Eric Robson hosts this edition of GQT with local gardeners in Cornwall. Anne Swithinbank, Bunny Guinness and local special guest Toby Buckland feature on the panel.
Produced by Howard Shannon.
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
This week's questions:
Q. How should I fertilise my Asparagus bed?
A. Seaweed can be used, put directly onto the crowns. If the seaweed is gathered straight after a storm, it isn't too salty and won't cause a problem. If you don't have a ready supply of seaweed, mushroom compost, horse manure, cow manure and sheep manure are all suggested. For large crowns, plant the asparagus about 90cm centres. In addition, keep the bed well weeded.
Q. We burn a lot of old timber, how can I best use the ash in the garden?
A. Wood ash is quite high in potash, so can be good for fruiting plants, or plants such as Clematis (especially in quite acid soil). Use it on the garden now rather than when it's very wet weather as the nutrients will leach away very quickly in the rain. It should be applied quite thickly and raked into the soil to prevent it from blowing away.
Q. I need to replace my polytunnel cover. A plastic cover would provide protection from wind and vermin (slugs and snails), but the crops need irrigation. A netting cover would offer similar advantages, but with natural watering, but would significantly effect light. Which would the panel recommend?
A. Shade tunnels are very good for raising shrubs and herbaceous plants in a stress-free environment. For vegetables and flavour in fruits such as tomatoes, lots of light is needed and so a plastic covering is better. Shop around for 'non-drip', 100% transparent plastics. Also recommended are tunnels with a polythene top and netted sides to prevent overheating. However, by using a seep hose throughout the tunnel and capillary matting, watering should not necessarily be a problem.
Q. I have very vigorous brambles growing through an Escallonia hedge. What is the best way to remove them?
A. Cut the tops off the brambles first, then lever the bottom out with a short spade, with a pointed blade and a T-shaped handle. Alternatively, Glyphosate can be applied using a mister bottle.
Q. I recently bought a young Rowan tree, which a friend told me has protective powers against evil spirits. Do the panellists know of any other trees with similarly powerful properties?
A. Yew trees were traditionally planted in cemeteries to capture the souls of the dead. Willow was considered by the druids to be a tree of magic and willow wands are where the concept of magician's wands comes from. Hawthorn is thought to have magical properties and is known as the fairy thorn in Ireland.