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Reg solves your gardening questions
Reg Moule
Reg Moule answers your gardening questions...
Last updated: 25 May 2005 1720 BST
lineReg Moule has been solving gardening problems for years. Now he's answering your gardening questions from across the world!
Click here to go to our new Reg Moule Gardening pages.

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The man who always has the answer for gardeners with a problem, Reg Moule has been a popular voice on BBC Radio Gloucestershire for many years.

Now Reg is available to answer your gardening questions online - and his latest batch answers gardening queries from as far afield as Australia and the USA, as well as a bit closer to home...

Ask Reg your gardening question


Sonja Day from Cardiff asks:
Could you please tell me whether there is now an alternative to Cutlass as it has been banned and an elderly friend is finding it increasing difficult to keep his beloved hedge tidy with this product. I would be very grateful for any help you may be able to give me. Thank you very much.
Reg answers:
Hi Sonja,
I'm afraid that Cutlass has been discontinued by the manufacturer and there is nothing else available as a replacement.

Nikky Warden in Ramsgate asks:
I have a problem with large mushrooms growing in my small-enclosed courtyard. The mushrooms have spread throughout my beds and are causing problems with my established plants, which are dying off one by one. Does anyone have any ideas how I can get rid of the mushrooms? They look very much like edible ones and I guess they could be from not spent mushroom compost that I have used in the past. As I only have small courtyard and the beds are a premium for growing plants and not mushrooms I need to get rid of them. Unfortunately I get no frost or full sun in the courtyard so turning over the soil and exposing the mycelium to the elements isn’t a possibility. I have tried removing as much soil as possible and replacing it, but they came up again this year. Ideally I don’t want to have to remove all my plants as I have no other space to replant them. Is there anything I can use to kill them off? Would a systemic killer work if I cut off the fruit above soil height and painted it on? Wondered how that would work with the mycelium network as apposed to any real root system. I have spent years nurturing my small space and its an oasis of ferns and shade loving plants .. being ruined by the fungi… any help would be greatly appreciated

Reg answers:
Hi Nikky,
Well if the fungi do look and peel like mushrooms then there is a chance that they are a result of using mushroom compost but they should not be responsible for the deaths of your plants.The main fungus which kills off palnts is called Honey Fungus and this produces clumps of honey coloured toadstools usually in lines following the root run of the plants. If you pick a toadstool and follow the stem down from the base of the flat cap, honey fungus has gills (the furrowed bits under the cap) which continue down the stem for a while and terminate with a frill running around the stalk.If this is the case then there is nothing that can be done to control the problem as there are no chemical treatments approved for the job. All you can do is keep the plants well fed and watered and re-plant using honey fungus resistant shrubs. I can supply a list of these if you e-mail me again.

If it is not honey fungus you can deter ramdon fungal growth by using sulphate of iron, readily available at garden centres, diluted at the rate of 2 oz in a gall. of water with a dessert spoonful of washing up liquid added. Spike the affected area and water this on at the rate of I gall per sq. yd. or sq. metre.

Diane Kelly from Shanklin, Isle of Wight asks:
I've got a large bark area in my garden where my granddaughter plays but recently there have been a lot of mushrooms/toadstools appearing. I have raked it over but they keep coming back. How can I be rid of them permanently??

Reg answers:
Hi Diane,
This is another random fungal growth question and so the best remedy is to use the sulphate of iron diluted at the rate of 2 oz in a gall of water with a dessert sopoonful of washing up liquid added. Water this over the area at the rate of 1 gall per sq. yd or sq. metre.
John Napthan from Downham Market asks:
We have 3 mushroom rings measuring 7ft diameter each on our lawn. Is there any spray we can use to get rid of them?

Reg answers:
Hi John,
These are fairy rings and currently there are no products approved to control this problem in UK gardens. The main problem that this fungus causes is a result of the substances produced by the fungus as it grows which sort of "waterproof the soil" so that the grass plants gradually die due to drought. You will probably be told that you have to dig out a huge area of soil to the depth of 30 cm (1 ft) and replace the soil with fresh. I would not bother- it rarely works! You'll get better results from keeping the lawn well fed. Spike the infected area and water it well, but be careful not to stick the fork back into the lawn again until you have wiped it with a rag dipped in disinfetant. Spike the outer edge of the ring and onto the apparently heathy grass for about 30 cm (1ft) and then water this area with the following mixture.

3oz of sulphate of iron in 1 gall of water with a dessert spoonful of washing up liquid added, watered over one and a half sq.yds or sq. metres. There is a chance that the grass may turn black but it will revive and the treatment will upset the fungus.

