Tameside in Bloom

Frequently Asked Questions

Hanging Basket Problems

How should I care for my hanging baskets?

Positioning: A sheltered south-facing wall is ideal for your basket. Windy or exposed sites will cause damage to the individual plants and the basket will dry out more quickly.

Watering: The key to a successful hanging basket is watering on a regular basis. Once the basket is established, even if it rains, it will still need watering. The foliage (leaves) of the plants form an umbrella for the soil, rain water simply runs off them and over the edge of the basket. Even after heavy rain the compost can still feel dry to the touch. You can increase the amount of water that your basket retains by inserting a liner before you put in the soil and the plants and by adding moisture retentive gel to the compost to capture the water and release it slowly to the plants. Ideally you should remove the rose attachment from your watering can or hose before watering your basket, so that you can ensure the water reaches the soil. However, if you are watering with a hose try to maintain a low pressure to avoid forcing the soil out of the basket or damaging the plants.

Feeding: Once established, the basket will need feeding on a regular basis. This is best done at least once a week, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Dead Heading: Remove any dead or damaged parts of the plants, and remove the dead flower heads on a regular basis to encourage new flower heads to grow.

Holidays: Don't forget, if you go away for a week or two the basket will still need to be watered and fed. If it is left and the plants dry out, they may never recover, no matter how much you feed or water them on your return.

Why do the local authority water their hanging baskets when it's raining?

Even during heavy rain the canopy of leaves and flowers built by the plants in the baskets prevents much of the rain water from getting to the soil and so the roots of the plants.

There is a pipe in the centre of the baskets which leads to a reservoir at the base of the baskets. Rain water can not enter this pipe and so enter the reservoir due to the canopy of the plants. Our watering teams use a special attachment to direct the water into this pipe and so into the reservoir, which means that the baskets do not need to be watered every day.

After the baskets have been out for 8 weeks there is no longer any nutrients available in the soil, indeed, due to the expanding root ball there is very little soil left in the baskets. Therefore liquid feed is used during every watering to sustain the plants in the baskets for as long a period as possible, thus improving the look of the borough for longer.

The baskets are usually watered in the evening so as not to cause a disruption to the day time traffic and to ensure that as little water as possible is wasted through evaporation. This also ensures that the foliage and petals of the plants in the baskets do not become scorched as the rays of the sun are intensified through water droplets resting on them.

Tree Problems

We planted Apple and Plum trees late last year and they have already flowered. Do you think we'll get any fruit this year? They now have tiny red swelling where the flowers were.

These fruit trees sound very well established and the tiny red swellings you refer to are the start of their fruit crop. You'll just need to get some jam recipes ready for your harvest this autumn!

My beautiful Laburnham tree is creating a big shady patch in my garden. What can I plant in this shady area?

There are many types of shade-loving plants available but one of the most versatile and successful is the Hosta. There are many different Hosta Varieties to choose from ranging from the blue-green leaves and purple flowers of Hosta Elegans, through to the spear-shaped variegated leaves of Hosta Crispula, with bright white tips. Check out the Royal Horticultural Society's web site at www.rhs.org.uk Link to External Website where you'll be able to see the full range of Hostas and choose the one you like best.

Plant Problems

Please could you advise me how best to start off my Gladioli and Dahlias?

The Dahlia 'tubers' and Gladioli 'corms' will be happiest if you start them of in the Greenhouse during May. This helps them get better established before you plant them outside in June. If you plant them out any earlier than this you run the risk of them being damaged by late frosts. You shouldn't need to feed them early on as most compost contain about six week's worth of fertiliser.

Last year I lifted my old Daffodils and planted new bulbs, but many of the new flowers are blind and have no flowers. What's happened?

As there are many different types of Daffodils available now with differing flowering times, I suspect that you may have left a few of your old Daffodils behind when you lifted them. You'll probably find that the old stock was a late bloomer and may still yet come through for you.

I'm a bit of a gardening novice and I've just bought some Hydrangea and some Aubrietia which are both in flower. Should I plant them straight in the ground now or do I have to wait for summer?

You can plant Hydrangea outside at any time of year if it you are planting in a pot. However, as your plant is flowering in April this means it has been forced to bloom very early and in order to protect the flowers it must have some protection from frosts. (These plants normally flower in the summer when all danger of frosts has long gone.) If you plant it directly into the garden now it will survive but you risk the flowers being damaged. For the time being, keep the plant on your windowsill. This will protect it from any late frosts and you should look to plant it in the ground from June onwards. Aubrietia is an Alpine plant and you can plant it in the ground straight away as its very resistant to frost and cold weather.

I bought some Bougainvillea last year in Spain and brought it home for my garden but it completely died on me. What did I do wrong?

Bougainvillea grows wonderfully well in hot countries but I'm afraid it's a little too tender for British weather. They do grow quite well in conservatories however and these plants can be placed outside on the patio during the summer months. Do remember to return to the greenhouse or conservatory though for the winter.

I bought and planted some Daphne in May last year for its beautiful flowers but this year I've had nothing. What am I doing wrong?

Daphne Mezereum can be quite an early flowerer with some varieties blooming as early as February, so you're right to be worried by now. It may well be that if you bought it in May it had been forced to flower in May at the nursery and plants don't respond too well if forced to flower at the wrong time, (it is similar to our own body-clock being out of sync). Don't worry though, this doesn't mean it won't flower again and if you leave it undisturbed this year, it should bloom for you next year once it's settled. All Daphne are best planted young and not disturbed

My house plants keep getting brown leaves. Why is this?

