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Your Gardening queries - 18


Colour for Adventurous Gardeners 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.

A selection of this month`s gardening problems  - October  2004    

Due to the amount of post I am receiving from readers, I am choosing for this page mainly those problems that haven`t been printed before..

Do please keep writing in with your problems.



Q: From Connie:- Due to sciatica I was unable to do anything to my garden for 2 plus years. I have the best crop of nettles in the county and I am struggling to get rid of them and also to bring some sense to overgrown bushes. My back garden is some 50' long and 35' wide. I have a gardener for 2 hours every fortnight from the local council assisted scheme, and I am making very little progress. Is there anywhere I can get help since my budget won't run to anything more? Or is there a quick way to get rid of weeds? they seem to thrive on the weed killer I use. I have to be careful as I have 2 dogs. You can't imagine how grateful I would be for any help or suggestions you could give me.

A:  Is there nobody at all who can help you get your garden into shape? Two hours a fortnight, although a help, isn`t nearly enough time to spend in an overgrown garden such as yours sounds..

Could you supervise the gardener and get him to prune the shrubs, one at a time, right back to basics, then burn the pruned parts?
Could you ask at your local DIY store, or even supermarket that sells garden products, which is the most efficient and safest weedkiller for nettles?
Once the weeds have been killed you could lay some weed suppressing membrane down, topped with a layer of bark, to stop them re-appearing.

Ask your council if there is any more help available, or any schemes for neighbours helping each other.
Have a look in the `jobs wanted` column of your local paper, as very often there are retired folk wanting to earn a few bob and have an added interest, who might be willing to help you get the garden back into shape.

I hope this will give you some ideas..


Q: Barry has a question about fig trees:- We have just bought a fig tree which is labelled as Ficus Carica "Higvera Verdal" which we have not been able to find any reference to anywhere. The garden centre described it as fully hardy, but we are beginning to wonder as most other varieties seem to need some protection. We live in Leicestershire and can have quite cold weather.
We were thinking of growing it close to a south facing wall and restricting the roots. Do you have any thoughts on this one please.

A: The second part of the name "Higvera Verdal" threw me, but the translation means "Fig tree Verdal" so I would assume your tree is a standard type sold as being hardy for our climate..

I have found some cultivation information here for you:-



Q:   From Carmel:  My Silver Birches have fewer and smaller leaves each year. What is the problem and what can I do?

A: Without knowing what the climate is like where you live, and the conditions your trees are growing in, or their age, it is difficult to say with any certainty what is causing them to weaken.
I have put a link below for possible problems in the UK, but if you are, as I imagine, in a warm climate, you will need to search out a more appropriate website.

Try putting into the search engine `Google` "Silver Birch problems," then your country, and see what comes up..




Q: From Margaret: I'm fighting a losing battle with moss growing through a tarmac path. I've tried bleach and Jeyes Fluid but nothing is working.

Can you help?

A:  This usually happens when the tarmac is almost constantly in the shade.. I
find using a very stiff broom, wire brush, or powerwash, to get the worst
off, then a weedkiller such as Pathclear to kill off the remainder.

This has been an exceptionally wet and humid summer, which has encouraged
heavy growth of moss.



Q: Sue Foster wants to know when Sweet Williams flower

A: If you are in the UK you will find them flowering in the spring time, through to the summer, if they are in the right position (not too hot)

Mine have decided to flower again recently and I have been collecting the seeds to scatter around the garden. They will happily self-seed if you allow the seed to ripen.



Q: A query about saving sweet pea seeds: I have let my sweet peas go to seed, so I picked them and emptied out the peas which are green. Should I have done this or waited until they dried in the pods first? What do I do with the peas now? let them dry?

A: It is debatable whether collecting seed from Sweet Peas is worthwhile as the results will have inferior flowers.
There is nothing to lose by ripening the seeds off and planting them next year.

The correct way to save any seed from annuals is to let the seed ripen as much as possible before harvesting it. Collect seed on a dry warm day and transfer it into a paper bag or envelope and store in a cool but dry place, usually until spring..



Q: Mandy wants to know: We have a  Photinia (Red Robin). At the time of planting we added the suggested feed to the soil and watered well. The Red Robin was in bloom when we settled it in it's new home, which is in the corner of our garden, South-west facing, not in full sun constantly. We have kept it watered since planting. The blooms have now gone although the stalks I have left on. We seem to have lost all of the Red leaves and left with only green ones. The branches appear to be red and at the tips of most branches there appears to be red buds. This Red Robin is approximately 4ft in heightand 1 - 2 ft in diameter at the base.
My question is: Is it healthy and will the deep red leaves return later in the year?
I'm not sure what type of soil I have. I'm pretty sure it is neutral.

A: Your Red Robin has new growth in the Spring which is red, but it gradually
turns green as the year progresses. You will find that those red buds will produce more red shoots next spring, which in turn will fade to green.. They are beautiful shrubs and seem to grow well in most aspects. I have seen them
grown as well clipped standard bushes which look stunning with their new red growth..



Q: Bev wants to know:- Is there a tree that will withstand a dog's urine? Pines like an acid soil..would they do well? Would like the dog to urinate on something other than the lawn and I would like to plant a tree(s) in the back yard, but not sure if they would survive. HELP Thanks, Bev

A: Trees should withstand dog`s urine, but perhaps it would be possible to set aside a small part of your garden for the dog...

I have a gravel area, planted with phormiums, bamboo, palms etc., which I have trained the dog to use for his toilet. Now he absolutely refuses to use anywhere else, which is great for several reasons, namely it is easy to clean up after him, also we and our visitors don`t step in anything nasty!

It will only take about a week to train him if you use my instructions below:-
Accompany him each time he needs to `go`, keeping him on a lead if needs be.
Stay with him at the chosen area and tell him firmly to `be clean`..
When he performs, give him lots of praise and (most importantly) a couple of his favourite treats..
Repeat this exercise until he has got the message.. It will work, I promise you


Previous editions of your gardening queries: 

Edition 1

Edition 11

The new complete book of self sufficiency





Edition 2

Edition 12

Edition 3

Edition 13

Edition 4

Edition 14

Edition 5

Edition 15

Edition 6

Edition 16

Edition 7

Edition 17

Edition 8

Edition 9 

Edition 10


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..  


       Alan Titchmarsh - How to be a gardener    Amazon Book - The Healing Garden    Amazon Book - RHS Plant Finder 2001 -2002    Amazon Book - "Home Front" in the Garden

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