Paula Hayes from Warrington asks:
My two Cupressus Macrocarpa 'Wilma' are potted, seem to be going brown/dying. Can you help?
Reg answers:
i Paula,
I think that your trees are suffering from an attack by insect pests, either conifer mites or more likely conifer aphids. In either case the treatment is the same - apply Bio Provado Ultimate Bug Killer a systemic insecticide which should see them off. If the plants are gradually going brown from the base towards the top there is a chance that they are too dry.
Fiona Bumstead from Barnstaple asks:
I have successfully grown cuttings from a very beautifully scented Compassion Climbing Rose, but the flowers on the cuttings have no scent. Why is this?
Reg answers:
Hi Fiona,
I have heard of this happening before but I'm afraid that I do not know why it should be the case. [Sorry Fiona - even our Reg is flummoxed sometimes! - Ed]
David Dickinson from Lincolnshire asks:
I have a mature (approx 20 y/o) cyprus leylandii hedge which is turning brown in places and seems to be spreading. Is this a disease and if so can it be stopped and will the green growth come back?
Reg answers:
Hi David,
This sporadic brown patching is definitly caused by conifer aphids which should be controlled by spraying with Bio Provado Ultimate Bug Killer. Probably more than one application of this systemic insecticide will be necessary to eliminate the pests. Unfortunately the brown areas will not go green again as leylandii does not easily re-shoot from old wood. Allow the healthy shoots either side of the patches to remain untrimmed until they can be tied in across the brown areas to disguise them.
Jessica Dreyer asks:
I am looking for information regarding 'Malus Ballerina' or the 'Polka" apple species. Where do they grow and how much are they?
Reg answers:
Hi Jessica,
Polka is one of the group of apple varieties known as Ballerina trees due to their upright habit of growth. They are still available from a few nurseries in the UK but this group of apple varieties has a bad reputation due to their great suseptibility to the main apple diseases especially apple canker.
Suzanne Sadler from Newmarket asks:
I live in a terraced house with a south west facing yard which gets very hot. I like to grow containers near the kitchen door which is down a narrow sideway. Down near the ground it is quite shady but higher up the sun is quite relentless. The problem I have is what to grow beneath my clematis to hide its bare brown stalks. Also is it right that the clematis have bare stalks, none of them are that leafy and although they have been in 2 years they have not flowered again.
Reg answers:
Hi Suzanne,
Clematis like to be kept well fed and watered and maybe this is where yours are lacking, also they are prone to attacks of mildew which can also turn the lower foliage brown. Keep the plants well watered and add some liquid feed regularly, one every 10 days dyring the growing season. If you can find a product called Chempak Priorswood Clematis Food this is applied as a liquid otherwise they would benefit from a good general feed such as Phostrogen. If you would like to grow a small leaved evergreen to hide the bare stems a fine choice would be Euonymus Emerald'n'Gold.
James French from Peterborough asks:
I have cut down a large conifer bush but the stump and roots are too substantial to remove by digging. What is the easiest way to remove the stumps in order to lay turf over the top?
Reg answers:
Hi James,
In my opinion the only way to do this satisfactorily enough to lay a lawn over the top would be to have the stumps ground down by a local tree surgeon using a stump grinding machine.
Sonia Dandybee from Caversham asks:
Can you reccomend any attractive ground cover/climbing plants to disguise a tall granite/chalk based embankment at the bottom of our garden?
Reg answers:
Hi Sonia, How large is the area I wonder? You write that it is tall so I expect that climbers would be best. Anyway here are a few suitable contenders:
Ground cover roses - will also act like medium sized climbers. I like the Flower Carpet series.
Vitis coignetiae - rapid growth and huge "elephant ears" leaves. Brilliant autumn colour.
Euonymus fortunei silver queen - and other Euonymus vars.
Humulus lupulus aureus - golden leaved hop.
Pileostegia viburnoides - slower growing, evergreen hydrangea relative, white flowers.
Rubus henryi - this is an evergreen but thornless bramble relative, there are other species in the same family too.
Any of the Ivies (Hederas) would be evergreen and do a good job.
Also look at evergreen Cotoneaster skogholm which is very good at covering banks. Low hummocks with clusters of white flowers followed by red berries.
R.Wilson from New South Wales, Australia asks:
I have malaluka trees outside my ground floor unit and they are killing my plants is there anyway I can stop them without killing the soil.
Reg answers:
If you wish to kill the trees without harming the soil try attacking them with a systemic herbicide. Some of these can be applied by peeling back and area of bark applying the crystals and then tying the bark back in place. In the UK this is sold as Growing Success Deep Root and it contains the chemical Ammonium sulphamate.
Randi Lauterbach from Richmond, Virginia asks:
I have lots of foliage, but no blossoms on my hydrangea bushes. Last year when I bought them they were in full bloom. Please help.
Reg answers:
Hi Randi,
