... A BBCi Live Chat
John answered your gardening questions in a
live event on Friday 25th July 2003...
BBC Host: Welcome to our live chat with
John Cushnie. John Cushnie is a landscape designer
and contractor who has run his own landscape
design and contracting company in County Down
for the last 25 years. He also lectures and
demonstrates gardening all over Ireland and
Great Britain. John writes for gardening magazines
and newspapers and has published a book, Ground
He is a panellist on Radio 4 Gardeners' Question
Time and has contributed to BBC Radio Ulster's
Gardeners' Corner since 1968.
Shona asks: how do I get rid
of weeds in a lawn they have overtaken?
John Cushnie: Prior to today
you could have used chemicals but most of those
have now been taken off the market and it's
going to have to be mainly cultural methods.
Such as scarifying, raking and general good
Jean asks: Just purchased Acer
Bloodgood. It has tiny holes in all of it's
leaves also noticed minute white spots on stems.They
are too small for scale insects. What could
be causing this?
John Cushnie: Acer Bloodgood
is a particularly good red leafed variety. The
small holes have probably been caused by an
insect eating which will do no long term damage
and has probably moved on by now anyhow. If
the white spots are that small, it sounds like
they may be the lenticils which are naturally
on the stem and will do no harm at all.
TT asks: When is the best time
to take hostas from the ground to a pot?
John Cushnie: Obviously it
is best moved when dormant, and that can be
any time from Autumn until early Spring. In
spring be careful not to damage the new young
shoots. Good Luck!
Kathy asks: I'm a fan of summer
hanging baskets and would love to have winter
ones too - but apart from ivy what can I put
John Cushnie: Ivy probably
wouldn't enjoy it!!!! Try winter flowering heathers
such as springwood white, or winter flowering
pansies, Gaultheria Shallon, is a small evergreen
with very red berries and would be lovely over
Gray Flo: I have been eaten
alive by raspberry beetles! Is there anything
you can recommend to deter them while I am gardening
and save me from this awful itch!! LOL
John Cushnie: Forget your itch!
What about the poor raspberries. Really there
is little you can do in that any chemical you
might be tempted to use wouldn't be a good idea
when the fruit is on the plant. Remove any weeds
growing in the area, and hopefully a drier season
will mean less of a problem.
Jen asks: Can you tell me if
and when outdoor grown tomatoes actually go
red ? Or should I crop them and just leave them
to ripen in the sun ?
John Cushnie: Providing they
are a red fruited variety they will redden when
ripe. Sun will speed the process up but is not
essential. There are yellow fruiting varieties.
Gail asks: My 7 yr old Wisteria
has just flowered for the first time this year.
It has now lost all it's leaves and looks dead,
but growth has re-started at the base of the
plant. I've cut it back by 1/3, should I wait
until next year or should I cut the whole stem
down and let the new growth take hold?
John Cushnie: Any dead shoots
can be pruned out but I would be concerned as
to why it suddenly started to die. It sounds
like something temporary since it is growing
away again. Fertilise with high nitrogen to
encourage growth and hopefully it will be OK
by next year.
Anthea asks: When should I
use farmyard manure and when should I use compost?
What's the difference?
John Cushnie: Very little difference.
Some farmyard manures ie poultry would contain
slightly more nitrogen, but really both are
used more for their humus value than for their
fertiliser content. Use any time of the year,
as much as you like, it can only do good.
Arthur asks: What do you make
of the new government restrictions on weedkillers
and pesticides? Is it really necessary or has
the EU gone mad?
John Cushnie: No and yes. It
is a shame in that it is going to leave gardeners
with fewer means of controlling pest diseases
and weeds. I'm not sure how serious it will
be, but obviously diseases and pests will be
on the increase.
Dave asks: I have moved into
a house built in a field. The grass is field
grass and grows very quickly. Is there anything
I can do to slow the growth?
John Cushnie: Probably not
in that the field grass may originally been
a rye grass which was designed for maximum green
as animal fodder. Heavy applications of potash
will slow the grass down, but some nitrogen
will be needed to balance that later.
Tara asks: How can I get rid
of (I think) alstromeria it has corms/roots
that look transparent and although I hve tried
to get it all out it always comes back?