This is usually down to either dryness or cold. Try watering it at regular intervals and do make sure the water is draining away properly from the soil. You may find it easier to place the plant in the kitchen sink and leave it for about 20 minutes or so to allow it to drain well. If this doesn't help the problem it could be that the plants are becoming a little cold. Try moving them to sunnier/ warmer positions in the house. If the plants are situated near your heating source this could cause drying out or even burning or scorching, so do try moving the plants around.

Insect Problems

White fly and rust are causing me problems with my Honeysuckle. How do I get rid of them?

The Honeysuckle should be sprayed with an insecticide to kill the whitefly and then with some fungicide to tackle the rust. Go along to your local garden centre for advice on which fungicides and insecticides you can use and please remember to be careful when using garden chemicals. Always read the label and follow the instructions. The only other way of control is to prune out the affected growth but this would sacrifice any flowers which would be produced later.

I find lots and lots of leeches in my back garden and I live close to the canal. Will these harm my plants?

No. We're not aware that leeches cause gardeners any difficulties. Leeches usually attack wildlife as a source of food and show no interest in plant material. You shouldn't experience any problems here.

Help! I have an infestation of snails in my garden and don't know what to do.

There are two ways of tackling this unwelcome garden visitor. You can treat it with slug pellets which contain a molluscicides or deal with them by installing a 'Slug Pub.' It's best to visit your local Garden Centre to ask advice directly when using garden chemicals and they will be able to help you choose the correct type of slug pellet. The more 'snail friendly' Slug Pub method involves attracting the snails away from the plants by putting out saucers of beer. Please be advised though that this method is not proven and still involves the snail departing this life.

Lawn Problems

Help - my lawn's a mess! I cut it regularly but its waterlogged and going brown in patches

It sounds like drainage is a problem for your lawn. To try and correct this I'd start off my 'scarifying' it, which means giving it a good rake to remove all the 'thatch' or dead grass. Then try to relieve the compaction in the soil underneath the grass by driving in a garden fork at intervals. This will create drainage holes for your lawn to help with the water-logging. Finally, try to work some sand into the holes you've created to improve the drainage further. These are maintenance tasks usually carried out in the autumn/winter, but removing thatch and 'aerating' the lawn is beneficial during the growing season.

I recently moved into my brand new house complete with beautiful lawn. The lawn has since died off and when I've dug in other parts of the garden I've found lots and lots of rubble about a foot below the surface. Will I ever be able to grow a decent lawn again without digging up the whole garden?

This is a common problem on new housing developments. You might want to consider just digging out the area below the lawn and removing the rubble before re-seeding it. Introducing a soak-away is another alternative, but this is not a simple task. Seek advice from a local landscaper or check out the building section at your local library before starting any work.

General Gardening Problems

I need a fast growing climber. What can you recommend?

There are three species which are known for their vigorous growth; Russian Vine (commonly called 'Mile a Minute'), Honeysuckle or Clematis Montana. Clematis Montana 'Rubens' is a fast growing, reliable specimen which dazzles with an array of delicate pink flowers. These fast growers do need checking though before they get too vigorous so prune regularly.

My privet seems to be rotting from the middle outwards. When the middle section died I replaced it with new planting but the rot has continued outward either side of new plants towards the privet edges. How can I stop this?

I suspect this may be Root Rot (Armillaria Mellea) which is a fungus. Control is pretty severe and it means removing all wood - dead and alive - from the soil. To prevent the problem recurring its worth noting that the fungus is completely intolerant of drying out, so if you're mulching with leaf mould or woodchips they must be thoroughly dried before applying.

I've been trying to grow a carpet of Thyme in my garden which my cats enjoy, but it keeps dying off. What's my problem?

I'm afraid that your pets may not be helping your project. Try to keep your cats off the area as much as possible and watch out for draught. Whilst Thyme likes free draining soil, it also likes to be watered well too, so it's best to keep your eye out during the summer months and check its not getting too dry.

In my greenhouse the flowers on my courgettes and cucumbers are a bit frazzled. How can I correct this?

Ventilation may be your problem here. If you haven't put a ventilation window in your greenhouse its well worth installing one. This will let the delicate courgette and cucumber flowers breathe a little easier and they should begin to bloom nicely for you. Keeping the door open on hot sunny days should also help.

The containers on my patio are waterlogged and always damp. What am I doing wrong?

It sounds like your patio pots need a little help with drainage. First check that the pots have holes in the bottom for drainage. Then try removing the compost and putting some old broken pots or gravel in the bottom before putting fresh compost back in. This will help the pots to drain well and keep the plants happy. It will also help to stop compost escaping. Don't forget to water the pots regularly though.

I have an area about 8ft square which is currently just soil and the odd weed. I want to pebble this area over but don't know how I would go about this in terms of preparing the ground, and whether or not I need anything to cover the ground before putting the pebbles on top (i.e. a membrane layer?) Also, could you tell me any cheap places to buy the materials?

With regard to the pebbled are you some wanted advice on, as long as the area you plan to alter is 'free-draining,' I would consider beginning by removing the top 3 inches of soil. (I am assuming that the area is level.) Then cover the ground with a landscape membrane, which allows water to drain through. Please note that if water cannot escape - you may provide yourself with an unexpected water feature! The membrane will help to suppress weed-growth. Then add your pebbles. There are many different shapes size available to choose from, but you should aim to select a type that blends with your house's stone/brick and is sympathetic to the immediate surroundings.

Whatever your gardening dilemma, the Tameside in Bloom team are here to help and advise you - even if you think you've had a bit of a catastrophe!

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