Home Gardening Questions and Answers

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- March 2017 -

Question

How do I decide which plants or trees would prefer bark or something like Mulch & Grow? For example, a lemon tree or roses in the garden and tomato or cucumber plants in pots.

Answer

Possibly the most important issue here is that you mulch, rather than which particular mulch. Applying mulch around growing plants helps retain soil moisture, repress some weed growth, and as the mulch breaks down it improves the soils organic content.

Whatever product is easily available, be it; Daltons Mulch and Grow, Daltons bagged bark chips, pea straw or Daltons Compost, these will all be of considerable benefit in your garden.

What is important is the depth of mulch that is applied and how frequently it is reapplied during the growing season. The recommended depth of mulch to apply is 50 -60mm. Too greater depth and water will struggle to percolate through, while insufficient depth and weeds will rapidly emerge.

The depth of mulch can be greater around existing mature trees and shrubs as opposed to around vegetables, where the depth should be less.

A common myth is that blood and bone should be applied with the mulch, especially sawdust, as it is believed that the mulch will rob the soil of the available nitrogen. This only occurs when applying very large amounts of sawdust, and nitrogen loss is only very temporary.

Products to try:
· Daltons Mulch and Grow
· Daltons range of bagged bark products.

Check out our How to Grow guides which will give you more helpful tips and advice.

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- February 2017 -

Question

My cherry tomatoes have grown really well this season but my money-makers are struggling to ripen and seem larger than last season. Have I left too much fruit on the vine as they seem to be fighting for space?

Answer

Cherry tomatoes are one of the easiest tomato varieties to grow, however other tomato varieties, particularly the larger fruiting ones do require a bit more care and attention. It is possible your tomato vines have too much fruit on them. This could have occurred because the plants were not de-lateraled frequently enough throughout their growth, which has led to over cropping. De-latering is the removal of laterals which are shoots that appear between the junction of a leaf branch and the stem. In terms of ripening, there may also be a problem with light access to the young tomatoes. To overcome this; remove some leaves and/or laterals to allow enough sun through. Tomatoes do require a lot of water, especially around fruiting time and during the hotter months. For healthy fruit it is critical you water plants deeply two to three times a week, regardless of rainfall. Feed your tomato plants with Daltons incredible edibles® Tomato Fertiliser every 3-4 weeks right throughout the growing period. Add a good layer of mulch on top to help conserve water and keep moisture in the soil.

Top tip: When pruning your tomato plant use sharp secateurs and ensure they are clean before you start to avoid spreading diseases.

Check out our How to Grow guides which will give you more helpful tips and advice.

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- January 2017 -

Question

What is the best way to control aphids on my plants? I have trouble with them every year.

Answer

Control of aphids should begin with the first appearance of these insects, before the numbers multiply significantly. They do reproduce in the usual way in early summer, however in the peak of the season the females can produce enormous numbers of offspring without having mated. This accounts for the massive number of aphids appearing virtually overnight. As aphids appear on the soft growing tips of plants, spray them with a garden hose, projecting a reasonably hard pressured mist. This should easily dislodge them. This action should be repeated at regular intervals 2-3 times a day initially. The aphids rapidly become discouraged and will often move away. On more mature plants, spray a diluted solution of horticultural oil which will deal with aphids very efficiently. With edible plants, soapy water is also quite effective in controlling populations of aphids, especially with repeat applications over a short period of time.

Check out our How to Grow guides which will give you more helpful tips and advice.

Products to try:
· Daltons Goldcote Vegetable and Herb Fertiliser

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- December 2016 -

Question

How can I stop cats using my vege garden as a toilet please?

Answer

There is no simple solution for your cat problem so you will need to take a multi pronged approach. Cats like an easy places to go, so make it harder for them! Cut up bamboo sticks and place them in empty spaces around plants, then wrap string around and between the sticks, limiting areas cats can use. Add a good layer of Daltons Garden mulch on top of your garden; cats prefer soft soil and the tougher bark will not “feel” as nice. Try sprinkling whole peppercorns around edge of the garden – the smell will discourage cats. If all else fails, erect a small fence around your garden and keep a water pistol handy to use on feline offenders!