John Cushnie: Like so many
plants it can be a weed. The old fashioned alstromeria
do spread quickly and the only good control
an total control is to spray with glyphosate
weed killer which will also kill anything in
the area with green leaves.
Phillip asks: hello there john.
I'm after help. I've recently been buying packets
of seeds...mainly lupins...and the seedlings
are now ready to be potted up...could you tell
me...i want to put them in 9cm pots....and dont
know how many seedlings to put in...just the
one or a few in one pot. These are to pass on
by the way.
John Cushnie: Phillip don't
be miserable. One per pot will be exactly right.
Remember that a 9cm pot is quite small so move
them on to your friends quickly or you will
be spending your life watering them!
Chris asks: I have a honeysuckle
growing on a east/west trellis. It is not bushing
out, all I have is three or four long stragerly
branches. What can I do to make it bush out
ang cover the trellis?
John Cushnie: It sounds like
it is making growth so be rash and cut it back
hard to encourage side shoots to form and train
these from the bottom at an angle rather than
straight up. It may not flower this year but
will be a show next year.
Nicola asks: John, what would
you recommend for getting rid of Leatherjackets
on the lawn?
John Cushnie: The best way
to get rid of leatherjackets is to give nature
a helping hand. After a shower of rain spread
old carpet or polythene on the lawn in the evening.
The next morning lift it, all the leatherjackets
will be on the surface and the starlings will
make short work of them.
Darren asks: My dad is a good
gardener but he has a plant in his garden that
he doesn't know? It is green all over and the
plant is like an upside down triangle, each
stem has a small ball which off comes another
2or 3 stems which in turn small ball more stems??
John Cushnie: I haven't a clue
but sounds like broccoli gone mad! I would love
a sample or a photograph. Please email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or post to Gardener's Corner, BBC Broadcasting
House, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, BT2 8HQ.
RT Asks: I'm from Belgium
and I need to ask you if I could leave my borgan
villa outside for the winter or should I bring
it indoors please help.
John Cushnie: Please bring
it indoors. Belgium is no warmer than Northern
Ireland and even the hint of frost will kill
John Cushnie: Bring it in before
the end of September and keep it in a frost
free room with reasonable light until the end
of May. Bye.
Dave asks: Planted thirty birch
trees, all healthy except one, leaves have gone
brown and crisp, but stalk is green beneath
bark - should tree be pulled out?
John Cushnie: 29 out of 30
isn't bad. If it's still green it may live depending
upon the size - it'll do no harm to leave it
John Cushnie next spring. Good Luck.
Pete asks: Is that true that
you can soak stingy nettles to water to make
good plant food?
John Cushnie: Yes until the
EU decides that maybe it is a dangerous concoction!
The only problem with all these organic liquid
fertilisers is the lack of knowledge as to the
exact nutrients. They (nettles) make great champ
mixed in potatoes!
Nigel asks: What are the chances
of limes surviving the winter in Northern Ireland?
John Cushnie: I take it you
mean the citrus fruit in which case no chance
at all outdoors. But in a conservatory with
a minimum temperature of 45 degrees F they will
Marcus asks: Have just watched
Gardeners World with Monty
Don. They were experiencing problems with Cabbage
Butterfly. Quite surprised they didn't recommend
planting up some Oregano which helps repel it.
Does any other herb repel it?
John Cushnie: Companion planting
is of some help with most crops but cabbage
white butterfly like so many other pests is
not totally deterred by smell.
Glyn asks: Is it possible to
prune plum trees after fruiting - or is that
too late? Mine is getting too tall to harvest
John Cushnie: Too late. Plum
trees must be pruned during July otherwise they
are prone to diseases such as silverleaf. July
is the period when the spores are dormant.
Louise asks: John my Daphne
has lost all its leaves several times but does
recover what can I do, it looks dead most of
John Cushnie: It sounds like root trouble,
could the ground be very wet? It's obviously
not disease otherwise it wouldn't recover. I
suggest giving it a ride in a wheel barrow in
late Autumn to a more suitable position.
Pete asks: My apple tree has
loads of apples on it, so much so that the branches
looks like they are going to snap what can I
John Cushnie: Count your blessings.
