Session 19th August 2014

Thompson & Morgan Facebook Q&A session 22nd August 2014
- your horticultural questions answered.

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.

"Is it possible to take cuttings of a rose, as we are putting the house on the market and i would love to take a cutting of my one rose as i am happy to buy some new when we move but this one is special and i would love to keep it."

Sue - T&M
Horticultural Expert

Hi Joanne. Yes you can certainly take some cuttings from your rose. It’s a fairly straightforward process and they don’t require much attention. Cut out some strong, healthy stems from this year’s growth - do not use older wood. To prepare the cuttings, simply cut your chosen stems into lengths of about 25cm. You will need to cut just above a bud at the top of each cutting and just below a bud at the bottom. Remove all of the foliage except for one leaf at the top of each cutting.

Dip the base of the cuttings into a rooting hormone if you have some available, before pushing them into a pot of gritty, well drained compost. Don’t use multipurpose compost. John Innes No 3 or even some well drained garden soil is preferable. You can fit several cuttings to a large pot if you position them around the edge of the pot.

Place the pot in a sheltered, shady spot and keep them well watered. They will root over the winter months and by next summer should be ready for potting up into individual pots and growing on. Best of luck with them, Joanne; and good luck with your house move.

"Hi Sue, is there a rule of thumb re sowing seeds? Do we use seed trays and 'prick out' or cells then pot on? Also do I need to Vermiculite or just use the compost to cover? Thank you"

Sue - T&M
Horticultural Expert

Hi Cat. This is a great question - with a simple answer. If you are dealing with larger, quick growing seeds such as Sunflower, Sweet Pea, Marigold, and Calendula for example, then you can get away with sowing them straight into cells in late spring and early summer. Because these seeds germinate and grow quickly, then they will need the space provided by a cell much sooner than smaller seeds would, and they will not be at such a risk of rotting.

Most other seed will be best started in seed trays. Many need light to germinate so it is important to read the sowing instructions carefully. As a rule of thumb however, you can cover the seed with a sprinkling of vermiculite that is roughly equal to the depth of the seed, i.e larger seed can have a good sprinkling, while very tiny seed probably won’t need any at all. I hope that makes sense to you. I would always recommend following the sowing instructions as some seed do have very particular requirements.

"Please can you recommend a green manure for planting on the veg patch over winter - to cover the bare soil vacated by the onions and carrots."

Sue - T&M
Horticultural Expert

Hello Sarah. There are a number of different Green Manures that you can use. Choosing the most beneficial one really depends on what you are trying to achieve.

If your soil is on the heavy side then a Grazing Rye might be useful. It has extensive roots that will improve the soil structure. Alternatively you might just have time for a crop of Buckwheat which can be dug in at the first frosts. This has a very deep root system that will break up heavier soils and sub soil.Crimson Clover is better on sandy soils to add water retentive humus.

On soils that are low in fertility thenPhacelia is particularly useful and not too troublesome to dig in. I hope this helps you to decide, Sarah

"When is the best time of Autumn to cut back / prune my apple & cherry trees. Also how far from the branch - meaning the minimum of branch left. They are not OLD TREES 5yrs, still small girth. I want to prune hard as the rain this year has made thin branches & Apple Tree top bent over branches @ top. Also what's the latest I can buy from T&M; a very sweet Apple tree this year, I will also have a Pear tree from T&M; this yr. approx November delivered. Sincere thanks."

Sue - T&M
Horticultural Expert

Hello Ann. Your apple tree is best pruned during the winter months. Begin by removing any dead, diseased or misplaced branches entirely. Does your apple only produce fruit at its tips? If so then it is probably a tip bearer and so you will only need to shorten the main branches by a quarter of the previous season’s growth. The laterals can be left unpruned.

If your apple produces fruit from spurs further down the branch then you can shorten the main branches by a quarter of the previous season’s growth. The laterals can be cut back to 5 buds from where they join the main branches.

Regarding your Cherry tree, you should avoid winter pruning as this leaves cherry trees prone to silver leaf disease. Established cherry trees with a decent framework should require only occasional pruning to remove damaged, badly placed or diseased wood, and to shorten strong growing laterals by half.If you are planning to order some more fruit for delivery this autumn then I would recommend that you place your order early to avoid disappointment.

Sue Sanderson T&M horticulturalist

About Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.