BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

28 October 2014
GloucestershireGloucestershire

BBC Homepage
»BBC Local
Gloucestershire
Things to do
People & Places
Nature
History
Religion & Ethics
Arts and Culture
BBC Introducing
TV & Radio

Sites near Gloucestershire

Bristol
Coventry
South East Wales
Hereford & Worcs
Oxford
Wiltshire

Related BBC Sites

England
 

Contact Us

Gardening problem? Ask Reg...
Reg Moule
Reg Moule
Last updated: 25 May 2005 1649 BST
lineBBC Gloucestershire's Gardening Guru Reg Moule gets his wellies on to answer more of your green fingered gripes.

Gardening Questions & Answers for April 2005

PointerSee also: The Reg Moule Gardening Q&A Archive
PointerSee also: Send in your gardening question for Reg Moule

PointerSee also: Who is Reg Moule?
PointerSee also: The Reg Moule gardening pages

APRIL QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Kim from Destin, Florida, USA asks:
I have a Aeschynanthus radican (Lipstick plant) that I just purchased about 2 months ago. I have it sitting on top of my computer monitor next to a window that gets the eastern morning light (filtered). My plant's leaves are starting to shrivel up even though it has new growth at the tips. I water it once a week with a very weak solution of Miracle Grow. Any ideas as to why it is starting to be so unhappy? Do you think that maybe I should take it off of the monitor even though the front area where it is sitting is not hot?
Reg answers:
Hi Kim,
Yes take it off the top of the monitor straightaway. It is the hot air rising from the vents in the casing that is damaging your plant. The dry air is sucking moisture from the edges of the leaves. Place your plant elsewhere on a wide saucer of moist gravel, keeping the gravel moist as well as watering the plant. This will provide a higher level of humidity around the leaves.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Emma Dove from Forest Hill, London asks:
I've never really maintained a garden much before, and I wanted help identifying some pale, smooth, caterpillar like grubs living in our soil. I keep reading everywhere about chafers, and although the lawn is rubbish I've seen these more in the borders. I saw one that looked like it had pupated stuck to the edge of an iris leaf. They are creamy coloured, curled, with small black flecks on their bodies and brown heads. I have seen some evidence of silkened pupae cases hanging from brick walls and fences. We get quite a lot of very big bluebottle type flies - any chance they could be related?

Reg answers:
Hi Emma,
First of all I do not think that these larvae are anything to do with the bluebottle flies as, although they have a larval stage they feed mostly on meat. Do these larvae have any legs, if not they are not chafer grubs but they are very likely to be vine weevil grubs. One of the best ways to control them is by using a natural, biological control agent called Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer.
Visit www.greengardener.co.uk for full details.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Peter Saphier from London asks:
I would like to know whether the hedge growth regulator (Scotts Cutlass) that you recommend is still available. If it is where can I get it?

Reg answers:
Hi Peter,
No, I'm afraid that the active ingredient used in the product has lost it's licence so Cutlass was withdrawn from sale a few years ago.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Derek Lawlor from Monks Kirby asks:
Dear Reg,
I have a large lawn with a stream running down one side, the bottom 1/3 of the garden tends to hold water and is usually quite moist. In the last 3 months I have noticed an increasing number of small holes appearing on the lawn, each hole is about 20 ~ 25mm in diameter, around each hole is a patch of dead grass about 100 ~ 150mm in diameter. This dead patch looks as if some small animal has sprayed to mark it's territory.

Do you have any idea what is causing these holes? Will it cause a problem to my fruit trees in the area? Without resorting to terminal measures, how can I stop further holes appearing?

Reg answers:
Hi Derek,
I think that the holes are likely to have been made by voles and if so they pose no threat to your fruit trees.
If you would like to persuade them to live elsewhere try using one of the battery operated rodent repellers that are available in many garden centres. They emit a noise that is pitched at a frequency which can be heard by rodents but not by humans. This upsets the creatures, encouraging them to move on.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Katy Hood from Banbury asks:
I was given a jasmine plant at Christmas, it's covered in flower buds but over the last few weeks some have been turning brown and drying up. Some of the buds are opening OK and then turning brown straight after flowering. I've fed it fortnightly with Miracle Grow, and have cut back on watering in case I've been over doing it. Please help.
Reg answers:
Hi Katy,
If you have flower buds drying up this is due to the air being too dry around the plant and/or the room is too hot for the plant.
This plant is at its best between 60-65F (16-18C). Place the pot on a wide saucer of moist gravel, keep the gravel moist as well as watering the plant and this will release moisture up around the foliage so that humidity levels are increased. Misting over the plant with a hand sprayer, containing just water, will also help.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Iain Bell from The Walthams asks:
My neighbour has suffered from subsidence damage and his insurance company initially requested 'my cooperation' in containing my fabulous willow tree to its current dimensions. They were very clear that my tree had not caused the damage. The insurance company has now written to issue me with 'formal notice' that they may seek a full recovery of costs if I do not agree to cut the tree. Can you help with my legal position here please? Can they do this?

