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Usk, Monmouthshire

Eric Robson hosts the horticultuual panel programme from Usk in Monmouthshire.

Pippa Greenwood, Matthew Wilson and Christine Walkden answer this week's gardening queries.

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

Available now

43 minutes

Questions and Answers

Q – How do I deter snakes from coming into my back garden? 

Matthew – Grass Snakes are completely harmless to humans and they are very shy so I wouldn’t worry too much about them.  Christine – There are many ways of deterring them though – highly coloured bits of coiled pipe scare them off.  A dog too will chase them.

Q – We’re currently restoring a copse that was full of Himalayan balsam, bramble, and nettles – we’ve cleared the balsam but where do we start with the nettles?  It’s the size of a football pitch.

Eric – Pigs will take everything out efficiently and they’ll manure the patch for you too.  4-6 pigs in that space would take about 3 months.Matthew – Pigs get down to a depth that you couldn’t hope to – they’ll get the bramble and nettle root out completely.

Q – Why are my quinces brown on the inside? 

Pippa – It seems like bitter pit with apples – and I would treat it as that.  So you could use seaweed extract, but most importantly make sure it isn’t getting too much high nitrogen material nor any nitrogen robbing material. So don’t use straw or woodchip as a mulch.  I would concentrate on thinning the fruits out a bit and make sure it’s adequately moist at all times.

Q – We live on a common and would like to grow flowers and small shrubs around an electricity pylon – we have permission from the electricity board to develop the area but not to plant large shrubs or trees. What can you suggest for year-round colour?

Pippa – You could plant a lot of sun-loving, low-growing Alpine plants or even some of the Thymes if it doesn’t get too soggy and damp.Christine – Smaller shrubs like ‘sacred bamboo’ will give you good flowers.  Herbaceous and woody Potentillas would be good. Pittosporums.  Prunus tenella.  Look at all year round colour, keep it simple, multiple plants of each too – to make a bold effect.Matthew – Go for Dogwoods – Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ for winter colour.  Daffodils would be good – ‘Tete-a-Tete’ or orbicularis.  A backbone of trimmed Holly would be good.  Or things like Geraniums.

Q – About 12 years ago we bought a ‘Lord Lambourne’ apple tree - this year it seems to have sprung rootlets – do we need to cut it down?

Pippa – They look like raised brown, barkish, bobbly bits – about the size of a 50p piece… I think this is the tree forming some root/shoot material which sometimes happens when a tree is stressed.  You need to work out why it’s stressed – too wet, accidentally had some roots chopped? And then sort that out. But don’t saw it off or cut it down!

Q – Could you please suggest a novel Mediterranean plant to remind us of Usk’s heritage as the wild North Western reach of the Roman Empire?

Christine – Euphorbia acanthothamnos – the barbed-wire nettle plantPippa – I’d love to have an Olive – but it may not like it hereMatthew – Cork oak is a wonderfully graceful tree.


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