Summer Garden Party, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1
Eric Robson presents the show from the GQT Summer Garden Party at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Joining him on the panel are Bob Flowerdew, Pippa Greenwood and Bunny Guinness.
Produced by Darby Dorras
Assistant producer Hannah Newton
A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.
Q – I have a bathroom with no natural light – what can I put in it?
Bunny – I have blue/red LED lights in a dark greenhouse which helps - get an electrician to put them in and then the world is your oyster! I’ve had a Date palm in my bathroom before. Spathiphyllums and ferns eg a Staghorn fern would be amazing.
Pippa – You are going to struggle without any light… Foliage Begonias would work if you were able to rotate them with better lit spots.
Bob – Friendship Plant (Billbergia nutens). Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa). The Mother in Law’s Tongue. But again, with all these, you must rotate.
Q – We’ve got an Ash tree with a tree preservation order on it. Is hand weeding the only way to get rid of all the Couch grass and Dandelions growing underneath it?
Pippa – You’ve got to be careful but there are weed killers that could be applied safely as long as no green tree part or new bark is likely to get contaminated. You could use Glyphosate if you wanted to.
Bunny – If you use a coarse mulch, about 50mm+ (2inch+), weeds will have a tougher time germinating.
Bob – If you’ve got a sharp hoe you can go out once a week and take the heads off. After three months you’ll see there’s hardly anything there. The ‘Poached Egg’ plant is a good ferny plant for growing around the base to keep weeds away.
Q – I have a vegetable plot in a field. I think I might have over-manured my plot – what can I do?
Bob – Not a problem if it’s well-rotted. Give it a couple of months to rot down and it should sort itself out. Next year your crops will be great! The more you add, the more acidic the soil will become though, so lime every fourth year.
Pippa – Before you sow anything do a simple home soil test. Get a pot filled with the composted stuff and a pot with ‘normal’ soil. Sow some lettuce seeds and gently water – then you’ll be able to see quickly if the lettuces will grow well in your composted soil.
Q – My lawn is a fantasy of Speedwell and Pignut in late-May/early-June. What would you recommend to continue the show later on? It also needs to be bird-friendly!
Pippa – How about Clover? Just don’t walk barefoot as it brings in lots of bees. Lawn daisies too.
Bunny – Plant in plugs like Self-Heal.
Bob – Scatter a few Sunflower seeds. Blessed Thistle or Milk Thistle (Cnicus benedictus). Crimson Clover too.
Q – Apple tree. Label said Cox’s ‘Orange Pippin’, Group 3, will grow to 4m (13ft) in ten years. Will it thrive in the Edinburgh climate here, especially considering it only cost £5?
Bob – If you got it when it was fresh you should be ok. A Cox on its own won’t fruit, you need a pollinator. Cox’s ‘Orange Pippin’ isn’t easy to grow and is susceptible to pests and diseases. Give it to someone else and get something like a ‘Discovery’ instead! Or a late apple like a ‘Granny Smith’. Or an ‘Irish Peach’ (another early).
Eric – ‘Keswick Codlin’.
Potting Shed Q – I have a problem with two ‘Galloway Pippin’ apple trees. First one is enormous – can I stop it and make it bush out? The other one is planted in the wrong place and is ten feet (3m) tall – can I shift it?
Jim – It is possible to shift a ‘Galloway Pippin’. Do it in the dormant season. When we moved Beechgrove we lifted about twelve or fourteen ‘Cordons’. Moving it will give it a shock and help limit its size. For the first tree, you can root prune it. Go 60-90cm (2ft-3ft) out from the trunk and cut every root that is more than pencil-thickness – that will give it a good shock.
Q – How do I overwinter a ‘Chocolate Cosmos’?
Pippa – I would grow it in a good container to avoid digging it up and replanting it. Then pop it in your greenhouse, insulate the pot, ensure good drainage, then fleece the top.
Bunny – I cut the base off the big containers and plant them out at end of May so they root through into the soil. Then at the end of the summer I just pull the pots out and take them in. It’s an easy half-way house.
Q – New Zealand flatworm is endemic in my area. What can I do to maintain my soil’s health and fertility?
Bob – Best thing to do is trap them. Get loads of old plates/saucers and stack them hidden in damp, shady corners. Then, every now and again, unstack them and you’ll find the worms tucked away between the plates. Stacks of glazed tiles would work too. Liming around plants you really want to protect will help.
Q – What would the panel suggest I do on a new (to me) allotment?
Bob – Because of the time of year I would start by getting the shed and greenhouse ready. Then start on digging the beds over. Don’t plant anything for a while.