Reg answers:
Hi Iain,
I'm afraid that I do not know the answer to this one, but I would seek advice from the Tree Officer at your local authority.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Megan Thompson from Cesseras, Languedoc asks:
We have just bought a house in the Languedoc in South France. There is a large area where we would like to lay to lawn/meadow, but it needs to be drought proof. I
s there any type of seed we can buy that can cope with very dry summers and rain in the winter/spring?

Reg answers:
Hi Megan,
Yes there are blends of grass seed which are more drought tolerant than others. I have two ideas to offer you;
1 Personally, I think that one of the best grass seed mixtures available for lawns in the UK is Johnsons Quicklawn. It is both shade and drought tolerant, germinates quickly and requires only a minimum of mowing. Check it out at www.dlf.co.uk
2 Visit a gardening outlet near your new house and see what grass seed they are selling as this is bound to be good for that region. The only word of warning here is to watch out for mixtures containing high proportions of ordinary perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) as this could well be used in cheaper tough grass seed mixtures. This is a very strongly growing grass more suitable for pasture than lawns, but the more modern species of ryegrass specially bred for use in lawns are perfectly OK. These are often described as "dwarf type perennial ryegrass" on grass seed packs.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

John from Wimbledon asks:
Good afternoon Reg,
I moved to a property 4 years ago which has an old apple tree. The first year it flowered and produced plenty of apples, since then it has suffered from woolly aphids and now it is really bothering me. This year I am spraying it with an aphids spray and I have tried washing up liquid but this isn't good for the grass. What else do you suggest?

Reg answers:
Hi John,
I'm afraid that woolly aphids are rather difficult to get rid of once they become established. Keep up the treatments with insecticide but another thing that helps is regularly painting over the colonies with either methylated or surgical spirit. This works by dehydrating the creatures.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Jackie asks:
I was writing because I have a lucky bamboo plant in water. It is in a clear container, I just moved it to a ceramic one, and just sitting in water. I keep having the problem where a stalk will turn completely yellow and then shrivel and die :( Do you have any idea why this is happening and any suggestions to stop it?

Reg answers:
Hi Jackie,
These lucky bamboo plants are in fact stems from a plant called
Dracaena sanderiana cut to various lengths and tied in a bundle
while they are dormant. They then begin to shoot again once they are placed in a container with water and make a new root system. They should last bunched together in water for several years but after a while the odd cane may surcumb, usually to a fungal problem, and turn yellow and die. The best thing to do is remove any dead canes asap. and change the water every 10-14 days, preferably use soft or rainwater but do not add fertiliser to it. Usually the death of odd canes is more likely when the water is not changed often enough or tapwater is used.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Julia Crisp from Luxembourg asks:
My coniferous hedge is turning brown and it's spreading. What should I do?
Reg answers:
Hi Julia,
If the browning is just at the bottom and gradually getting higher there is a possibility of dryness at the roots being the cause.
However I think that it is much more likely to be brown patches appearing at random all over the trees and gradually spreading. If this is indeed the case, then the trees are being attacked by conifer aphids, or maybe conifer mites, and should be treated with a systemic insecticide to clear them out. In the UK we have a product called Bio Provado Ultimate Bug Killer (containing the chemical imidacloprid) which does the job well, but see what your local gardening shope has to offer.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Sally Pope from Bodmin asks:
We bought our house 4 years ago with 2 Dracaena palms planted about 3 feet from the front of the house (either side of the front steps). They look lovely now (about 10 foot high) but we are very worried about the roots under the house/steps. Are the roots likely to be causing any damage to the structure of the house? Your advice would be appreciated - I have been unable to get any information off the internet.

