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Name: Leigh Arthur
Question: My White Egret Orchids seem to be confused by the (until now) mild winter, and are currently flowering. Is anyone else having the same thing, and should I be stopping them flowering this far out of season?
Answer: Hello Leigh. It’s quite common for plants to flower out of season particularly when weather conditions are unseasonably warm. When grown indoors, in warmer temperatures than they would naturally experience outside, then bulbs and tubers will often start into growth early - in fact commercial growers use this technique to ‘force’ bulbs to bloom outside of their natural flowering period. This isn’t a problem - just enjoy them earlier than expected!
Name: Iris Brookfield
Question: Started with new gooseberry bushes. A green leaf grew and then something ate them. Sprayed them, but still no gooseberries so I dug them up and planted new ones in a different spot but the same thing happened. What am I doing wrong?
Answer: Hi Iris. It’s hard to say where you are going wrong without more information but I can certainly give you some pointers to guide you. If all of the leaves are being eaten then this will certainly have an effect upon the plants health. Gooseberries are commonly attacked by sawfly larvae which will strip all of the foliage from a plant in a matter of days. Look out for little the green caterpillars with black spots - the damage often appears towards the centre of the bush first (which is where the sawfly tend to lay their eggs). Check your plants for signs of these caterpillars regularly from April to September and spray with a pesticide at the first indications of damage. Use a spray containing the active ingredient thiacloprid (such as Provado Ultimate Bug Killer). Organic sprays containing pyrethrum are also effective. Make sure that you check the label before spraying to ensure that it is suitable for use on fruit bushes.
It is also well worth reviewing whether you are providing your gooseberries with a good growing environment. Gooseberries enjoy an open, sunny position on well drained soil. Make sure that you keep them well watered throughout the first year until they are fully established - the soil must not dry out during hot periods, particularly while the fruit is being formed. You can improve the soil around your plants and help to conserve moisture by adding a thick mulch (2-3" deep) of well rotted manure or compost. I hope this helps, Iris. Best of luck with your Gooseberries this year.
Name: Barbara Beardsley
Question: I have tried for two years to grow cauliflowers and broccoli without success - any suggestions
Answer: Hello Barbara. You haven’t mentioned any particular problems so I will just give you some general advice. Basically growing brassicas successfully mostly comes down to providing fertile, firm soil, and avoiding pests and diseases.
Brassicas generally prefer a sheltered position on rich fertile, well drained soil in full sun. They must be planted on firm ground so try to avoid newly cultivated areas. For this reason it is best to prepare the soil in winter by adding plenty of well rotted farmyard manure to improve its structure and fertility. By the time that your seedlings are ready to be planted out, the soil should have settled sufficiently to be nice and firm again. If you know that you have an acid soil then you can add some lime in the spring to reduce the acidity and lessen the risk of clubroot. Once you have planted your brassicas, cover them with a protective netting or fleece to prevent attack from birds and insects. Our net tunnel makes a handy covering for newly planted brassicas. Regular inspections for signs of damage are essential as brassicas are particularly susceptible to caterpillar damage - you may need to spray them to control serious infestations.
Water your brassicas regularly. Don’t allow them to dry out as this will impair their development. It is also well worth hoeing between plants regularly to prevent weeds from establishing and bring insect larvae to the surface. As cauliflowers develop it is a good idea to fold one of the leaves over each of the developing curds to protect them from the sun and prevent discolouration. I hope this gives you some pointers. Have another go this year. Why not try our Clubroot resistant collection? If you need some more specific advice then please let me know.
Name: Angela Lee-Smith
Question: Do Spring bulbs like snowdrops, crocus and Daffodils etc propagate themselves by seeds when grown in the garden.
Answer: Hi Angela. Virtually all flowering plants have the ability to reproduce by seed, and will do so if the flowers are pollinated and environmental conditions allow. So ‘yes’, spring bulbs can be propagated by seed. However, it can take several years for a seed raised plant to produce a mature bulb that is capable of flowering, and so they are more easily propagated by offsets (or ‘child’ bulbs) produced at the base of the original parent bulbs.
