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Planning Retirement Online

Your Gardening queries - 28

August 2005   

Amazon book - The Royal Horticultural Society: Colour Your Garden

Gardeners like to share their tips and information with others, so each month

I put 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 your gardening queries.

August 2005     

Q: Cucumber problem

I have a cucumber in my greenhouse that has had one fruit on it, all the other fruits have gone yellow and then black when very small, can you help.

A:  Were you growing them in the correct conditions? Some information below:

"Cucumbers need to be kept in a heated greenhouse of 21-25?F and the atmosphere must be moist. Sow individual seeds on their sides in 3 inch pots with moist seed compost. In mid-May seedlings can be transferred into12 inch pots where they can begin to grow.

Ideally, they should be supported by bamboo canes or wiring. Remove any male flowers (the ones with tiny cucumbers behind them) as fertilised cucumbers will be better. Water well and feed with potash or organic feed when the fruits start to swell.."

Q:  Getting rid of roots

Please could you tell me the best way to get rid of a Russian vine plant ("mile a minute"). At present, we are trying to dig up the roots, but this seems an apparently endless, hopeless task.

A:  There is no easy answer if it is in an area that is planted with other shrubs and trees. Little by little you will get rid of the roots and they'll give up the ghost.
If the area is free of cultivated planting, you could take advice from your garden centre and use a chemical to eliminate the residual roots.


Q:  Hedge growth retardant

I recently bought a house and found an old bottle of blue solution in the
garden shed. The faded and damaged label said something about stopping hedge growth, so, as the hedge is huge (!!) I applied this liquid to half the hedge after trimming and waited to see if anything happened. wonderfully, the half with no application grew normally, and the other half has hardly grown at all. Maddeningly I have thrown the bottle away, but at a guess it contained copper sulphate solution.
Please can you help - was it copper sulphate? What concentration do you
think it might have been?

A:  Many chemicals used for pest control and other garden jobs
were banned from use a couple of years ago and I rather think yours may be one of those... See this link:

Q: When to prune pieris.

Can you tell me when I can trim my Pieris as it has become very unruly

A:  Japanese pieris blooms on the previous season's growth, so you should not prune in winter because the flower buds have already formed; instead, prune soon after blooming. If the fruits are allowed to develop there may be fewer flowers the following year, so cut off spent flowers right away, and Japanese pieris will produce more flowers the next year.


Q:  Honeysuckle cultivation

I have two honeysuckles, two and three years respectively - one has not flowered at all and the other developed small almost flowering buds which withered and died. I live in the East coast of Scotland and the soil is like clay.

A:  Honeysuckle prefers full sun, but will tolerate partial sun, and even some light, afternoon shade. Once established, Honeysuckle needs only moderate watering, unless the summer is very dry. If the planting area is properly prepared and mulched, your Honeysuckle will be satisfied with a light annual applicaton of a balanced fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season, and then once again in the middle of the flowering season.

Mulch the plant to protect the roots from freezing as well as to conserve moisture in the summer. When your plant has finished flowering, you can prune for shape. (Only lightly prune plants until they are well established at about 2 years old)

Q: Has the magnolia I moved died?

I have a big problem with my mature Magnolia.
We moved house 18 months ago and re-planted it, but the buds turned brown and brittle and fell off: since then, nothing. It looks pretty dead, but just as we were about to give up on it we noticed bright green shoots coming from the base of the trunk!
Is this a sign of life or do we give up?

A:  It does sound as if there is new life coming from the base of the tree, but if it was originally grafted on to rootstock, the new growth could be wild shrub growth from the rootstock.
I would suggest giving it another year to see what transpires, and during that time feeding it and keeping it well watered.


Q: Aphids galore!

We have a honeysuckle that is constantly covered in blackfly, despite
numerous sprays with a pesticide they still return and ruin the flowers. I
have also tried to grow sweet peas this year and they are covered in
greenfly and my dahlias have blackfly. Can you suggest something to combat all these, as the bugs do not inspire me to continue gardening!


A:    This is exactly how my garden was getting to be: the more insecticides I sprayed on, the greater the aphid population became. Then I took heed of Alan Titchmarsh`s advice on a Gardener`s World programme and stopped ALL spraying. Within three years all aphid infestation had disappeared.

His reasoning was that the sprays not only killed the bad guys, they killed
the good guys too, the ones that ate the aphids! Also he thought that the aphids became immune to the sprays, much the same as humans become immune to antibiotics...

Whatever, it worked for me and if you can suffer for a couple of years while the garden regains a natural balance you have nothing to lose, because the sprays aren`t working anyway.. If you have a particularly heavy infestation anywhere, you will find that a fast jet of water from the hosepipe will knock them off.

I have many letters from gardeners with the same problem as you and some of them have replied that the recommended measures did work..


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 18

Edition 9 

Edition 19

Edition 10

Edition 20

Edition 21 Edition 22
Edition 23

Edition 24

Edition 25

Edition 27

Edition 26

Edition 28

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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