Reg answers:
Hi Sally,
I very much doubt if your Cordylines will pose any real threat to the foundations of your house but I suppose that there may be slightly more risk of the POSSIBILITY of them damaging the steps. This of course depends on how thoroughly the foundation work for the steps was carried out. I think that the best way to put your mind totally at rest would be to contact the tree officer at your local authority and seek their advice.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Karen Lodge asks:
Hi. I just wanted to know if I can shape a nice design on some fir trees that I have. They are about 4 foot high. It's just I have seen some in the gardening centres and they cost quite a lot. If you can could you show me how I make these shapes, thankyou.
Reg answers:
Hi Karen,
The answer to this question depends on which species of "fir trees" your have as some conifers respond well to clipping whereas others do not. Probably one of the easiest shapes to go for would be a ball but the best way to find instructions would be to look in a book such as The Royal Horticultural Society book Pruning and Training by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce (isbn number 0 7513 0207 4)
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Susan Lawson from Swansea asks:
My stella cherry tree gave loads of fruiting cherries last summer. This year there are no buds, leaves or blossoms. What could be wrong?

Reg answers:
Hi Susan,
If your Stella cherry is showing no sign of any new growth whatsoever it may be dead. The best way to check this would be to scratch a little of the bark away from one of the branches using your thumbnail and see how the cells beneath are looking. If they are green and moist then the tree is still alive but if they are brown and dry then that part is dead. If you do find that the tested area is dead keep working back along the branch towards the trunk as you may discover that all the branch is not dead. If this is the case prune out all the dead portion. Try the scratch test on the trunk of the tree as well to check if this is alive.
If the tree is alive it should leaf up in a few days - you could try to encourage it by an application of rose fertiliser to the root area.
If the tree is dead you may wonder what has killed it and my guess would be bacterial canker. If you find gum oozing from the trunk or branches this is indicative of that disease.
Best Wishes,
Reg.
Christene Howard asks:
Something is eating small holes in my primroses and pansies. The leaves end up looking like lace. Please help.
Reg Answers:
Hi Christene,
Here are the options.
1. Are there any brown spots on the foliage?
If so, the problem is caused by a leaf spot disease which kills out an area of leaf which turns brown and eventually drop out, leaving a hole. This then looks as if an insect has been eating the foliage.
The remedy here is to remove most of the infected foliage and then spray the plants with a fungicide like Bio Dithane 945. This will protect healthy foliage and, if repeated twice at 10 day intervals, new leaves will be protected too.

2. Are there any slime trails present and the edges of the holes are brown?
Slugs and / or snails. They mostly feed at night and everyone has their own favourite method of control. Many people worry about the safety of standard slug pellets where wildlife is concerned, although there seems to be no definite scientific evidence to support this idea. However since last spring we have had a new type of slug pellet available called Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer which does not contain the metaldehyde found in standard pellets. It contains ferrous phospahte, which is harmless to everything except slugs.
Another organic alternative would be to use natural biological pest control measures, in this case involving the use of nematodes. These are living microscopic worms which feed on the slugs, visit www.greengardener.co.uk or www.nemaysisinfo.co.uk for more details.

3. If it is neither of the above then the culprits are caterpillars. These can be dealt with by searching the plants for the offenders, likely to be small, green in colour and trying to look like a vein on the back of a leaf, and squashing them between finger and thumb. Otherwise you could spray the plants with Scotts Bug Clear, Bio Greenfly Killer Plus, or Bio Bug Free.

With Best Wishes,
Reg
Art Segan from Florida asks:
I need to kill a Palm tree. Is there a chemical that I can put at its base?
Reg answers:
Hi Art,
I'm afraid that I'm not familiar with the brand names of weedkillers on general sale in the U.S.A. What you need is a "systemic" weedkiller that will travel through the sap system of the palm and kill it off. In the UK we have a brand called Growing Success Deep Root, containing the active ingredient ammonium sulphamate and another called Vitax S.B.K. Brushwood Killer containing the chemicals 2,4D,mecoprop-p and dicamba.
So really you need a product containing similar ingredients, you could print off this answer and show it to an assistant in your local gardening store.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Liz Ausden from Southampton asks:
Thanks for your answer last week about my mimosa. It is actually an Acacia Longifolia and planted against a fence to give it shelter in our garden. The leaves are continuing to turn yellow/brown ... do you still think it is an iron deficiency ... or is the south coast still to cool for such a tree?
Thanks Reg.

