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Garden Questions

Contact me if you have any problems in your garden I may be able to help you with. Your question and my reply will be posted to this page as soon as possible.

A selection of recent questions - the latest is first.

Hi There, I'm trying to grow herbs in the garden rather than pots. I've noticed a load of woodlice making themselves at home at the base of my thyme plant. The plant itself seems healthy enough at the moment but how can I get rid of the woodlice without harming the thyme? Thanks Natalie

You’re problem is not uncommon. Woodlice are an intrinsic part of the decomposing process – particularly old wood. Perhaps I can point you in the direction of the ‘Strawberry loving Woodlice’ question and answer further down this page. DavidH.

Waterlogged Compost.
I recently transplanted a mock orange that was in the ground, into a large pot. The pot had no drain holes so it quickly got waterlogged, until I poked holes in the bottom of the pot to allow the water to filter thought the potting soil and then out. Leaves are now turning yellow...can you suggest a remedy. Thank you, Cecil.

Hi – You did the right thing by making holes to allow the excess water to drain away. I am guessing the plant was beginning to suffer sitting in waterlogged compost. If left permanently in this situation the plant would have suffocated and died. Leave the compost to dry-out before watering again and give it a feed using the slow release pellets available for plants in containers. Providing the plant was not left for long in the waterlogged compost, it may loose a few leaves, but hopefully should recover. David H.

Containerized planting:
Hi Dave - just been looking at your design for a small courtyard garden and it's definitely got me thinking about how to redesign our garden (which is much smaller than the one you've designed here).  Really like the idea of raised beds - we currently have beds in the ground with clay soil that is terrible).  I don't think we have space to grow trees in raised beds, but I was wondering what trees, if any, you'd recommend growing in big pots? Would raised beds be sufficient for growing veg? Thanks for any help you can offer!

Hi - I’m glad you found the ideas for the courtyard garden useful. Vegetables are ideal for growing in a bed system, I have a section on growing veg in a low raised bed on the ‘Features’ section on Garden Focus. Whether deep or shallow, raised beds are very versatile and all plants are suitable for growing in them – I will include a section on raised beds and containers in the future. As you will be aware, plants grown in containers can dry out quickly, particularly during summer, so as the plants grow they will require daily irrigation, especially during dry, hot weather. As less evaporation will take place at night, wherever possible water during the evening. Regular irrigation helps ensure the water wets the compost all the way through and not just the surface. Feeding is another key area when a plant is grown in a restricted area and should start by mid-spring, as the weather warms up. Follow the manufactures recommendations on any fertilizer you decide to use – slow release pellets or sticks are good. When I began teaching I developed a huge list of plants, but the programme I used to create them on (Microsoft Works 4), is not compatible with Word. If I could access these lists it would be a simple process to publish them but I will now have to start again! I will have a section, ‘plants for places‘ on the site soon – it’s in the ‘things I must do list’! For now, there is a small list of trees on the courtyard garden section – any of them would be suitable for large containers. Thanks for getting in touch and if you need my help again I will be only too pleased to give it. DavidH.

Strawberry loving Woodlice!
Hi Dave. Hello again! I'm desperate for some advice; my wonderful strawberry patch (about 4m long and 1m wide) is heaving with fruit, but as the strawberries are ripening, they're being hollowed out by wood-lice. I've looked on the internet for advice, but to no avail. I've got some fruit which is as big as my mobile phone (I'll send you a pic!), but am sad when it's being eaten by bugs. Any help gratefully received! Thanks, Adrienne.

Hi Adrienne - As you’re aware, normally strawberries fall victim to slugs, snails and birds. However it is not uncommon for woodlice to join in! Apparently there is a product on the market that claims to control not only woodlice but ants and earwigs too. It's called, Debug. It also claims to be safe and as such must be true, but whether you want to use any kind of pesticide on your food is a matter for you to decide. So it's back to that good old cultural control that I kept 'banging on about' in just about every one of our gardening lessons!!! Control your slugs and snails and if possible net the fruit. Try lifting the fruit from the ground and remove old/yellowing/dead leaves to allow good air circulation around the plants. If you have been traditional and used straw as a mulch that could provide a good home for them! Destroy any nests or large build-ups of woodlice you notice. Shrews, toads and centipedes are all predators of woodlice and there are also a few spiders and parasitic wasps that seek them out! I hope that helps. Let me know the outcome! DavidH.

Herbs on the Windowsill:
I recently bought some herbs to grow inside my kitchen for use in cooking (such as basil and chives). However, the plants I have bought are dying and I cannot keep them alive! I think this could be because there is not much light in my kitchen so the plants are being starved of sunlight. However, when i placed one outside it died very quickly as it hasn't stopped raining in ages here in Wales! I was just wondering if you had any tips as to how i can successfully grow these herbs so that they do not die. Thanks in advance. Stephen, Swansea.

As far as the chives are concerned they are hardy perennial plants and should flourish on a window sill - they can also be grown outside. As you are probably aware they are a member of the onion family and are therefore bulbs. Providing they have moist soil and reasonable light levels they should be fine. When you harvest them cut a few whole leaves from around the outside, (new leaves will soon emerge). As with most plants, when grown indoors the main problem is normally being too warm and dry. A room that is very shady could also be problem, but a window-sill, even one facing north should be ok for chives, but not Basil. Native to the Mediterranean regions basil requires heat and sunshine! It's an annual. If you recently purchased it then it should be ok for this winter - providing it is on a bright window-sill. Most of the herbs we buy come from such regions, i.e. from around the Mediterranean, Africa etc. That said many herbs grown here are perennial, for example, oregano (marjoram) or thyme and will grow happily outside and even survive our winters. Their main enemy is not the cold but wet soil. So the good drainage provided by a gritty soil is a must. As far as these 'dead' plants you have - they may not be! Give them a light prune, improve the light levels and do not over-water...make sure their soil is moist and not wet. Do not allow water to sit in the tray that the pot is in after ten minutes of watering. Let the compost almost become dry before you water again. DavidH.

Thanks for that reply, it was most helpful! Unfortunately my window sill is quite devoid of light and so I guess that I will have to just stick to jars of herbs. At least my chives survive. Once more thanks for your reply. Stephen, Swansea.



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