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Planning Retirement Online

Your Garden Queries - 11


Mary Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?         

With silver bells and cockle shells,                    

And pretty maids all in a row....                     


If only gardening were as simple as that little nursery rhyme. But it isn`t, so we are putting some of the solutions here to problems you have written to us about, so everyone can have the benefit.


Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife.  Click here for previous editions of Gardener`s Diary.



This month`s gardening problems  - March 2004

Q: Sam asks: 

I have two large yukkas outside my front window. These are now about 5 feet high and are obscuring the view. How do I go about pruning the yukkas or is it easier to move them?

A:  You have a couple of options open to you. You can either cut the yukkas right down at the start of the growing season, or move them elsewhere. Personally, I would take the opportunity to move them, because for every stem you cut off about fifteen will re-grow, leaving you with an ever increasing problem..  If you do decide to move them, dig their new hole first, mixing in some compost, give them plenty of water before digging them up and ensure you save as much of the roots as possible... Stake them for a while in their new positions to prevent the wind toppling them and don`t let them dry out until re-established.


Q:  Ron wants to know:

I am building a small garden stream (5 metres X 9 inches wide X 2 inches deep). I have been advised not to cover the liner with pea shingle as this will cause blanket weed. How best to hide the butyl liner, if at all?

A:  Blanket weed could possibly form even without any gravel or stones, but I imagine that being able to view the liner would give a pretty unrealistic overall effect. It is not too large an area to keep free of weed should any grow. Try the procedures as below:-

  • Dig the bed for the stream.

  • Put down a layer of sand, then put the liner on top.

  • Camouflage the liner with shingle or larger pebbles, flat stones and plants.

Any blanket weed that does form can be removed with a brush. 



Q:  An unsigned query: 

I would like to know how to take care of tulips inside the house. How should I plant them in a pot and watering requirements and temperature?

A:   Most indoor flowering bulbs take 12 weeks from planting to flowering. So a good guide is to plant before December if in the UK, for April flowering..  Plant the bulbs in pots filled with normal potting compost. Bulb fibre is only necessary where there are no drainage holes - the fibre helps to keep the compost sweet. It should be moistened before planting the bulbs. . All bulbs need to spend time in in cool dark conditions before flowering - known as 'plunging'. This is necessary for a good root system to develop. The best place for 'plunging' is the garage or garden shed. Place the planted pots in a black polythene bag (pierced with a few holes) or cover with newspaper and leave them where they will not be disturbed. The larger bulbs should be planted to half or three-quarters their depth, smaller bulbs should be planted with their tips just below the compost surface.

Once the shoots are through, bring the pots into their flowering places, turn occasionally to stop the stems reaching for the light and keep them just moist but not soaked... They can be planted in the garden after flowering. 


Q: Rhys asks: 

I have two yukka plants which I have cared for for years.
One of the two plants is healthy, however the other has dying leaves starting from the bottom. Can you give me any advise how to bring it back to life.

A:  Without knowing where you live and what conditions your yukkas are growing in, I have put some cultural requirements below, so you can see if  they
have the right conditions to grow in. Very often though, there is no apparent reason for a plant failing to thrive and you will need to start again by re-potting your plant and perhaps moving it to a different position....

Yukka is a genus of about 40 species of rosette-forming or woody-based
perennials, evergreen shrubs, and erect, eventually spreading, evergreen
trees from hot, dry places, such as desert, sand dunes, and plains, in North
and Central America and the West Indies. A mature Yukka is a False Palm. It
will need a deep, well-drained container which can be moved outdoors in
summer. In winter it will require an unheated and well-lit spot.

Temperature:  Average warmth in summer - minimum 55F in winter. Brightly lit
spot. Provide as much light as possible.

Water: Keep compost moist at all times but never waterlogged. Reduce
watering in winter. Use soft, tepid water. Misting is not necessary.



Q: Moira asks:

Can you advise where to buy swell gell or similar by mail order to France as the pots I did here were great but could do with such a product as it's so hot in the summer.

A:  I managed to track down a company that delivers abroad, at this link: The gel is amazing stuff and I mix it in with the compost and slow release fertilizer at the time of planting up the tubs and baskets.. Don`t be tempted to use more of the gel than it states though!

Q: Paula wants to know:

I have a very tall (12  foot) very healthy indoor yukka in my entrance hall which needs to be pruned from the top - Have you any hints and do I need to take special care of where I do the cutting and can I re-plant the top I have cut off?

A:  You can shape it as you like. Just be aware that for every stem you remove, many new ones will grow near the cut edge. So aim to make the cut at a junction of two stems..  Break off any new shoots you don`t want to grow.. If you leave it until about April (UK) when the growing season commences, you can stick the part you have removed into some compost and it will grow merrily away.. But first leave it in a dry spot for a couple of days, to `heal`... Don`t overwater it in it`s new home..


Previous editions of your gardening queries: 

Edition 1

Edition 2

Edition 3

Edition 4

Edition 5

Edition 6

Edition 7

Edition 8

Edition 9 

Edition 10

Edition 11


Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife.

Click here for previous editions of Gardener`s Diary..  



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