Reg answers:
Hi Liz,
Thanks for coming back with the exact species that helps a lot when giving advice.
Acacia longiflolia, commonly known as the Sydney Golden Wattle or the Sallow Wattle, should grow OK in a sheltered position on the south coast.They do best in full sun and love a well drained soil.
Although Acacias in general need at the very least a neutral soil but prefer it to be acid, A. longifolia is one of the more lime tolerant species, so my diagnosis of iron deficiency may not be so certain.
However I would still give the shrub a couple of dosse with a liquid seaweed feed with added sequestered iron. The main brands you are likely to come across are Maxicrop Seaweed with Sequestered Iron and the Vitax equivalent both of which come in blue plastic bottles.
Now, the reason for recommending this course of action is that seaweed is a great plant stimulant and has benefits that we do not really fully understand. I feel that maybe your plant is feeling a little "under the weather" following the recent colder spell and it should recover as the weather warms-up. If you are worried you could protect it for a while with some garden fleece and if the shoot tips have died back this is a good time to prune them back to healthy wood.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Margaret Philpott from Ireland asks:
M
y mother has a plant grown from shop-bought bird seed (it had started in the bag, she got curious) now its in the greenhouse, has heartshaped furry leaves, a flower like a small passiflora, purple inside, yellow outside, it also has lantern like things from which an orange coloured fruit? (about the size of a bonbon) has emerged this year..

Please can you tell her what it is before I go mad trying to find it on the THOUSANDS of gardening sites... many many thanks.

Reg answers:
Hi Margaret,
Plants grown from wild bird seed always cause indentification headaches as they are not usually to be found in gardening books as they have no particular garden merit.
I would say that it is extremely likely your Mother's mystery plant is a member of the plant family Solanaceae.
Have a look at a plant called Nicandra physaloides and see if yours resembles that.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Yvonne Charles from London asks:
I bought a potted legustrum and did not water it as I thought the rain water was sufficient. It was ok for a number of months but now it is losing all its leaves which are yellow and dry except for the ones lower down the bush. What can I do if anything to restore it?
Reg answers:
Hi Yvonne,
Lots of people fall into this trap of thinking that rainfall is sufficient to satisfy the needs of pot grown evergreens but the problem is that the foliage shields the compost from the rain. This would not matter if the plant was growning in the garden soil as the leaves would shed the rainwater around the edge of the canopy, where the roots would be waiting to receive it. When plants are grown in pots the edge of the foliage canopy is often shedding water beyond the edge of the pot, missing the compost entirely.
The good news, however, is that your ligustrum should recover as they are really tough customers.
I would just try scraping a lttle of the bark off the main stem with my thumbnail and then taking a look at he cells exposed. If they are fresh, green and moist then the branch is still alive, but if the tissue is dry and brown then that portion of stem is dead. Check the plant all over in this manner and I am just about certain that you will find most of it to be alive. Then you can cut the stems back, just about as hard as you like, water the compost well and maybe sprinkle a little (not too much) general fertiliser onto the compost before you water. The fertiliser could be Growmore, Pelleted Chicken Manure, or Rose Food and the water will help to take the food down to the roots in order to help to stimulate new growth.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Rick Sprague from Hawarden asks:
I have two small manhole covers in my front garden. They are both not level with the lawn but about 1 1/2 inches lower. I would like to returf the lawn this year and I need to know if it is feasible to lay soil on top of polythene laid on top of the covers then turf over them. I have never yet had any reason to lift the covers in my twenty odd years of living here and neither have my neighbours had to lift theirs. If it came to it I could always lift the turf again if I had to. I suppose my question is, how much soil does turf need to grow?
Reg answers:
Hi Rick,
I'm afraid I don't like this idea very much. For one thing it is not going to be all that practical to get turf to flourish laid over a manhole cover, the area will dry out more quickly than the surrounding lawn and the grass will tend to become a lighter green or even yellow. I have also got an idea that it is illegal to cover a manhole in this way, but I'm not entirely sure if that is correct.
Although you might think that grass, being a shallower rooted plant, should be able to grow well on a depth of topsoil around 15cm (6in) it is not really as simple as that. You see there is also what goes on under that topsoil to consider, the steady regulation of food and water supply the activity of micro-organisims all of which will not be happening when all that is under the soil is a manhole cover.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Sandra Croad from Steeton, West Yorkshire asks:
We have planted several golden leylandi in containers with multi purpose compost but we have noticed several brown leaves appearing on a couple of the trees, mainly at the base. What can we do, and what do you feed them with? M
any thanks.
Reg answers:
Hi Sandra,
Brown leaves beginning at the bottom and working their way up usually indicates a lack of water, so that would be my first thing to check. Even if it has been raining sometimes evergreens in containers tend to shield the compost from rain with their foliage. If you need to feed the conifers I would either apply a controlled release fertiliser, such as Osmocote which will sustain the plants throughout the growing season, or give regular liquid feeds with Phostrogen or a similar product every 14 days until mid September.
The other possibility with the browning would be conifer aphids, so check the foliage in the vincinity for tiny charcoal grey insects or stickiness and the possibility of a black sooty mould appearing. If these are present then apply a spray of Bio Provado Ultimate Bug Killer as this will sort them out.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Nick Scanlon from Gloucester asks:
PLEASE CAN YOU HELP ME REGARDING MY RHODODENDREM.
IT HAS BEEN IN A POT FOR 2 YEARS, AND HAS DONE WELL UNTIL NOW. I RE-POTTED IT LAST YEAR, BUT NOW LOOKS LIKE IT IS DYING, THE LEAVES ARE DROOPING AND IT IS LOOKING LIFLESS.
THANKYOU.

