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Planning Retirement Online

Your Gardening Queries - 7


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  

Q:     From Cyril:- I wish to convert the front narrow part of my lawn to a conifer shrubbery mainly low growing, to retain the view. Can I use Round Up to kill off the grass? Then plant up? Then cover with woodbark or chippings.? Any need to use a membrane?  

A:  Yes, Roundup is OK to use, providing you leave it for 14 days so it can do it`s job by getting right through the roots of the weeds. Roundup becomes inert on contact with the soil, but be careful to follow the directions carefully.. I would personally use a membrane before laying bark as it prevents further weeds from growing again, keeps moisture in the ground and most importantly stops the bark from disappearing into the earth, helped by earthworms and blackbirds..

 Q: From Jimmy:- I live in Ireland and have a yukka plant that is about 8 foot high. I would like to cut 3ft off and put it into the conservatory. Would you recommend doing that or would it damage the plant. Is there a right time to cut it and where should I cut it? If not would it survive an Irish winter? 

 A: I am very tough with my plants I`m afraid. If something needs moving or
reshaping I take a chance and I`ve never lost anything yet..

I assume your Yukka is in a container in your garden..
It is perfectly safe to cut them anywhere and anytime.. It will possibly
weep a type of sap for a few days, but that will soon dry up. It might be a
good opportunity to repot it before you bring it in...

Q: From Sheila: I have a large well-established honeysuckle in my garden which doesn't flower. It gets the sun until midday. It is fairly dense.  Might it need pruning from inside the bush?  Any other ideas, please?  


A: This is one of many queries this year from people whose honeysuckle is not flowering and I don`t really have an answer for it. Honeysuckles usually thrive on neglect.. You could check it`s cultural requirements are being met and try pruning it back to see if this will do the trick.. It has been a particularly hot and dry summer which could have put some honeysuckles off flowering..  I am sorry I could not be more positive..


Q:   From Brian:- I have planted a honeysuckle this year it hasn't flowered but

 shown a lot of growth do I need to prune. My Canadian Maple is also newly planted. I have five bushes all suffering to varying degrees from white mould on the leaves is there any treatment?  


A:  I have received several queries from people whose honeysuckles haven`t flowered this year and I cannot find a reason for it.. Honeysuckles are notoriously easy to grow and thrive on neglect. Yours however is newly planted and will possibly flower next year when it has become more established.. Check that it`s cultural requirements have been met..

With regard to your maple, I believe this is due to the fact that it has lived in a pot in a garden centre, where the air flow is fairly restricted, rather than being planted in the soil. This is an explanation I was once given for a similar problem and the tree was fine the following year. Do keep a check on these two items though and inform the garden centre if you are not happy with their progress next year.. 

your other bushes with mould or mildew are no cause for concern,  this being due to dry weather.. I have several plants and shrubs that are suffering from mildew, due to the exceptionally dry summer we have had.


Q: From Margret: My yukka which is 4 years old has flowered this summer. The flower part is about 2 1/2  feet long & full of creamy pink bell shaped flowers. Can you advise me what to after it has stopped flowering and will it flower every year, or every so many years. Also can you advise me how to prune it to keep it under control

A: You did well for your Yukka to flower after only four years, so it must be happy where it is growing.. It will probably flower each year now. Once the flower has died, cut the stem off, just to make it look tidier. No other pruning is required unless it gets too big, in which case just saw through the parts you wish to remove. You will need a saw too, as the stems are like tree trunks..



Q:  From Margaret: I have light, sandy soil in my garden and many fairly   large  trees and shrubs.  The garden does not get a great deal of direct sunlight.  I am finding that perennials do not seem to increase in size and plants generally are not very prolific. 

I have also grown some runner beans in a more sunny spot but have had a very meagre harvest despite the fact that my friend grew plants from the same source with great success. 

I live in Sandbach in Cheshire. Could you please advise me what process I should undertake  in order to enrich the soil.



A: It seems you have two problems here: poor soil and lack of sunlight.If you have a mushroom farm locally, you can buy a lorry load of their spent mushroom compost quite cheaply, which is wonderful for enriching the soil. If this is not possible and obviously you cannot produce your own compost whilst nothing will grow, the next best thing is to buy in bagged compost from garden centres, which will be expensive for starters..You could also add a general fertiliser such as blood fish and bone, or bonemeal, to the soil. (Read instructions carefully)

You may need to dig up some of your perennial plants, enrich the soil, then re-plant them. This is a good time of year for that sort of job.Your large trees and shrubs will be taking all the nutrients they need for growth, so an area set aside for plants, away from them might be an idea. This area alone could be enriched with compost and fertiliser. You will need to weigh up the benefits of having large trees and shrubs against the disadvantage of not being able to successfully grow flowers... Is a programme of tree pruning perhaps indicated?

The runner beans could be planted in trenches previously filled with plenty of newspapers to hold the moisture.. All planting however would benefit from plenty of watering. We have had an exceptionally dry summer and most gardens are looking very sad.

We moved here four years ago and had the same problem with poor, sandy soil. I planted new shrubs with plenty of bought compost to get them started and over the years made my own compost using waste such as vegetable peelings and tea leaves from the kitchen and the prunings and lawn cuttings from the garden. I also bought in a couple of lorry loads of mushroom compost to help the soil along. Now, just a few years on, the garden supports itself in compost and the soil is becoming very fertile.



 Q: From L Carter: How do you over winter begonias

 A: Stop watering and let the foliage die down, then remove the tuber or corm and overwinter it in some sawdust.. Alternatively, you can place the corm or tuber in a paper bag and store in a dry and dark place until spring, when it can be started into growth in the usual way..


Q: Cynthia asks: I have 2 Yukkas. One has been in a pot for 18 years and never flowered. The other is the same kind, green and spiky with leaves just above earth level. It has just flowered for the first time yesterday, reddish. They are outdoors. I just wanted to know, please, how often do they flower and maybe why one has and the other hasn't.  


A: My guess is that the yukka in the ground would appear to be thriving, whereas the one in the pot merely existing..The potted plant would have it`s root growth restricted and not be getting as many nutrients as a similar type in the ground, which has room to expand..Situation would help too. Perhaps the yukka that has flowered is in a hot sunny spot and the potted one in the shade?Yukkas usually flower each year once they have started, but check out their cultivation requirements and see if yours are growing in the best conditions.

* I often wonder how you each got on with your gardening problem.. Did you take my advice or come up with a different solution? Some of you do reply and I love getting follow-ups, so if you have a moment to spare...

Previous editions of your gardening queries:


Edition 1

Edition 2

Edition 3

Edition 4

Edition 5

Edition 6

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



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