Sometimes Hydrangeas will grow away like mad the season after planting and as they put so much energy into growth they do not produce any blooms. Make sure that yours are well watered during the growing season, feed them with sulphate of potash in early autumn and do not prune them. Things will improve flowerwise next year.
Jeanette Tribe from East Devon asks:
Why has one of my Hydrangers only produced one flower all season? All my others have had an abundance of flowers.
Reg answers:
Hi Jeanette,
Has the non flowering one either; GROWN A LOT THIS YEAR? - if so it has put its energy into growth rather than blooms. HAVE YOU PRUNED IT HARD? - if so you have cut off the flower buds. OTHERWISE HAS IT BECOME TOO DRY AROUND THE ROOTS? - if so this will have stopped it from flowering especially if it became dry towards the end of last summer / early autumn when it should have been making flower buds for the following year.
Simon claxton from Worcester asks:
How do I take a hydranger cutting?
Reg answers:
Hi Simon,
Hydrangea cuttings can be taken in late spring-early summer but they will also root well in Aug-Sept. Cut off the tip of a vigourous non-flowering shoot with about 2-3 pairs of leaves, cutting just above a leaf joint. Next remove the soft tip of the shoot (the first pair of small leaves). Cut the next pair of leaves in half by making a cut across them to remove the tips. This will help to prevent excess water loss. Then remove the bottom pair of leaves entirely and make a straight cut just blow where they were attached to the stem. Dip the base of the stem in rooting hormone and then insert several cuttings around the edge of a 5in pot. The pot should be filled with a 50/50 mix of multi-purpose compost and either horticultural grit or perlite. The leaves of the cuttings should not touch and the leaves should also remain just above the compost. Water the cuttings in and cover the pot with a polythene bag and place it in a shady spot to commence rooting. If you have a heated propagator a bottom heat of 15C (59F) will speed up the rooting process considerably.
Margaret Mackie from Toms River, New Jersey, USA asks:
When can I replant my Hydranger? It is 14 years old and had no flowers these past 2 years.
Reg answers:
Hi Margaret,
The best time to carefully dig up and re-plant your Hydrangea is during the dormant season, when the plant has dropped its foliage. A 14 year old plant is likely to be difficult to move due to its large rooting area, so you will need to cut the top growth back in order to compensate for the root loss, and keep the plant well watered during the following spring and summer.
Joanne Sahal from Sheffield asks:
I have a climbing hydrangea of 2 years old in a large pot. Over a period of time each leaf dries and becomes lacy and eventually crumbles away. This year I haven't had any flowers either. I can't see any insects on the plant but sometimes see a silvery trail on the leaves. The plant is in the shade and doesn't dry out or become waterlogged.
Reg answers:
Hi Joanne,
I'm glad to see that you keep the plant well watered as they need plenty of moisture. Well the silvery trails are due to snails climbing up the plant at night, they are likely to eat the foliage leaving irregular shaped holes with a slightly brown edge. If you wished to control them spray the foliage with Scotts Slug Clear Liquid. However I feel that there is something else going on as well. Did you notice if odd areas of the leaves turned brown and then the brown regions fell away to create the lacey effect before the crumbling away stage? If so I think that the plant is suffering from Hydrangea Leaf Spot usually a fungal disease, although some leaf spots can be bacterial. Collect up all the fallen leaves and next spring as the new foliage has finished unfurling treat the leaves with Bio Dithane 945 a protectant fungicide that helps to prevent the fungus from re-colonising the new leaves.
Bill Maddison from Romford in Essex asks:
My Morning Glory plants are now about 6 feet tall - but no sign of any flowers - they are south facing in a box of compost. Any ideas why no blooms?
Reg answers:
Hi Bill,
Sometimes, particularly in duller years like this one morning glories tend to grow well and not flower much until late summer. Give them some liquid tomato fertiliser as the high potash content will promote flowering. Give some every 10 days.
Dee James from Sittingbourne in Kent asks:
I have a weed spreading rapidly in my front garden and also beginning to appear in the back. I am a beginner at gardenning and cannot get rid of it. It is a deep reddy colour, has tiny clover like leaves and tiny yellow flowers. When I try to pull it out it pops out lots of little tiny seeds and therefore spreads rapidly. I've just come back from holiday and it has almost covered my front border and is appearing in my pots and tubs now. What can I do? I'm going away again at the end of the week for 12 days.
Reg answers:
Hi Dee,
This is an Oxalis and the best weedkillers to use on it are either anything containing the chemical glyphosate like Round Up or Bio Glyphosate, otherwise lawn weedkillers such as Scotts Verdone Extra are also effective. In either case keep the weedkiller off any plants that you want to keep but once they hit the soil they are both inactivated.

Watch out for more questions and answers next month...

You can submit your questions to Reg by clicking here

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