Reg answers:
Hi Nick,
Whenever you see a plant looking like yours you can be reasonably sure that you are dealing with a root problem of some description. Even if the plant had been suffering from the problem for a while it might not have appeared to be stressed until the spring surge of new growth began - or in this case tried to begin.

There are two possible causes
1. Vine Weevil
This is a charcoal grey beetle that eats notches out the edges of plant foliage, particularly evergreens, but these adults lay hundreds of eggs each that hatch into off-white grubs with brown heads. These do the real damage feeding on plant roots and of course they are particularly devastating when they attack container grown plants.
2. Phytopthora Root Rot
This is an increasingly common fungal problem especially where drainage is poor, especially where plants are grown in peat-based composts with inadequate drainge facilities.

I would carefully remove the plant from the container - the root system should be fairly compact, and examine the root ball and the surrounding compost.
If the off-white grubs are present (and look carefully among the roots too) then vine weevil is to blame. I would re-pot the plant into fresh compost and treat it with Bio Provado Vine Weevil Killer which will kill the existing grubs and protect the plant from further attacks for up to four months.
If the roots are dark brown and squidgy or seem to have collapsed or you can remove the outer skin from the inner root core by pulling on the roots then it is the Phytopthora. I'm afraid that there is no cure for this - just dispose of the plant and compost and wash out the pot with a disinfectant before you use it again.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Karen Robinson from Colchester asks:
Something appears to be nibbling the edges of our laurel leaves - any suggestions on what it could be and how to treat it? Many thanks

Reg answers:
Hi Karen,
If you have fairly neat notches all around the edges of your Laurel leaves then the culprits are adult Vine Weevils.
You probably know about these charcaol grey beetles which feed at night but gardeners are most concerned with their larvae - off-white grubs with brown heads. These feed voraciously on plant roots and can cause the death of some plants in pots (see answer above). Although maybe the roots of your laurels may be being attacked the plants are unlikely to suffer too much as they will already have quite extensive root systems and so they will be able to cope with some damage from the larvae.
The adults are fairly easy to kill and I find a good way is to take a piece of corrugated cardboard - the stuff used in packaging - and roll it up into a cylinder. Then put either some Doff Weevil Killer Dust or any brand of Ant Powder down the corrugations in the cardboard. Place a series of these cylinders among the branches of the laurels. After feeding at night the weevils will crawl up into the cardboard to hide during the day and so come into contact with the dust, which should kill them.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Kerry asks:
When should I cut my lawn?
Reg answers:
Hi Kerry,
It should be quite safe to begin cutting your lawn now as long as the grass is not too wet. I would just trim the grass over regularly, keeping it about 2.5cm (1in) tall.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

David Miller from Hamlet asks:
I understand old railway sleepers may no longer be used in gardens as they can be carcinogenic. I have them around my vegetable patch. How real is the risk?

Reg answers:
Hi David,
I am not an expert in this field I'm just a gardener, but I suspect that the degree of risk depends on how old and well weathered the sleepers in question have become. If they are fairly old then most of the creosote will have leaked out by now and so lessened the risk.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Linda Tarling from near Bude, Cornwall asks:
I need to reduce the height of our cordiline australis. It has multiple heads. Is it safe to cut off the tallest spike without killing the whole tree?