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- December 2016 -

Question

This is my first year growing zucchini (courgette) plants. I have raised my plants from seed and have good growth and the plants are flowering well, however, the flowers are not turning to zucchinis but instead are just falling from the plant. Why is this happening and what can I do to ensure zucchinis grow?

Answer

First off, hopefully, you planted into a well-prepared site with lots of compost added to the soil to give your plants the best start. It is possible that the flower fall without fruit formation is caused by a lack of pollination. It would be advisable to plant some quick growing annuals in close proximately to your courgette plant to attract bees to help aid pollination. Try calendulas, marigolds or some miniature lavenders.

If you want to help nature along, you can also try hand pollinating the flowers on your plant. This can be done with a small fluffy paint brush by removing the pollen from one flower onto another, thus ensuring fertilisation has taken place.

The other possible cause of a lack of fruit set could be from overwatering. Once they are established, courgettes need minimal watering as they prefer a hot, sunny, reasonably dry position in the garden. But of course, don’t let the plant dry out.

Check out our How to Grow Summer Vegetables guide which will give you more helpful tips and advice.

Products to try:
· Daltons Compost
· Daltons Mulch and Grow
· Daltons incredible edibles Vegetable Fertiliser

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- September 2016 -

Question

I would like to have a go at growing tomatoes that don’t need staking, similar to those grown round the Mediterranean. Can you suggest a suitable variety?

Answer

Traditionally the two dwarf tomatoes grown both commercially and in the home garden have been Scorbies Dwarf and Russian Red, however the latest newcomers include Small Fry, Tiny Tim and Tumbling Tom Red. (Keep an eye out as there are usually new varieties every year.)

Remember when cultivating low growing tomatoes, it is essential to mulch underneath the plants with pea straw or crushed bark mulch so the developing tomatoes are kept above soil level. This helps avoid problems where contact occurs between tomatoes and wet soils, such as fruit rot. A sunny, well drained position is preferable and the soil should include generous quantities of new compost before planting.

For those in warmer climates, plant new tomatoes in mid-late September, others in colder climates would be better to wait a further three to four weeks as we head into mid-October before planting your main crop.

Feed your plants every 3-4 weeks throughout the growing period with Daltons incredible edibles® Tomato Fertiliser and water it in well.

For more help, read our How to Grow Guides.

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- August 2016 -

Question

My large lawn is now suffering from moss infestation. It started from the damp-shaded part of the lawn and has slowly spread to the rest. What is the remedy to control or eradicate the moss? Any other tips on getting my lawn to look good will be appreciated.

Answer

This is actually a common occurrence in lawns, especially throughout the winter months. The moss in your lawn is caused by a combination of excess water and poor sunlight as it can tolerate these conditions better than grass. To lessen the impact of moss, try improving the drainage in your lawn and if possible, enhance sunlight access. You can do this by thinning out large shading trees and removing any structures or fences that are no longer required which may be shading the lawn.

Another thing to try is spreading Iron Sulphate on to the moss infected area and watering it in. This is quite a common practice to treat moss and it will also darken the colour of your lawn.

Invariably in the upcoming summer with its drier climate and higher light, the moss will slowly disappear. Regular applications of Daltons Premium Lawn Fertiliser will also speed up the disappearance of moss. Established lawns should be fertilised every 4-5 weeks from October till Christmas (always avoid fertilising during the hot summer months), recommencing from late February until late April.

We have more helpful advice about caring for your lawn in our How to Grow Lawns Guide.

Products to try:
· Daltons Premium Lawn Patching Gold
· Daltons Premium Lawn Fertiliser

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- July 2016 -

Question

I was wondering when is a good time to get some spuds into the garden to be ready for Xmas day?

Answer

If you are in a warmer climate, you can start planting from August. For colder climates you are better to wait the soil has warmed up which is from about September onwards.

Preparation is critical to the success of your crop. The site should be north facing, free draining and the rows for the potatoes should be slightly mounded to ensure excess rainfall does not pool around the newly planted potatoes.

