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British Geological Survey, Nottingham

Duration:
43 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 28 February 2014

Eric Robson hosts the horticultural panel programme from the British Geological Survey headquarters in Nottingham. Chris Beardshaw, Matt Biggs and Pippa Greenwood answer the questions from the audience of local gardeners.

Produced by Howard Shannon.
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4

This week's questions:

Q. What would the panel suggest to plant in a sunny garden to celebrate a Silver Wedding Anniversary to a geologist?

A. Lithops look fantastic on a sunny windowsill; they look like little stones, which means you will get the best of both geological and horticultural worlds. Another suggestion would be a Monkey Puzzle tree, one of the earliest trees to form, or a carnivorous plant such as the Venus Fly Trap. Ferns would be recommended, particularly the Dryopteris erythrosora and finally, in a sunny garden the Rock Rose would be a good suggestion.

Q. Can the panel suggest a ground-covering plant overhung by a large Leylandii tree, Rhododendron ponticum and holly? The soil is acidic with lots of shallow roots from nearby trees.

A. It would be recommended to investigate ferns, for example the hearts tongue fern which can be found in both dry and moist soils. Silicium hederifolium may grow well as it is often found in woodland under pines in acidic conditions. Also Lamiums, Vincas and Periwinkles are recommended, particularly the Vinca minor. Geranium macrorrhizum could work around the edges of your area. Plant deep on the perimeter where there is more moisture available and try and train the plants inwards and the roots will grow under as far as they can. Finally Trachystemon orientalis, the Alpine Strawberry (you won't get fruit but it will have good ground cover) and Euphorbia robbiae are also recommended.

Q. How do I start growing asparagus on my allotment?

A. Start from an established crown and it would be ideal to create a raised bed to avoid waterlogging if you have a wet or clay based soil, because while they do like a lot of moisture they hate being too wet. Having a bed of their own would also help with weeding to avoid damaging the asparagus. Avoid harvesting them too early, the recommended timescale would be to wait 3 years. Ideally have the bed south facing and mulch over the surface.

Q. How can I encourage my Cycas to bulk up?

A. Cycas are very slow growing and need to be kept moist. You should feed them once a month with half-strength general fertiliser. They rely on warmth, humidity and good light levels. You should also avoid over-feeding when growing a Cycas. Other ancient plants to consider growing are: Wollemi pines, Dicksonias & Equisetum.

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