Reg answers:
Hi Linda,
Yes it is quite safe to prune your Cordyline at this time of year, particularly so when it has multiple heads.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Beresford Evitt from Great Billing asks:
My daughter's front garden is plagued by shaggy ink cap mushrooms. Can you suggest a way of getting rid of them, please?
Reg answers:
Hi Beresford,
Really these inkcaps are not doing any damage to the garden or plants at all. They are simply the fungal equivalent of flowers which produce spores, like plants have seeds. The main part of the fungus is living on some type of organic matter in the soil, perhaps old, dead tree roots or something like that.
One way of discouraging them would be to get a watering can and mix in 2oz of sulphate of iron in a gallon of water with a dessertspoonful of washing up liquid added as the final ingredient. Spike the affected area and water on the mixture at the rate of 1 gallon per sq yd.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Julie Houghton from Ernesettle, Plymouth asks:
I have a bay tree, which is approx 5' tall, how deep will the roots be? I'd like to move it.
Reg answers:
Hi Julie,
In general terms you can assume that the amount of top growth on a tree or shrub is echoed by the root growth below the soil. Of course whenever you lift a tree or shrub you can never get all the roots out and unfortunately the most useful food and water absorbing roots are among those left behind after lifting the shrub.
One thing in your favour is that this is the best time of year to move evergreens - early April - but remember to dig out as large a rootball with the plant as possible. Please make sure that the root area is moist before lifting the plant and it would also be a good idea to cut the shoots back by half to two thirds before lifting so that there is a better balance between the root and shoot growth. Otherwise you will have a relatively large amount of foliage being supported by a depleted root system.
With a bay tree as tall as yours the ideal thing would be to prepare it for lifting this spring then dig it up the following April, but I dont know how that would fit in with your time schedule.
To do this preparation work you would dig a trench all around the tree to about two spades deep and cut through all the thicker roots with a pruning saw. Make the trench about 60-75 cm away from the main trunk. This trench should then be backfilled with a mixture of good topsoil and composted bark (often sold as Levington Soil Improver and Mulch) with about 10% horticultural grit added to the mixture. This will help to promote the production of useful new fibrous roots making the shrub more likely to thrive when it is finally transplanted in April 2006.
Whenever you decide to move the plant remember that it will need to be kept well watered for the WHOLE of the year following the move.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
C W Gray from Newark asks:
I recently bought a Camellia to grow in a pot. The garden centre recommended I mix 1 part John Innes No3 to 1 part composted bark as the growing medium, rather than buying ericaceous compost. Will this work?
Reg answers:
Hi,
Yes the advice you got was sound as the composted bark would make the John Innes compost more acidic and the loam element of the John Innes mixture would hold water and nutrients in a more balanced manner than a peat based ericaceous compost.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Nigel from Winchester asks:
Reg,
I have two large Japanese Maples in containers. This year I have noticed that a large number of the new buds have dropped off. Is this due to lack of water, frost or pest?

Reg answers:
Hi Nigel,
What were the buds like after they dropped off? If spring frost was the culprit then the buds would be brown or black. This is quite likely this year as it was mild earlier on, then we got a cold spell with quite sharp frosts that could have damaged the newly sprouting buds.
Under watering COULD cause this problem but I think that it is VERY UNLIKELY. In my experience more people damage maples by overwatering them in late winter/early spring as they do not need lots of water until the growing season gets underway properly and then they like the compost to be well drained. They hate having wet feet for prolonged periods.
Option three: if the buds on the floor seem to be in good condition then I would be suspicious of bird damage. Sometimes small finches like sparrows will pick off emerging buds, apparently they get some sort of excitement from doing this. Maybe covering the plant with garden fleece, draped over some bamboo canes with an upturned pot sat on the top of each cane, in order to prevent the cane from damaging the fleece, would act a shield. I would make the cane structure tall enough for the fleece to end up about 6in (15cm) above the plant. Keep this in place until the weather become reliably warm, as it should exclude both frost and birds.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Liz Ausden from Southampton asks:
Why are the leaves of my 1 year old mimosa turning yellow at the tips? and will it recover?

Reg answers:
Hi Liz,
I assume that your mimosa is in a pot in a conservatory, although if it is Acacia dealbata, I suppose it could be in a sheltered position outdoors. I suspect that this is due the plant suffering from iron deficiency, so it would benefit from a dose of sequestered iron. This is easily available in garden centres either on its own or added to seaweed plant foods like Maxicrop with added Sequestered Iron or the equivalent product made by Vitax.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Bill Pearson from Bacup in Lancashire asks:
I have a Rowan which is about 20 years old, it is now too tall, I would like to reduce it by a third, when is the best time to prune?
Reg answers:
Hi Bill,
The best time to prune Sorbus (mountain ash) is in the period between leaf fall in autumn and when the foliage returns in early spring. Depending on the condition of your tree you may just about still be able to prune it, as long as you act very soon. Otherwise the job should be left until this autumn.
When pruning be careful as these trees do not regenerate well from old wood, so you cannot cut too much off, just take the new shoots back to leave about two buds which should then make new growth.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Stanley Chandler from Pinner in Middlesex asks:
How do I remove moss from tarmac? Also Agrostis stolonifera gives a good lawn. Where can I buy it?
Reg answers:
Hi Stanley,
One of the best products to remove moss from tarmac is Armillatox which should be readily available from garden centres. Although it has be taken off the approval list for other uses in the garden it is still recommended for cleaning paths and patios.