If your soil is particularly heaving (clay based), plenty of compost should be incorporated into the soil prior to planting to improve drainage.

Purchase some seed potatoes (available at your local garden centre) of the variety you wish to grow. Plant them approximately 20cm apart and five to eight centimetres below ground level and if possible there should be about 70cm between rows.

As the potato shoots appear through the soil, regularly mound up the soil around the young plants. This “mounding up process” helps warm the soil so the plants grow more quickly, while also protecting against late frost and most importantly, preventing the greening of your young potatoes as they form. It will also ensure you have home-grown potatoes on your table at Christmas time! Read our How to Grow Potatoes Guide for more great planting and growing tips.

Products to try:
· Daltons incredible edibles® Potato Fertiliser
· Daltons Compost

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- July 2016 -

Question

The lemons in my garden used to be juicy and the skin was thin. But over these past few years, the skin of lemon has become thicker and the flesh is less than before. I don't know why this has happened.

Answer

It is quite possible that your lemons have become thick skinned because they have been left on the tree for far too long. It is essential that lemons are picked when there is still a hint of green on the skin of the fruit. This ensures that the young lemon has optimum juice content and that the pith (the white spongy layer between the fruit and the peel) has not grown excessively. If fruit remain on the tree for a considerable length of time, they become less juicy and the pith gets thicker and thicker.

If the situation exists on your tree at present, it is advisable to remove all the fruit and wait for the next season’s crop to mature. Citrus respond very well to regular application of specific citrus fertiliser. Apply Daltons Incredible Edible Citrus Fertiliser out to the drip line every 4-6 weeks from late February through to mid-April, recommencing late October to Christmas. Dig the fertiliser in lightly and water in well. Apply Daltons Garden Mulch around young trees to help retain moisture, add nutrition and suppress weeds.

Top Tip: When it comes to growing lemons or citrus, it is important to get the site right before planting. It must be a sunny north-facing site with fertile well-drained soil and it’s important to protect the tree against frost over the winter months. Citrus trees do require deep watering during periods of insufficient rainfall such as throughout hot summer months.

For more helpful gardening advice, read our selection of How to Guides

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- June 2016 -

Question

Our soil has so much sand in it everything dries out. How can I retain the moisture in the gardens and lawn? Thanks!

Answer

With predominately sandy, free draining soils, water retention can be a major problem, especially in hot dry summers. When planting new plants, it is important that a considerable quantity of compost is added to the soil in the immediate root zone area of the new plant. Compost improves soil structure by binding sandy soil together.

After planting, mulch should be applied to the soil surface around the plant and about 7cm away from the new plant/ trunk. This mulch layer should be re-applied 2-3 times during the year. If installing an irrigation system; an inline dripper system is preferred to suit your soil type. It allows the water to slowly soak into the root of your plant. Remember to water in the cooler parts of the day to maximise the usage of your water.

Exceptionally dry lawns may lead to browning off during the height of the summer; you may wish to establish your lawn with kikuyu grass which thrives in hot, dry and coastal conditions

Products to try: Daltons Compost, Daltons Mulch & Grow

For more helpful gardening advice, check out our How to Guides

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- June 2016 -

Question

I have a hydrangea bush that bloomed beautifully last summer. Once the flowers die off, when is the best time to prune it?

Answer

Pruning is critical to the health of hydrangeas and promotes new growth that is more vigorous and produces better blooms. At the end of the season (some people leave pruning till mid winter) always prune your hydrangea back hard, and each successive year remove some of the older wood completely. By removing enough of the old canes, you enable new young and healthy canes to grow. When pruning, do not cut any new green shoots as they will provide the new season flowers.

Give the plant a boost with regular mulching of Daltons compost around the base and finish with a good layer of mulch on top to help maintain soil moisture and temperature. To encourage a strong healthy flowering plant, feed your hydrangea with a side dressing of Daltons Premium Acid Fertiliser in early spring once the buds begin to open, and again a month later.

