Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Your Gardening Queries - 8



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  - December 2003

Q: From Susan in the UK: I bought Verbena bonariensis and Bergamot 'Monarda Cambridge Scarlet' for my garden for the summer just gone and I'm not sure whether anything needs to be done to them in preparation for the winter. I can't find anything on the internet, so I was wondering if you might be able to help. Please could you tell me if these plants need to be pruned, dead-headed or cut back before the winter.

A: First of all, save seeds of the Verbena Bonariensis to grow more plants next year, if you wish, then cut the plants down to within about one foot from the ground. If the area is very cold, you could mulch with compost, but they will probably survive without any protection. I was surprised to see new shoots growing from seemingly dead stems this spring, in my garden.. The Monarda should be cut right down to the ground either now or in the spring. I find they are better if lifted and split every two years, as they tend to get congested. You have two of my favourite flowers.


Q: Fred from Leicester asks:  I cannot find anywhere I can obtain manure or mushroom compost in sensible (bulk) amounts. It all seems to come in silly little bags at silly huge prices!

A: I get my mushroom compost locally from a mushroom farm, but there should be one nearer you. I`m afraid it always comes in those little bags because that is how it is grown, for convenience I assume.. If you need quite a bit of compost, they will deliver and you should be able to barter with the price..

Q: Lorraine in Australia asks:  I have just discovered your site, and am so happy that I have.  I am an ex Pom and of course, it has taken a few years to become used to gardening in Oz, where everything has to be fertilised, fertilised and fertilised again!!!  However, I read with interest, the Q and A regarding the yukka in New Zealand . I have what I thought was a Yukka, however since purchasing the plant some 6 years ago, I was informed it is called a Happy plant.  

Now, is this the same plant for starters?

This plant has always been indoors in a pot, and has thrived and has been my pride and joy.  A beaut dark green with shiny leaves, just glowing with health. I fertilise mainly with a slow release fertiliser and every six months or so, give it a handful of Garden Mix with trace elements.  As I say, it has loved this judging by the look of it.  However, over the past couple of months, it has started to look decidedly sad, instead of the new shoots bursting through in abundance, there are just a couple and I wouldn't like to hold my breath that these will "take".  The present leaves have started to go yellow and droopy.  It just generally looks very sad, and certainly not a Happy plant.  It has always been in the same position in the dining area, so it is out of the line of fire of the air con.  As I said, it has been a source of great joy, now it is a great concern. Can you please help?


A: Your plant is called a Happy Plant (Dracaene Fragrans 'Massangeana') which in fact is not a yukka at all! After consulting this website, which is an Australian one, so cultural techniques should match conditions there.. Reading through it, I believe your plant may have been over fertilised. If you still have no joy and it`s a case of `kill or cure`, you could re-pot the plant, making sure to shake off all the old compost, then chop it down a bit so it is not so stressed and finally repot it into a larger pot.. 

* Lorraine has reported some success already with her Happy Plant and we`re working on a cure for her small Mandarin trees which seem to be suffering in the heat!  

Q: From Mr Fisher: Could you tell me the best time of year to move my Cordyline? It`s too close to the house now and we want to move it.. 


A: Although Cordylines are very tough, they are semi-tropical and with winter approaching, I would be inclined to leave the move until the ground warms up in the Spring. The ground is beginning to get very cold now and we are likely to get strong winds, frost and possibly even snow, which would not encourage your cordyline to settle into it`s new position. I am assuming of course that you live in the UK..


Q: Tami in the USA asks: We bought a new home recently and one of our side (against the house) landscaping areas is in very bad shape. I pulled all the junk out of there including lambs ears which were overtaking right into the lawn. The real problem is that a tree or overly large weed has apparently seeded all over the place in this area. There are hundreds of “tiny trees” that I can’t pull up with my hands. I could trim them as low as I can go, but if I put mulch on it now, I’m afraid they will still grow in the spring. I am definitely going to have this tree/weed thing removed this fall so it doesn’t happen again. Besides, it’s very unattractive. Do you have any advice for me? Should these little roots be removed, or could I simply trim them low, use weed kill and mulch?


A: This reminds me of an area of my garden when we moved in.. It had been left wild and was solid with thistles that grew from runners under the ground and popped up everywhere, time after time! I used the hoe to cut them off at ground level, making it a priority to get all of them before they grew too big. They soon lost the thrill of the chase and were gone within two seasons. If a plant or weed has no light source it will soon die. 


Q: Mary says: I have a small lawn which I would like to turn into a graveled area. Do I have to take up the lawn first, or can I simply lay a weed suppressing membrane over the lawn and then top it with gravel? 


A: It would make a better job of it, it you were to take up the lawn first..


If you just lay the weed suppressing membrane over the grass, then top it all with gravel, you may find after a couple of years that it has become lumpy and uneven.. The grass doesn`t rot down that quickly.


If you do decide not to remove the lawn it would perhaps be an idea to kill it with Roundup first.


Previous editions of your gardening queries:


Edition 1

Edition 2

Edition 3

Edition 4

Edition 5

Edition 6

Edition 7

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




Back to laterlife today

Site map and site search


Advertise on