Pippa Greenwood

  • Pippa's New Products!

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    She is one of the UK's most loved gardening experts, solving the nations gardening problems every week on BBC Radio 4's Gardener's Question Time, writing articles and blogs for Gardener's World, whilst also running a fantastic web site that has just been updated with a brand new shop section.

     

    The items included for sale on her web site are all essential items, hand picked by Pippa.So if you're curious to know which Haxnicks products meet her seal of approval, click on the link/picture and take a look!

  • Pippa Greenwood - Q&A - Part II

    The second in our series of questions and answers from Pippa Greenwood.  Please remember we are open for more questions at the bottom - just leave a comment and we'll get our panel of experts to answer your questions.


    Q: How can I keep my greenhouse a bit cooler in the height of the summer?
    A: Make sure that greenhouses and conservatories have adequate shading – temperatures soon soar in this warmer weather and plants inside will dry out rapidly and may be severely scorched. Paint on shading is the cheapest and is readily available from the garden centre but a conservatory is better fitted with more attractive looking blinds in the long term. Keep vents and windows open as much as possible too so that cooler air can come in. Try to allow a through draught, and even consider fitting an extra window or vent. The old-fashioned remedy of ‘damping down’ works brilliantly too – simple water any hard-standing such as the path in the greenhouse, as the water evaporates it uses heat energy and so temperatures drop.

    Q: There is ivy growing up through my well-established hornbeam hedge, will it harm the hedge?
    A: Much as I love ivy (and am not one for removing it from trees), if the ivy is starting to get a hold in your hedge, I’d be inclined to try to remove it. It is a vigorous plant and although I’m sure it won’t kill the hedging plants, it can start to swamp them and may lead to a degree of gappyness in the foliage covering as the hedge comes in to full leaf. The easiest way is to try to dig out the ivy at the base, or failing this, to sever the stem from the base, and then pull off the dead ivy plants once they have turned brown.

    Q: My hostas are riddled with holes, any suggestions?
    A: Hostas and holes pretty well always means slugs, and possibly snails.

    If they are growing in pots try using a copper based paint or a self-adhesive copper tape applied around the rim of the pot – slugs and snails hate crossing copper. If they are in open ground I suggest you try setting traps eg beer traps, and also consider using a nematode biological, or an organic slug control as this way you can kill them off without endangering the wildlife.

    Q: Can I grow a rose in a pot?
    A: yes, you can, but looking after it will definitely be much more effort than if it were growing in open ground! If you cannot plant it in open ground then I suggest you use as large a pot as possible, ideally something like a half barrel, and use a loam-based compost with added grit, something like John Innes number 3 would be good, plus some horticultural grit.

    Q: How do I know what size containers to use for my patio veg. I have a tiny flat with a small balcony and need to be as space-saving as possible?
    A: Assuming the balcony is up to the job (and please do check first!!) the bigger the better, but generally speaking I find pot-shaped containers work better than growing bags as they allow you to put in a top quality compost, and are easier to keep moist. A minimum of about 30cm3 , but ideally bigger is what I would recommend. If space and weight are an issue, then try the crop bags made from a sort of plasticised hessian material as these are very light weight, available in a range of sizes, fold flat and tiny for off-season storage, and have brilliant drainage holes in them!

    Q: I’ve just noticed that my apple tree has several areas on it where the branches are all bobbly and swollen, but they seem to be coming in to leaf OK. What is this?
    A: It sounds as if they were hit by woolly aphid. This sap-sucking pest causes you stems to swell and distort as it feeds, but its a symptom that is often first noticed when the plants start to grow in the spring. Once this damage has appeared the infested stem may start to die back, especially when the damage is severe, or if apple canker disease gets in via the wounded bark. I suggest you prune out the worst affected areas.

    Q: Is it too late to sow peas in March?
    A: Its certainly worth sowing some peas in March and in many areas, the soil stays so very wet and so extremely cold well into March, so for much of the country sowing any earlier is not possible! If the soil is still a bit wet and cold where you are, I suggest you sow the seed in cells, root-trainer pots or small flower pots and then transplant the peas when the plants are three or four inches tall and things have warmed up a bit. Remember to get some twiggy sticks in to the soil when you sow the seed or plant the young peas out, these will act as supports as the peas grow.

    Q: Is it true that it is not a good idea to cut an established hedge in spring, and if so, why?
    A: Its certainly true, and in fact as the bird nesting season has officially started in spring, it is actually illegal to do anything which might disturb nesting birds! The hedge itself would not mind, but you could very easily cause tragedy as far as the wild birds are concerned.