Those plants produced by pollination (sexual reproduction) will have different genetic makeup to the parent plant whereas those produced by offsets (asexual reproduction will essentially be clones of the parent plant. Both methods of reproduction are used by the plants in your garden. Isn’t plant science amazing?
Name: John Flight
Question: Hi there, how do I grow sweet cicely from seed. Everybody tells me to freeze the seed for a while.
Answer: Hello John. When people mention freezing the seed, what they are referring to is stratification (a chilling period lasting 4 weeks or more). The idea is to mimic winter conditions and thereby break the dormancy of the seed once it is removed from the chilled conditions. However I would certainly not freeze the seeds! You would normally stratify seed by placing them in the refrigerator at around 5C - this should be plenty cold enough.
Sweet Cicely does benefit from stratification. Soak them overnight before putting them in a clear plastic bag mixed with some moist vermiculite and then pop them into your fridge for about 4 or 5 weeks. Make sure that you check them regularly though to make sure that they are not beginning to germinate. If you spot them germinating then you will need to sow them immediately. After 4 or 5 weeks you can sow them as directed on the packet.
Name: Julie Riseborough
Question: I planted some Emerald star lillies in November - they popped up in January (way too early!). One got frosted and is drooping over. Have I killed it off? Thanks in anticipation of your advice.
Answer: Oh dear Julie. This is a common problem but the frost will only have damaged the top growth - the bulb will still be perfectly healthy. If your bulbs produce growth early then the best course of action is to protect that growth when frosty nights threaten. You can throw some fleece over them or place an upturned box over the top of them temporarily. If you are growing then in containers then why not move them to a sheltered position next to a warm house wall where they will receive a little more protection from the frost. I hope that helps Julie.
Name: Shirley Lewis
Question: Moved 18 months ago and there is some sort of beautiful twisted robinia in the garden. It's currently about 7ft tall and we have no idea how big it may get. As it is planted over the waste pipes could we dig it up and pot it to stop it growing too big?
Answer: Hi Shirley. Robinia can range in size from 6ft to 50ft or more, but without knowing which species it is or seeing a picture to determine its growth habit, it is impossible to say how big it might grow. If you are particularly concerned then you could certainly try to move it to a new position in the garden, but I would not recommend trying to grow it in a container as it is unlikely to appreciate this if it is one of the larger species of Robinia.
If I were in your position then I think that I would want to identify it first. Take some photographs this summer of its growth habit, foliage, stems and flowers and take them to a knowledgeable garden centre for identification - or you could post them on facebook for us to take a look! If it is Robinia hispida (Rose acacia) then the risk of damage to the pipes will be significantly reduced as this is a relatively small species. If it is Robinia pseudoacacia (False acacia) then I would be more concerned and want to select an appropriate new home for it and move it in winter. If you do decide to move it then take care to lift as large a rootball as possible and keep it well watered until it is fully established in its new home.
Name: Karen Reed
Question: Hi I was wondering if you can grow all veg in a polytunnel, or do some need to be grown out side???? Thanks
Answer:Hi Karen, all sorts of vegetables can be grown in a polytunnel but it does depend on the season. Many vegetables will love the heat of the polytunnel in the summer, such as tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, chilli peppers, aubergines and sweet corn. Others such as leafy greens, Brassicas, onions, lettuce, carrots, peas and beans will suffer in the heat. The latter are cool-season crops so are best grown in the polytunnel throughout autumn, winter and early spring, when temperatures are cooler. This is the great advantage of a polytunnel – you can harvest vegetables and salad all year round by extending their cropping season in the cooler months! Also be aware that there will be less pollinating insects in a polytunnel so either open the doors regularly on warm days or do some hand-pollinating of flowering crops. I hope this helps, best of luck for this year!
Name: Christina Goozee
Question: Need to repot my Camellia but it is still in bud. Won’t need to disturb the roots as it is a big enough tub but will it harm the plant?
Answer: Hi Christina. If it is in bud then I would let it flower before repotting it as the move may cause it to drop its buds and you would lose all of your flowers this year. Once the flowers have faded you can transfer it to its new home..