Daltons Top Tip: If you are thinking of growing hydrangeas, the best time to plant them is late winter/early spring, when new plants are available from plant centres. Always carefully select the best available plants and choose ones that are young and healthy looking with vigorous new shoots. Avoid any root bound plants.

For more helpful gardening advice, check out our How to Guides.

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- March 2016 -

Question

I have an apple tree now about 3 years old. In the growing season, it gets a soft fungus around the creases of the branches. I have tried a tooth-brush with water and baking soda which only temporally removes this. Any suggestions please?

Answer

From the symptoms you describe, it appears you may have an infestation of woolly aphids. On the tree they appear like clumps of cotton wool, however if you remove that, you will discover small, white aphid’s in large numbers close to the stem of the tree and in the creases of branches.

The easiest and most effective way to clean up this problem is during the winter months, when one or two applications of lime sulphur can be applied to the entire tree. This should clear up the problem fairly quickly. It would be worthwhile to also apply good quality horticultural oil at winter strength as a follow up to your lime sulphur spray. Do not be distressed by the appearance of this problem as it is very common on apple trees, particularly in the warmer, northern areas. After you have cleaned up the problem inspect the tree regularly to ensure there is not a repeat infestation.

Products to try:Daltons incredible edibles® Fruit Tree & Berry Fertiliser, Daltons Mulch and Grow, Daltons Compost.

For more helpful gardening advice, check out our How to Guides.

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- December 2015 -

Question

I would like to add some colour to my small courtyard. Can you suggest some flowering plants for summer?

Answer

Flowers in pots are a fantastic way to liven up any garden or small space. When it comes to annuals, you can’t beat petunias in pots for the summer. Your local garden centre should have a good selection of this year’s releases. Cosmos are also stunning and come in a range of colours; the dwarf whites are especially nice. Marigolds like the drier conditions of pots and flower well right through summer. For potted perennials, plant old favourite’s geraniums and pelargonium’s. Daisies come in white pink and yellow and make a phenomenal display over summer and require minimum attention. When growing Lavender in containers its best to go with smaller varieties like Old English (Angustifolia) which also has the most beautiful scent. There are other forms of the smaller growing varieties like Munstead, and Hidcote which also will do well in pots.

Being in a confined space potted plants deplete the soil more quickly of nutrients. Always use a fresh, good quality mix such as Daltons Premium Potting Mix or Premium Tub Mix every season. Water your pots two to three times a week thoroughly, rather than a sprinkle every night.

If you go away, ask a neighbour to water your pots, or alternatively cut them back quite hard before departing which reduces the need for watering. You can also put containers under trees where there is dappled light so they don’t dry out as quickly.

For more helpful gardening advice, check out our How to Guide on Garden Colour.

 

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- September 2015 -

Question

I have grown my strawberries successfully in pots for a number of years; however last year I had leafy green plants but no fruit at all! Where am I going wrong?

Answer

There are a few possible reasons why you haven’t had much fruit. Firstly, have you replaced your strawberry plants in the past three years? To ensure a continual succession of cropping it is good practice to replace plants within three years as their fruit production can start to slow down. Check the position of your existing strawberry plants; they need maximum sun and maximum heat, so place them in a warm sunny spot. The leafy green plants and lack of fruit could also be caused by high nitrogen levels in your soil from over fertilising. This leads to an enormous amount of green leaf growth instead of fruiting. Only apply fertiliser in the early months of the season eg: October and November.

Another possible reason could be that you have planted what’s called a “short day crop” variety which requires winter light levels to initiate flower and fruit production. If you plant them too late eg: October, you will not get fruit the first year. To ensure you have strawberries in time for Christmas, try replacing your existing plants now with a variety called Temptation. This is a “day neutral” variety which means it will flower and fruit while the temperature and conditions are suitable eg: between 0 to 30 degrees. Always plant your strawberries into good quality strawberry mix.

Products to try: Daltons incredible edibles® Strawberry Mix, Daltons incredible edibles® Strawberry Fertiliser, Daltons Mulch & Grow or Besgrow Coir Mulch blocks.

Check out our How to Grow Strawberries guide for more tips on growing this delicious fruit.

 

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