    Q: Some of my seedlings have suddenly died, sort of flopped over, can I save them?
    A: The most likely cause is damping off disease. This is caused by fungi, often introduced via unclean compost, trays or pots, or from non-mains water. Sadly there is no way you’ll be able to resurrect the seedlings but do check on your gardening hygiene. Its also worth watering seedlings with a dilute copper fungicide as this can help to prevent the infection getting a hold in the first place.

    Q: The winter has left my lawn riddled with moss, what can I do?
    A: First try to alleviate any compacted areas using a fork driven in deeply at intervals over the lawn. Then if you wish you could use a proprietary moss killer and, once the moss has been killed off, and after the delay period suggested on the pack, rake out the dead moss.

    Don’t do this any earlier than suggested or you may end up spreading the moss! If areas are very thin, you could then roughen up the surface and re-seed with fresh grass seed. Good lawn care ie feeding, scarifying and adequate water are the real key to a moss-free green carpet!

    Once again Pippa has given us a bonus question:

    Q: I am fed up with all the caterpillars I get in my brassicas, especially the calabrese, please, please suggest a chemical free solution?
    A: I never spray mine either, but with out a physical barrier you can guarantee a good crop of caterpillars! I plant low-growing brassicas under fleece or fine net pull-out tunnels, and taller ones a brilliant metal frame which comes with a fine mesh ‘jacket’ and a zip-up doorway – this is great because it is just tall enough for me to get in and so amongst the crop, making it very easy to harvest just what I want. Mesh covers like this will also protect against other flying pests such as aphids, cabbage root fly, flea beetle and so make organic veg growing so much easier!

    We cannot thank Pippa enough for these valuable tips and answers, please add your own questions and we'll try to help.

  • Pippa Greenwood - Q&A - Part I

    We are delighted to welcome Pippa Greenwood to our Blog and to start things off we have a small Q&A session. Please feel free to pose your own questions at the bottom of this list and we'll  get our panel of experts to help answer them.

    Q: I have noticed a brown, powdery substance on the under surface of the leaves on my plums and something rather similar on my roses; is this rust?
    A: Yes indeed! Rusts, of all the diseases, are probably those which thrive and spread particularly well when the air is moist and at this time of year they often become a real problem. I have also rust on the foliage of garlic this year. You should ensure that you collect up and compost, bin or burn all the infected leaves on a regular basis as this will help to decrease the likelihood of them spreading and over-wintering successfully. Generally rust on a plant such as plum or willow is unlikely to have any significant effect on the tree’s vigour in the long term, and so on these plants I would be less inclined to worry.

    However, on things like roses, they can have quite a weakening effect after a while and so I would suggest you may like to consider spraying the plants, as well as carrying out routine clean ups. I rely on purely cultural techniques – keeping the rose well pruned, avoiding wetting the foliage and prompt clearing up if rust appears

    Q: The garden that I have recently taken on seems to have more nettles and docks in it than anything else. What can I do?
    A: If you are happy to use chemicals, I suggest that you choose one based on glyphosate. These chemicals are translocated and that means they will be carried down from the foliage that you spray into the entire root system and so you should find that with one application now and then perhaps another one early next year, you can clear the ground completely. If you don’t want to use chemicals then I suggest you cut back as much of the foliage as you can manually and then cover the soil with old carpet. This will prevent light from getting through to the plants and smother them, so gradually weakening them. You should find that this will help to kill off the majority of the weed growth, although you may still need to dig out some by hand. Do be wary because both nettles and docks have extremely pernicious underground parts, which means that even a small section left in the soil has the ability to root and form a new plant. Whatever you do, do not incorporate the underground parts of either of these weeds into the compost heap.

    Q: My apple is showing signs of slight dieback and I have noticed similar problems on the mountain ash or rowan tree. The dieback seems to be associated with roughened patches on the bark; is there anything I can do?
    A: This sounds like apple canker, a fungal problem which is quite common and which you may also find on pear trees. The cankers that form start to ring the infected stems or branches and as a result, growth becomes poor and spindly and if the canker rings the branch entirely then everything beyond that point will die back. You should take action promptly because this fungus is likely to spread fairly effectively and I suggest that you prune out all the infected limbs, taking the branches back to perfectly healthy growth and to a suitable outward facing spur or bud. If the canker is present on the main stem or trunk of the tree, then obviously you cannot cut this out and I would suggest that you take a really sharp knife and attempt to scoop out the entire cankered area, once more cutting back to really clean and healthy looking wood.