As far as Agrostis stolonifera (creeping bent grass) is concerned most companies only sell mixtures of grass seed to the general public rather than just one species, for lawn making purposes. In my opinion two of the best mixtures are Suttons Rapid Green and Johnsons Quick Lawn. I suppose you could always enquire about availability of Agrostis stolonifera at Johnsons parent company DLF Perryfields Ltd.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Michaela from Gloucester asks:
I have lucky bamboo, in a glass vase in my dining room. Over the last few weeks, some of the bamboo has withered and died and now the other canes are getting yellow leaves and drying out. Have I killed it and is there anything that can be done to save the other canes in the vase?
Reg answers:
Hi Michaela,
The so called "lucky bamboo" is not in fact a bamboo at all but a houseplant called Dracaena sandierana. These are grown in large tree like specimens, the stems of which are then cut up into various lengths and bundled up to form an attractive tiered column. When they are kept with the bases immersed in water, they produce roots and the buds at the top sprout foliage.
If you wish to salvage some of your plant I would undo the bundle, discard the dead canes and then pot up the ones that are still living, either in groups of three or as individuals. Threes would fit into a 4in (10cm) pot while singles would need smaller ones. I would use houseplant compost to pot them up.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Colin Webb from Swindon asks:
I missed scarifing the lawn in September - will it be ok to do it now and should I feed the lawn?
Reg answers:
Hi Colin,
September is by far the best time to scarify the lawn as the grass responds much better to this treatment in early autumn. However you can still do the job, but I would say just a little more lightly in spring. I would wait until mid April to use one of the lawn feed and weed, or feed,weed and moss killer mixtures as they work much better when we have stable warmer conditions. I also find that one of the brands with controlled release fertiliser granules does a much better job than the older, more conventional products. Look for ones like Phostrogen Feed Weed and Mosskiller , Levington Complete or one of the Levington Lawn Builder range.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Standish from Wigan asks:
I have ants in my greenhouse what can I do?
Reg answers:
Hi Standish,
It is best to find the nest then you can treat it thoroughly using biological pest control nematodes. These are microscopic worms that naturally kill out ant nests and they available from a company called Green Gardener. Check out their website: www.greengardener.co.uk
If you cannot locate the nest then its down to attempting to control them using ant powder or one of the baits that they take back to the nest such as Nippon.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Graham Slade from Coulsdon in Surrey asks:
I have a 2-3 year old climbing hydrangea on a north-west facing wall in clayey soil. It is growing very well (about 13ft) but it has never flowered. Can you help?
Reg answers:
Hi Graham,
There are two possibilities here. One is simply that your plant is quite young and so it is concentrating on growing, rather than using its resources to produce blooms. I would give the plant a dressing of one handful to the square yard of sulphate of potash around the root area in late July - August as this will encourage the plant to make flower buds.
The other main reason why some people have no blooms is because they prune the plant by cutting back the young shoots growing out from the support in spring. The problem here is that it is these shoots which carry the blooms, so they are cutting the flowers off.
Pruning of established plants is best kept to an absolute minimum and where pruning becomes necessary it is best done immediately after flowering. As the plant fills its allotted space overlong shoots and outward growing side shoots can be cut back by up to two thirds to a healthy bud.
Climbing Hydrangeas tend to produce most of their blooms towards the top of the plant, so try to retain as much of this wood as possible.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Eleanor Peterson from Mudgee, Australia asks:
When belladonnas (aka naked ladies) have finished flowering, if you dead head them, does that promote the growth of new bulbs, hence a better bloom next year??
Reg answers:
Hi Elle,
Yes dead heading will help to strengthen up the bulbs as they will not be wasting precious energy making unwanted seeds. Giving them a light dressing of sulphate of potash, after dead heading, will also help to build up the bulbs.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Christine Duckett from Dagenham asks:
Dear Reg, Last year I planted loads of daffodil bulbs and they were a real picture. This year however, most of them have come up 'blind'. Would you know the reason for this? Many thanks.

