January is always a bit off-putting in the garden: it’s cold, it’s squishy underfoot unless the ground is rock hard and/or covered in snow. But it is a perfect time for assessing things and sorting out problems. So we began the year with our very own version of Gardeners’ Question Time, only without Bob Flowerdew and the the rest. We had our own team of experts: Guy, Sheena and Karen, all professional gardeners, and Tony, our previous chairman, to keep order.
We’d asked for questions in advance, so our three experts could at least do a little research (the same thing happens on the radio programme, as those of us who attended the recording at Portmeirion last year will know).
So what did we learn? Among other things…
- The only real solution to a giant pampas grass too close to the house is a mini digger.
- Now is the time to lime the soil if you have had stunted vegetables in the past (we have acid soil here) – but not for spuds.
- Wood ash from a stove is good as a slug preventer, but not particularly thrilling as fertiliser. However, wood ash from a bonfire is much better as the soil-nutrition benefits are in the green wood, which is normally part of a bonfire.
- Kiwis come in male and female – though there are some exceptions -and if your kiwi is failing to fruit it may be a lonely male (there’s more information about growing kiwis here).
- Never overcook a sprout if you want to ensure it’s edible, along with several other tips. Interestingly, we did a headcount of the people in the room who loved or hated sprouts, and by far most people liked them – in defiance of reported statistics.
- When to prune azaleas, and how to prune them into the delicate layered shapes beloved of Japanese gardeners.
- Possible help for an extremely exposed hedge in which most of the plants specifically recommended for wild and windy coastal conditions had died. Elaeagnus was suggested, along with planting a shelter belt of willow.
- When to plant gladioli in order to get the best blooms for the Show (this was answered very carefully – not that there’s an element of competition, oh no…)
- Ways of stopping mildew affecting hollyhocks too badly.
- How to identify bacterial canker on fruit trees (a sample was provided).
- And you cannot use an overflowing septic tank as fertiliser (happily, a sample was not provided)!
It was a great evening, enjoyable as well as informative. Many people said afterwards that they wished they had asked a question in time, so we’re intending to repeat our own GQT. And January is the prefect time.