As well as fresh ideas and inspiration, the Gardeners' Question Time podcast offers solutions to…
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Peter Gibbs chairs this week's episode of Gardeners' Question Time in Norfolk. Joining him to tackle the audience's gardening concerns are panellists Bob Flowerdew, Matthew Wilson and Chris Beardshaw.
Produced by Howard Shannon
A Somethin' Else Production for BBC Radio 4.
Overflow and notes:
Q. What is the best way to level out an uneven lawn to make it easier to mow?
A. Invest in a roller, or a mower with a roller attached to it. Be diligent in mowing in various different directions and regularly. For a deeply divotted lawn, scatter some compost with sharp sand into the area and flick into the sunken areas with a besom, or 'witch's broom'. Alternatively try using a trulute to level the soil before seeding.
Q. Can leek or onion seeds be kept from one year to the next?
A. If the foil packet has been opened, and the air and humidity have got to the seeds, then there is a chance they'll go off. Leeks and onions should be started off in a tray very early in the growing year, so it is still worth trying the seeds - if they don't germinate, there should still be time to have another go! However, if the packets haven't be opened or stored anywhere hot, they should be absolutely fine.
Q. Can a 25cm (10in) Black Boy peach plant, grown from seed, be planted outside?
A. If it is hardy in New Zealand, where the variety originates, it should be hardy here. However, try to keep the worst of the winter winds off the plant. Frost may take off the blossoms early in the year.
Q. Our cherry tree has been infested by a black bug, which curls the leaves and makes everything sticky. What is this and can it be cured?
A. This is almost certainly a black aphid, which cherries are particularly prone to. Although it looks unpleasant and is inconvenient, it will not have much effect upon the crop. In order to prevent further infestations, when the first attack of aphids happens, spray the tree with a powerful jet of water to knock them off the tree.
Q. Which plants should seaweed extract be used on?
A. Watered down seaweed extract can be good for lawns or vegetables.
Q. How can rampaging Comfrey be controlled in an organic vegetable garden?
A. Cut off all the top growth about once a fortnight. Keep doing that methodically from the start of the season and it will be gone. Persistence and vigilance are essential!
Q. Which method of storing Dahlia tubers in vermiculite does the panel prefer?
A. At the end of the season, extract the Dahlias from the ground, wash them in lukewarm water, remove any soil, soil organisms or withered or dead material, prune the stem down to around 10cm (4in) above the top tuber, allow to dry on newspaper and then place into dry sand or a vermiculite. Most Dahlias are quite tough and resilient and can be left in the ground, especially hardy varieties such as the LLandaff forms. Alternatively, store the plants in compost, turning the pot on its side and easing off watering until February or March.
Q. Should an indoor Maidenhair Fern be cut down to the base and if so, when?
A. Old fronds can be removed with secateurs or scissors, just a little way away from the rhizome. Cutting too close to the rhizome will damage the fern, so leave 1cm (1/2in) of the stipe in tact. Give the fern a feed after pruning, but dilute any houseplant feed to a quarter of the recommended dose for ferns, which do not like too much feed.
Q. What should be done to prepare the soil for a new 4.5m (15ft) square rose bed on sandy, rough soil?
A. Roses like rich soils, but it is possible to select roses which will do slightly better in poorer soil. Varieties such as Rosa Gallica 'Complicata', Rosa Glauca are recommended, whereas hybrid Tea Roses and Floribundas should be avoided for this soil type. If it is possible to add clay to the soil, do so, along with well-rotted manure and a good mulch on top.
Q. What advice would the panel give to newcomers to an allotment site, and what tips for established hands to welcome those newcomers?
A. Share crops, share knowledge and share enthusiasm.
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