    Q: How can I go about controlling slugs and vine weevils without using chemicals?

    A: Both these pests do have some natural predators in the garden, including ground beetles, so you should do everything you can to encourage these.

    In addition, I suggest you attempt to use some of the biological controls. There is a nematode-based control which is suitable for use against slugs and another, quite different nematode which you can use to control vine weevil grubs. Sadly these are not available in garden centres because, as they are living organisms, they would not survive life in a garden centre for long, but you can buy them from mail order suppliers and these should be delivered promptly, ready for you to use.

    In both cases they result in the pest being poisoned without posing any threat to other creates. There are several different suppliers of biological controls.

    Q: How can I control the algae which is spoiling my patio area?
    A: Algae usually builds up because the surface is moist for prolonged periods, so the first thing you should do is to try and find out why this is happening. Certainly check nearby guttering and drainpipes to ensure that there is nothing leaking onto your patio. In addition if the area is quite heavily shaded or gets a lot of run off when it rains from nearby trees, then this too could be involved. There are lots of proprietary patio cleaners on the market which you can use, but do check that the one you choose is safe for use in the vicinity of plants. If you do not want to use any chemicals as such, then quite often, provided you can sort out the source of the excess moisture, you will find that scrubbing the surface of the paving with a stiff brush or yard broom may be sufficient to dislodge the algae. Some people also treat the area with small quantities of salt and find that this works well, although again you must take caution if there are plants nearby.

    Q: Can you suggest a few shrubs that would be looking good in my garden in early September?
    A: There are lots of things which should be particularly attractive, including potentillas, Perovskia, Indigofera, hypericums, hydrangeas, fuchsias, Hibiscus syriacus, Buddleja davidii, Caryopteris, Ceratostigma, vincas, hebes and Abelia grandiflora. In fact, if you pay a visit to your local garden centre at this time of year, you can be sure that many of the shrubs which are looking particularly good at that time of year, will be prominently displayed, so you have got the pick of the bunch and of course you have also chosen a perfect time for planting.

    Q: Help! My pond is now bright green and packed full of what my neighbour says is blanket weed, is there anything I can do?
    A: If your pond has become green and full of a tangled mass of strands of that common problem blanket weed it will not only look awful but may also entangle fish or wildlife as they swim. I find the best method of control is to regularly use a rake or a stick to remove the blanket weed, pulling it out of the pond and composting it or binning it if you do not have a compost bin.Make sure you leave the mass of weed on the side of the pond, and trailing in to it slightly for a few days before composting so that pond life can escape back to the pond!

    Q: This year I grew some bedding plants from seed, they germinated OK, but many were massively tall, any clues?
    A: As bedding plants grow it is essential to pinch out the growing tips on the shoots. Doing this helps to encourage plenty of side shoots to develop so creating good bushy, compact plants. This is easily done using your forefinger and thumb.

    Q: I planted some shrubs and a few trees in my new garden in early spring, but am now scared they won’t thrive, please can you help?
    A: Trees and shrubs which were planted earlier this year will need extra care and attention right now as their roots will not have grown out into the soil to any great extent and because the weather is a lot warmer and drier they could easily suffer from drought. Give regular drenchings of water applied in early evening for best effect. Once the soil is thoroughly wetted, if you have not already done so, apply a 5-7.5cm (2-3in) deep mulch over the entire root area and this will help to preserve water.

    Q: I want to grow strawberries but my first attempts in my other garden were regularly wrecked by birds and slugs, any suggestions?
    A: To keep slugs and snails away from the developing fruits your really should place mats or straw under developing strawberries – this way you can drastically reduce the damage done by slugs or snails without having to use chemicals. Try suspending old CD’s close to the crop and using other bird scaring devices, but for me the only fool proof way is to protect the crop under nets, the easiest to use are the pull-out mini tunnels covered in fine green mesh as these are easy to remove and replace for harvesting.

    And thank you Pippa a bonus question...

    Q: My peach has peach leaf curl disease, can it be saved?
    A: Definitely ! First you should pick off the infected swollen and reddish purple leaves which develop on peaches, nectarines and edible and ornamental almonds. These are caused by the peach leaf curl fungus (Taphrina deformans) and removing them promptly reduces the risk of the problem spreading. A feed then helps the plant perk up ans it should be able to produce a second flush of clean, new foliage. Once the plant is clean again, often helped by spraying with a copper based fungicide according to the instructions, try covering it with an open-sided clear polythene shelter between leaf fall and spring to reduce the risk of spores landing.

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