Peter Gibbs chairs questions from local gardeners at The Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. Chris Beardshaw, Anne Swithinbank and Pippa Greenwood form the panel.
Chris Bearshaw also visits the 'Galaxy Gardens' that he helped design for Jodrell Bank and Matthew Biggs travels to West Yorkshire to meet BBC 3's 'Young Gardener of the Year' finalist Jamie Butterworth, at his grandparents' garden.
Produced by Howard Shannon.
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
This week's questions:
Q: Most of our lawn is moss what should we do?
A: Too much moss can start to look messy, so in springtime you could try using a moss-killer and raking it out. If you want to stay chemical-free, promoting good vigorous lawn grass growth is the best method of attack, so try to improve aeration and keep your grass adequately fed. For something less high maintenance, turn it into more of a meadow with more flowering plants and grasses.
Q: Can the panel recommend a variety of sunflower that looks good and produces a good amount of seeds for the birds?
A: The Russian Giant is a lovely tall sunflower with classic colours and a huge head with good seeds. The American Giant would also be a good option, as it has a very large face and a wonderfully tall, walking-stick-like stem.
Q: Every year I gather leaves but once they're decomposed not a lot of leaf mould is left. How can I put this limited amount to use most effectively?
A: The fine material is a good addition to compost - but make sure you sieve it first to remove the larger bits of leaves leaving them to decompose further. It would also be very useful for enriching soil in raised woodland beds for plants such as Double Bloodroot Sanguinaria, Trilliums and Merrybells.
Q: We are moving house and hope to take several shrub and climbing roses with us.
Should I save each as a pruned, moist and wrapped root ball, or clean and dry them out to transport as a bare root plant?
A: It's always best to try and keep them as intact as possible so wrapping the root ball up in something like Hessian is the more favourable option. Make sure to get them back into containers sooner rather than later so that fine roots have time to re-establish.
Q: I have a Spathiphyllum Peace Lily that I keep indoors that has recently developed holes in leaves. What do you think it could be?
A: It is unlikely to be vine weevil, so it may well be slug or caterpillar damage if your lilies have spent holidays outside at any point. Try careful surveillance in the evening to see if you can spot anything - perhaps even the cat playing with it.
Q: What does the panel think is the best all-round plant for the young wildlife gardener?
A: Apple trees and the Elder tree would be a wonderful options as they are really easy to get hold of and grow. The blossom would attract all sorts of wildlife, bees and insects and falling fruit would attract plenty of bugs, aphids and birds such as fieldfare and pheasants. Rosa Rugosa would be another good option as it is cheap, quick growing and the fragrant flowers and hips would be attractive to wildlife. You also can't beat native hedging such as Wild Roses, Sloes and Hawthorns.
Q: A few years ago I bought Penstemons, which for the first year good but have since turned woody and leggy. What is the best way to care for them to avoid this?
A: Penstemons don't like wet roots so try using some grit to enrich the soil and allow for better draining through the winter months. Treat it like lavender or rosemary with fairly hard pruning in early summer to encourage side shoots and then once again after they have flowered. Left untamed they tend defoliate and mature very quickly.
Q: I am currently planting a fernery - do the panel enjoy ferns and which ones would they recommend?
A: Ferns are hugely underused and undervalued considering can be used in the garden very effectively. Ferns with vertically growing rhizomes produce sculptural shuttle-cock style plants such as Matteuccia Struthiopteris - which grows to around four foot high and is verdant green. If you are looking for ground coverage go for something with horizontally growing rhizomes such as Bracken, or Osmunda Regalis Purpurascens which has a dark inky black stripe -and combines very well with geraniums an hellebores.