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Gardening Q&A with Alex!

We asked you on our social media channels, if you had any gardening questions for Alex. You certainly did! to Follow us on Instagram to see Alex answer these questions, or have a read of his answers below! 

Which plants should I be deadheading and which should I leave?

“Deadheading is removing the dead or old flower and flower stem and it allows new flowers to come up and replace it, making the plant look gorgeous. Generally, bedding plants, so anything that flowers all summer long and is just seasonal – you should always deadhead those. Generally, shrubs, Roses, Buddleia, anything really except Hydrangea. But most other shrubs after flowering if you deadhead or prune after flowering even as a rule of thumb, that’s perfectly ok.”

We have an Olive tree that’s healthy but bare in the middle – should we cut it right back or just keep snipping the ends?

“It’s a good question and it can happen with Olives. You should prune them harder back, there is a proviso here though, it’s best to prune Olives harder back at the end of the winter, so early spring anytime up till about April or so. Then they could pruned hard back. Sort of May, June you’ve got to be a bit more careful and maybe tip them back slightly – just the top sort of 6 inches or so.”

Can I prune my Rhododendron?

“You can prune Rhododendrons, yes. I’ve seen it done in the winter months, which is often when we have more time to do these things and even I’ve seen them done very early spring. Now you can prune them and you can prune them hard back, but if you do prune them you’re not going to be getting flowers that year. But if you have got a big Rhododendron bush that is out of hand, you do need to reduce it and get it back to some sort of size and dimension, then yes you can prune them hard back – but you would do that in the winter months.” 

My sweetpeas leaves are turning a bit yellow, but the flowers are still coming out, is there anything I should give them?

“It’s a good thing that the flowers are still coming out it doesn’t matter so much about the leaves if they’re producing lots of flowers, that’s obviously a good thing and keep picking the flowers and putting them in vases and things because that will encourage more flowers. The only thing I can think of of the leaves going yellow if it isn’t that it’s just too dry or too wet, maybe the compost is too good. They’re quite good in a poor soil so a John Innes type potting compost or if they’re in the ground they like a sandy or not a particularly rich soil so that’s good for sweetpeas. You could consider feeding them with a general purpose feed as well once a week maybe something like a Miracle Grow feed or a tomato feed to encourage the flowers. But again I think the soil might be a bit too rich for them.”

My Ivy has lots of Ants on them, they seem to be going up to some bugs at the end of the Ivy, can this go untreated?

“Yes it can. Ivy, I think, will be difficult to kill. Ants hang around in pots, roots of plants and things, if it’s quite dry. So it’s possibly that these tubs, if they are in tubs, are drying out too much and the ants have kind of made a home in the pot. The bugs at the end of the Ivy could be aphids, ants do like aphids. Or if there were aphids on there and the ants are still hanging around. Ants can get rid of the aphids, they won’t completely cure aphids but they do actually like to, I don’t know, eat them – is that the right word? So ants are not such a bad thing, they’re not going to kill the plant. People often show me a picture of a dead plant and say ‘It’s smothered in ants’ and they thing the ants have killed the plant. No, generally the plant has died, for whatever reason, possibly dryness, and therefore the ants have come in because its nice and dry and a nice habitat for them.”

How do I deal with blackfly?

“Blackfly, you can spray them with diluted washing up liquid which you might have to do twice a week for a couple of weeks and that will sort of clear them. You can go and physically squash them on the tops of the leaves. Or you can use Ultimate Bug Killer or and sort of insecticide. Just a quick point on any insecticide, that you do use, don’t just spray once, spray it once then three days later spray it again, and repeat this four times to ensure you kill they whole life cycle of the beast or beasts that are in your plant.”

Do you need to put fruit trees in a greenhouse over winter?

“Absolutely not, unless its and orange or something. All you normal fruit trees you’d see, your plumbs, apples, pears, cherries and fruit bushes, gooseberries, blackcurrents, all of those things no never in your greenhouse that would be detrimental to them. Of course any tropical type fruits, as you say Oranges, Limes, possibly not where it’s been exposed and a bit cold. We sell Lemons, and if you’re careful in the Southeast and in sheltered gardens in North London Lemons are actually just about ok outside. They are relatively hardy, or we sell a hardy Lemon as it happens. But generally, of course, your citrus and tropical fruit would be fine in a greenhouse.”

We hope that Alex has answered your questions without raising many more! But if you do have gardening questions for us still, reach out to us on Facebook or Instagram and we’d be happy to help!