In spite of the poor weather, and very little to get us into our gardens just yet,  there was a very good turnout to our first event of 2018, no doubt encouraged more than a little by the prospect of an enjoyable social get-together to set the evening off with a swing.

The questions, as ever, came thick and fast, and our very knowledgeable and experienced panel gave much excellent advice. Just some of which follows…

  • Woodash ( potash) is in plentiful supply after months of wood fires and can be sprinkled around your plants. It is insoluble, and it is a good idea to add nitrogen, which will help it being taken up. You can also add it to your compost heaps.
  • If you have a bog garden you could try some carniverous plants. They are generally hardy. Have a look at a very successful local specialist nursery… who have lots of gold medals to their name.
  • My wisteria has died. Why is this and can I plant another? Normally wisterias are long lived. It is possible that honey fungus may be the culprit. Look for long black threads. If it is, this is a very virulent killer and it is best to replace the soil, as much as you can. Don’t plant another in the same place. Try somewhere else. Keep an eye on any nearby plants for the fungus too.
  • When growing wildflowers the preference is to start with plugs or small/young plants. Seeding in situ is more difficult. Try primroses, wood anenomes, bluebells ( English are best), snowdrops, narcissi. Summer interest could include delphiniums, cosmos, aconitums.
  • When using manure, try to let it rot down first. Digging it in will be better than leaving it on the surface.
  • If you have a no-dig regime, spread the manure in Autumn after clearing the bed. Spread hay on top of this. Wood shavings take 18 months to rot down. Straw is quicker but add sulphate of ammonia to boost the rotting process and replenish the nitrogen.
  • If you dig your plot, one spade depth (spit!) is sufficient.
  • No-dig plus mulch will suppress weeds.
  • Llama and Alpaca dung can be used around your plants, after rotting down a bit. Don’t let it touch the plants themselves as it may “burn” them. It also makes a good liquid feed.
  • My Frangipane, after doing really well for some years now has lost all of its leaves. They seemed to curl then drop. There was no sign of insects in the leaves and I am now left with a “pole’, with no foliage. Scratch a small piece of the bark off … if the plant is green beneath it is still alive and there is hope it will revive. If it is brown, bin it!
  • Squirrels or badgers may be responsible for digging up your potted bulbs. Try a covering of wire… which could be just below the surface.
  • Bordeaux mixture is still available for use as a fungicide.
  • Baking powder has a number of uses in the garden. It will kill aphids and spider mites, kill or deter slugs, kill anthills, protect against black-spot on roses and improve the alkalinity of acid soils. Just google for more details on how to use it. And it will stop your compost heap from smelling, and thoroughly clean your hands after a busy day in the garden!
  • Plants for a woodland garden/area include primrose, cowslip, wood anemone, euphorbia, pulmonaria, bergenia, lily of the valley, cyclamen, and epimedium.