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Name: Pauline Lloyd
Question: I've started to see little shoots from some of the spring bulbs I planted at the end of October. Surely that's not right is it?
Answer: Hello Pauline. Don’t worry - this is perfectly normal. Spring bulbs, such as snowdrops and daffodils often shows signs of growth in late autumn, particularly if it is still fairly mild like this year. Leave them to their own devices - they will be fine. The new growth should be tough enough to stand undamaged over winter and a cold snap will soon slow their growth down.
If you are growing lilies however, then it is worth protecting this new growth because it can be easily damaged by frosty weather and if frosted, it won’t grow back. Move containers to a sheltered spot against a warm wall or pop then in the garage. If they are planted in the ground you could simply cover the growth with an upturned flower pot, straw or fleece during frosty weather. I hope that helps.
Name: Hazel Ryland-Cole
Question: I have a pumpkin question, please. This has cropped up a few times in conversations with friends and family recently - is there a difference between a pumpkin grown for/market at eating and one for lanterns? Some people seem shocked at the idea of actually eating pumpkin - have they been put off by trying a poor-taste/texture lantern pumpkin? I love pumpkin but notice some over Halloween were sold specifically labelled "edible pumpkin". Thank you.
Answer: Hi Hazel. There is no difference whatsoever - all pumpkins are edible. However, you will find that some varieties are better suited to being used as lanterns because of their size and uniformity. This tends to be dictated by the requirements of the large supermarket chains. Even the massive pumpkins that are grown for competition are perfectly edible, although their flavour and texture may be poorer due to the techniques that are used to achieve these mammoth sizes.
It’s possible that people find pumpkin a bit tasteless because they don’t season it enough during cooking. Pumpkin is not the most flavoursome vegetable and so it can seem a little bland. It’s a shame that pumpkin is not widely eaten in the UK, so we don’t see many of the smaller types available, except at Halloween.
It’s interesting that some pumpkins are being sold as ‘edible pumpkins’. I can’t really explain why this would be necessary other than as part of a marketing drive. Perhaps the shops are trying to make a distinction between pumpkins which are edible and gourds, which are grown for ornamental purposes and don’t taste very nice at all!
Even if you don’t use the flesh of your carved pumpkins it is a real waste to throw away the seeds - they are delicious when cleaned, dried and roasted in a little olive oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Name: Tracie Watson
Question: I’m trying to start my seeds of early in house, but when I lift up lids on seed tray there is tiny midges. Why is that and will they multiply if I move them to spare room in house xx
Answer: Hi Tracie. These sound like they may be Shore Flies or Sciarid Flies. Shore flies are harmless but can be a nuisance! They breed on the surface of warm, damp compost; feeding off the algae and decomposing organic matter. The larvae of sciarid flies are slightly more problematic as they feed off the plant roots and can cause damage to plants if the infestation is heavy. You can tell if you have sciarid flies as you will find tiny white maggots in the compost, whereas shore fly larvae are brown in colour. In both cases you can try using yellow sticky traps to catch the flies. If possible water your plants from the base so the surface compost remains fairly dry, eliminating favourable conditions for the fly. Finally there are some nematodes (natural predators) available on the market which are watered into the soil and will kill the fly larvae. Hopefully you shouldn’t need to resort to this if the infestation is only light! Good luck Tracie, let us know how you get on.
Name: Derek Last-Walker
Question: Hello. I have recently taken on an allotment which is badly overgrown etc., but the clearing is getting there. I have noticed some rhubarb starting to grow. Is this common for this time of year? Can I move them to a new spot I have prepared?? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks
Answer: Hi Derek. I always think that ‘discovering’ hidden crops is one of the joys of taking over an allotment plot - this is your reward for all of that weed clearing! We are having a fairly mild autumn this year so it’s not surprising that your rhubarb has started into growth. Don’t worry about this. It will go dormant once the cold weather comes. If you are planning to move your rhubarb then now is the ideal time. Lift the crown and divide it into smaller pieces if necessary, before replanting in moist, well drained soil in a sunny position. Remember that it will be there for many years so choose a spot where it can remain undisturbed.
Take a look at our helpful ‘How to grow Rhubarb’ article for some tips on getting the best from your crop next year.