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Correspondence Edition: Bunny Guinness' House

Peter Gibbs is hosted by Bunny Guinness at her home for a Correspondence Edition.

Peter Gibbs is hosted by Bunny Guinness for a Correspondence Edition of the programme. Pippa Greenwood and Matthew Pottage join Peter at Bunny's home just outside Peterborough.

As Bunny shows the panel around her fantastic garden, they offer advice on rotting apple trees, pesky shield-bugs and an out of control cactus.

They also receive advice from avid listeners on growing apples in high altitude and carrot root fly and discuss the new UK record for the largest squash.

Produced by Laurence Bassett
Assistant Producer: Rosie Merotra

A Somethin’ Else production for BBC Radio 4

Available now

42 minutes

Last on

Sun 4 Nov 2018 14:00

Fact Sheet

Q1 – We have a ¾ acre (3035sqm) garden which we need to add structure. We are on acid soil with a garden rising from west to east about 30 ft (9.1m) with Cornish hedges around it. What ideas do you have for trees or large shrubs to add structure to the field?


Pippa – You have to get something that is growing relatively fast and also that will put up with local conditions. British natives such as hawthorns (Crataegus Monogyna), sloes (Prunus Spinosa), field maples (Acer Campestre) etc which you can create a random hedge/barrier effect.


Matthew – A classic wind-break tree such as Pinus Radiata (the Monterey pine) and Cupressus Macrocarpa (Monterey cypress). Also, mixed natives like Birch (Betula) and Alder (Alnus Glutinosa). There are some other ornamental arms of them such as Cut Leaved Alder (Alnus glutinosa ‘Imperialis’) and the Cut leaved birch (Betula Pendula ‘Dalecarlica’). Put them in slightly informal clumps.


Q2 – I have just planted an Acer Griseum (Paperbark maple). It has a 6 foot (1.8m) straight stem with very thin twigs on the side. I would like to branch it out. If I cut the lead shoot back will this encourage further and better outward shooting branches?


Matthew – We don’t prune them. If you have one very straight lead shoot then leave it and let it branch naturally. If you think it is going to be too tall for the space then you could pinch the top with secateurs but go steady. Make sure you do a good job of planting it, and that it doesn’t go in too deep.


Bunny – if you want a multi-stem get two and put them in the same hole.


Q3 – I have an old apple tree which has had two branches sawn off, a bit too close to the trunk. The interior in both has rotted and resulted tunnels in each have merged at a significant depth within the trunk. How can I protect the main trunk from further rot?


Bunny – If you are getting it interfered with, then you can do something to form a barrier against large animals coming in and digging in there. Other than that, I would leave it be.


Q4 – My suddenly famous granny always told me when picking flowers always pick them right down the bottom to prevent the plant sending sap up the stem unnecessarily. A couple of years ago I heard advice on GQT that we should only pick the top. Who is right?


Bunny – If it is dead-heading then I would say there is some advantage of leaving some decent size green stem there as there will be food material generated from the stem that will go back down. I think the sap will go up but it will only be a finite amount.


Matthew – it depends on the plant.


Bunny – I think when we have spoke about leaving the stems on the show before I am certain it was in the context of dead-heading. Olive was talking about picking.


Peter – So you are both right.


Q5 – I have had a spectacular harvest of courgettes and marrows. I have grown them on top of black plastic sheeting. What is your view in covering my whole 9x5m (30ft x 16ft) plot over the winter with black plastic sheeting left over from a building project?


Bunny – I read some research saying that the microbial content of the soil below black poly or any sort of membrane is completely different and not as healthy. I think it will restrict worms etc as it will reduce oxygen


Pippa – I definitely wouldn’t do it. Polythene has a life-span and it starts disintegrating. You are getting a whole different environment under there – so if you must have it then don’t leave it on 12 months of the year.


Matthew - The heat is good, and it is a good weed suppressant. But the thing that would concern me is winter is a time when you get some decent moisture back into the soil – after the dry summer you need to get the soil soaked up again.


Q6 –I have tried to grow wildflowers from seed in some of my beds in my allotment, but this has failed miserably due to the soil being too fertile. Being an avid Archers listener I have followed Adam’s success in growing herbal leys for the livestock to graze. Do the panel think it will be possible to grow herbal leys on my allotment in a bed about 16 metres (52ft)– will it need mowing every year as I don’t have a grazing animal. What sort of upkeep will it need?


Bunny – There will be no difference having herbal leys to as opposed to a wildflower meadow.


Pippa – In a garden situation put a strip of lovely native wildflowers that are local to the area.


Bunny – If you grow wildflowers on their own they are not competing with grass, which is the problem you have in a meadow as grass outcompetes the wildflowers. But if you do a range of wildflowers on fertile soil with no grass you should have reasonable success.


Matthew – Maybe they were sown a bit too late. Get them sown when there is decent moisture around late March time.


Bunny – But not too late!


Q7- I have beetles on my runner-beans, they are black with white spots on their back. Are they harmful? If so, what should I do about them?


Bunny – They are shield-bugs, also known as stink-bugs.  They only occasionally do harm. Do not squash them. They only do a little bit of damage.


Q8 – I’m struggling with an out of control Cactus. Is there a way to trim the height? It has gone nuts in the summer height and is about to hit the ceiling.


Matthew – It looks like a Euphorbia Trigona. It does need pruning, and with Euphorbia you will get milky sap unfortunately. Take the top three or four tallest branches down and take about 60 cm off that to encourage branches lower down. Be careful with the carpet and furnishings around it. The pruning’s you take off you can leave on the windowsill to dry off and re-root again. It will start slowing down its active growth now, so if you can cope with the height of it I would leave it until Spring.


Q9 – A couple of years ago on your programme you mentioned about ladybird invasions and asked us not to hoover them up. With the recent media attention on the swarms of Harlequin ladybird invasions what is your advice now – I have been inundated with them.


Bunny – Harlequin ladybird are not native ones. Usually on the windowsill you get all sorts of ladybirds, but the problem is if you scoop them out you will get everything in one go. Leave them be, and if you really don’t like them get a dustpan and brush and brush them out and pop them in undergrowth somewhere.


Matthew – Once the temperatures have dropped they do settle down.







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