Reg answers:
Hi Christine,
There are several possible reasons for this happening but the main one is that the bulbs were not fed immediately after flowering last year. You see what happens flower-wise this year is a direct result of how the plant was treated last year as that is when this year's flowers would have been initiated. So always feed your bulbs as the blooms fade using a high potash fertiliser such as rose food and always leave the foliage intact for at least 6 weeks after flowering so that the bulb can be nourished for next year.
Another thing to consider is how big the bulbs that you planted were, as if they were on the small side they could well be not strong enough to flower twice and sometimes larger ones will bloom in the first season and then decide to grow new baby bulbs rather than flower again the second year. These new bulbs should bloom in about 2-3 years time.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

Mel from Leeds asks:
How do I prune my eucalyptus tree? I want it to look like the lollipop design.
Reg answers:
Hi ,
Eucalyptus trees can be pruned as hard as you like as they will readily re-grow from old wood. The best time to carry the job out is in April and if you want to get a lollipop shape allow the trunk to form and then remove the side branches once the trunk thickens up. The top branches can then be cut back hard annually if desired, to prevent the tree from spreading too much.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
T Lovett from Flintshire asks:
I have a very large lawn with all different types of trees surronding it, large patches of the lawn now have a lot of mushrooms/toadstools on it. How do I get rid of them? The lawn was professionally fed up until October, when I stopped them because the grass looked worse than when they started 9 months previously & because these mushrooms started growing, which had never been a problem before.
Reg answers:
Hi,
Last autumn was a particularly good (or bad) year for all sorts of mushrooms/toadstools due to the moist, humid weather conditions and the lack of a really dry, sunny summer.
It is difficult to give you in depth advice without knowing what the toadstool looked like as the vast majority of the species are totally harmless as far as the grass and trees and shrubs are concerned. They are present because the fungus is busy doing its job of rotting away some old tree roots or other organic debris under the soil and the toadstools are the fungal equivalent of flowers which produce the seeds, or in this case spores, that help to keep the species going. In most cases all you need to do is to collect up the toadstools (wearing gloves is a good idea) and just put them in a polythene bag in the household refuse.
If you wish to discourage the fungus I would try to rake out as much of the mowing debris (known as "thatch") as soon as possible now, the ideal time to do the job is in September. This can often help to discourage some of the fungi that cause problems to the lawn grasses.
Another idea would be to spike the affected areas with a garden fork and then water on a solution of sulphate of iron with a little washing up liquid added as a wetting agent. Again this is best done when you see the fungi appearing. The rate would be one and a half ounces of sulphate of iron in a gallon of water with a dessert spoon of washing up liquid (added last or you get a can full of foam) watered over one square yard.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Bev asks:
Why has my monkey puzzle tree started to go brown?
Reg answers:
Hi Bev,
Ideally I could do with some more details. If the tree is fairly small it could be due to dogs or foxes peeing over it but probably the most likely reason is too much exposure to drying winds over the autumn and winter.
Evergreens are always losing moisture through their foliage and this autumn and winter have been particularly dry so this form of scorching is quite likely. Check the soil to make sure that it is not too dry, of course if the tree is planted in a very wet situation you could end up with a similar result.
Bear in mind that it takes some time for a conifer to turn brown due to the thickness of the foliage, so the tree has probably been suffering for some time without actually showing browning. If the soil is too dry water it and mulch the surface of the soil with a layer of bark chips, or a similar product, over the root area.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.
Kathleen from Northants asks:
Would I be able to transfer Heathers from pots to ground?
Reg answers:
Hi Kathleen,
Yes certainly it would be perfectly OK especially if the heathers were in individual pots as you would not be disturbing the root system. If the plants are currently housed more than one per pot try to separate them out carefully causing as little disturbance to the roots as possible and keeping a good ball of soil around each root system. Water the plants well about 30 mins. prior to transplanting and keep them well watered afterwards too and I would do the job as soon as possible. This will enable the plants to begin to settle in their new environment before the summer arrives.
With Best Wishes,
Reg.

PointerSee also: Send in your gardening question for Reg Moule
PointerSee also: The Reg Moule gardening pages

Reg Moule's Gardening Q&A archive:


PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - May 2005
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - April 2005
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - March 2005
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - February 2005
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - January 2005
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - December 2004
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - October 2004
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - September 2004
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - August 2004
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - June 2004
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 1
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 2
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 3
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 4
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 5
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 6
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 7
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 8
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 9
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 10
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 11
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 12
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 13
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 14
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 15
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 16
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 17
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 18
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 19
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 20
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 21
PointerSee also: Reg Moule Gardening Q&A - Previous Archive 22

 
You are in:
>> Focus >> Reg Moule

CONTACT US

BBC Gloucestershire
London Road
Gloucester
GL1 1SW

Telephone (website only):
+44 (0)1452 308585

e-mail:
gloucestershire@bbc.co.uk



BBC Gloucestershire website, London Road, Gloucester, GL1 1SW
phone:01452 308585 (website only) | E-mail: gloucestershire@bbc.co.uk




About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy