North East London
Chaired by Eric Robson, the Gardeners' Question Time team is in North East London with Matt Biggs, Anne Swithinbank and Bob Flowerdew tackling questions from local gardeners.
Produced by Howard Shannon
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4
This week's questions:
Q. What mixture of flowers, fruit and vegetables would the panel recommend for a slab patio of the dimensions 17ft x 11ft (5m x 3.5m).
A. Use large containers with good potting compost and almost anything can be grown. Raised beds are also suggested. Fruit plants are relatively low labour-intensity and virtually all modern varieties of fruit will be happy growing in a container. Herbaceous perennials, such as Sedum, Rudbeckia and grasses, are recommended for autumn colour. Also suggested are a selection of herbs such as Bay and Rosemary.
Q. What is the lifespan of red- and blackcurrant bushes? Should bushes that are no longer fruiting be cut right back or dug up and thrown away?!
A. For blackcurrants, it is recommended to start again - a new, virus-free clone of a new variety can be bought very cheaply, plus cuttings can be taken easily. Redcurrants, however, can usually be cut back and grow a new top.
Q. A five-year-old Chilean Pine or Monkey Puzzle tree, grown from seed, is now around 3ft (1m) tall. How deeply rooted will it be, can it be transplanted and when would be the best time to do it?
A. It is still small enough to be moved, so it can be transplanted into a large pot or a very spacious garden.
Q. What would the panel recommend as a hedge that one could graze?
A. Chaenomeles, the Japonica quince, is fairly unruly but can be trained. Fuchsia is discussed, but this does not grown well enough in the majority of the UK to make it a suitable hedge plant and the hedge varieties usually do not have very large berries. Sloes, or Blackthorn, would make a good hedge and be good for gin! Rose hip is also suggested, as it would be good for making syrup. Espaliers of pear or apple could be planted, or for a thicker hedge a mixture containing Myrobalan Plum is recommended. Finally, Worcesterberry and Elderflower are also suggested.
Q. What can be grown in the shade under mature Oak and Ash trees?
A. 'Gold Leaf' Himalayan Honeysuckle is recommended, as are Geranium Phaeum, Lamium Orvala, White Foxgloves, Honesty and ferns such as Polystichum Setiferum. Sarcococcas, the winter Boxes, are also suggested along with Symphytum Orientale, or White Comfrey. Creeping Dead Nettle variety 'White Nancy' and Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign' will also do well in dry shade. Iris Foetidissima produces orange fruits in the winter, though there is also a white-fruited form 'Fructo Albo'.
Q. Is there an ecologically responsible way to deal with Earwigs?
A. Earwigs themselves eat an awful lot of other pests, so although they can damage your plants, they are helpful on the whole. The damage seen is probably a result of a collection of slugs, snails and woodlice. Place upturned pots filled with newspaper onto canes near the plants that are being targeted - the pests in questions will use these for shelter during the day, which will allow you to find out what you're dealing with!
Q. Can a red Acer change to green if it doesn't get enough sunlight?
A. These grow naturally in dappled shade, but even in quite severe shade this should not affect the colouring. It may be that the rootstock has grown up and taken over - most red Acers are grafted onto a rootstock to provide its growth characteristics. Acers can be quite variable, so check a description for that specific variety, as it may be that the change in colour is to be expected for that specific variety.
Q. Can the native trees from a community forest be transferred into an urban garden?
A. This depends upon the tree and its ultimate size. Sorbus Aucuparia would work, as would Acer Campestre, Hazels and Ash. Most forest trees are not really suited to the average garden, however, so apple, pear, apricot and peach trees are recommended.