Use supports such as forked sticks or cords
from a central stake to support the branches.
I wish I had your problem!
Luni asks: John, my cherry
tree is plagued with ants and black fly. Anything
I can do?
John Cushnie: Probably by now
the black fly will have gone leaving you with
dead tips to the branches. The ants will soon
disappear as they were only there to enjoy the
honeydew excreted by the blackfly. Never worth
spraying. To keep the ants at bay next year
apply vaseline round the trunk of the tree.
Pete asks: John, I'm thinking
of putting some hedging around my back and side
garden for a bit of privacy - would you recommend
John Cushnie: Yes I would if
your garden is large enough or if you are prepared
to clip it twice a year to keep it within bounds.
It makes a wonderful dense evergreen screen
at 8 to 9 foot high, but if not controlled will
grow to one hundred foot high. The problem isn't
the plant, it's the people who plant it.
Moy asks: We have moved house
and have plot 10 yds x 20 yds which we are told
was a veg garden up until 5 years ago. How can
I clear the Tuftsed grass and some thistle before
rotovating in the autumn?
John Cushnie: If you are not
organic the answer is to spray with Glyphosate
weed killer and apply a second time as the weeds
re-grow. If you want to go the organic route,
cover the plot with old carpet and leave for
Marc asks: Any tips on how
to get Yew tree seeds to germinate? When should
they be sown and in what. How deep should they
be planted etc?
John Cushnie: Bear in mind
that the outer pulp is the only bit that is
not poisonous. They will germinate better after
stratifying which means leaving them out in
sand to enjoy the winter weather. Take them
out and re-sow in the Spring, germination will
be erratic but seedlings should be large enough
to transplant the following Spring.
Pete asks: My onions are gone
yellow and limp what do you think is the problem?
John Cushnie: It could be one
of many problems but if you have grown them
in the same place for a few years it may be
onion rot in which case don't grow onions in
the same area for the forseeable future. If
the roots have been damaged by hoeing they may
also turn yellow.
I hate onions! So you are confusing me with
someone who cares!
Ron asks: My acer looks as
though it has been flicked with sticky white
polystyrene. Any leaf or branch that has been
affected dies within a week. I have been soaking
the plant with Dithane 945 which has slowed
the death rate. A Coral Bark & Bloodgood
nearby are not as yet affected. What have I
John Cushnie: It sounds like
wolly aphid which are greenfly protecting themselves
with a white cotton wool like substance. Spraying
them with your finger over the end of the hose
is probably sufficient to knock them off. Chemicals
don't really work through the protection unless
the one you are using is a fungicide.
G asks: I've got bindweed popping
up all over in borders - any suggestions?
John Cushnie: Any chemical
that will kill bindweed will also kill green
leafed plants. If next year you train the strands
of bindweed to grow up a bamboo cane you can
then spray without damaging nearby plants.
Digging out the white roots in winter will slow
James asks: I bought a packet
of red flowered broad beans and when they came
the flowers were all colours why?
John Cushnie: Sounds like a
mix up in the packaging shed. Normally they
will all be the same colour which can be white,
pink or red. It may have been simply a mixing
Pat asks: Are there any autumn
flowering alpines you recommend?
John Cushnie: You have caught
me on the hop. Dianthus will flower into the
Autumn and obviously Autumn flowering Gentians
are a must. Sedums and saxofrage will flower
Emer asks: I've moved into
a new house and I've got a 8mx10m back garden.
It's all grass at the minute and I don't know
how to start planning it. Any advice??
John Cushnie: It is quite a
small garden and I would give consideration
to eliminating any lawn. A small gravel area
would double as a patio and BBQ area. Choose
small plants with a long period of flowering
and a small tree such as Japanese Acer or Amelanchier
to give height. Bulbs will give you great colour
in Spring and Autumn.
Lily asks: My ten year old
rowan tree had lots of blossom, but always very
sparse berries, though they do turn red, what
is the problem?
John Cushnie: It could be an
inferior variety or even a self sown seedling
which will never be of much use usually after
blossom the berry automatically follows although
dry conditions in June could cause a loss of
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