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Readers Questions

Q. What should I be looking at doing during February and March to prepare for the coming season?

For the vegetable grower, the plot should be dug over and compost or well- rotted manure added. Shrub and rose borders should be forked over, any pruning that is necessary should be carried out, and the plants should be given a feed with a slow release fertiliser. I use either Osmacote or Vitax but there are others available.

Q. I have a S/SW facing garden which is a sun trap, what shrubs are pleasant to look at in the spring/summer but require very

little water?

There is a good range of shrubs that will tolerate dry sunny sites. Plants with grey leaves, hairy leaves, needle like leaves or fleshy succulent like leaves, will all do well in light well-drained soil in full sun. Some suggestions are Cistus, Helianthumum, Rosemary, Lavender and Santolina. Although you cannot do a lot about the sun, you can dig in organic material and mulch to retain moisture. One word of warning, the plants that like dry sunny sites do not tolerate wet roots in winter.

Q. With the cost of vegetables rising, is it practicable to grow my own potatoes, carrots, peas etc in containers - my garden is small and mainly patio?

You will be pleased to know that there are a wide range of vegetables that will crop well in growing bags and raised patio beds. With potatoes you can use the growing bags, these will accommodate four seed

potatoes in each bag, I would suggest you choose the first early varieties, as you can now purchase

them loose and you will find it economical. Tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and herbs all do well in pots and with a

raised bed; carrots, onions, garlic, dwarf beans and mange tout peas will thrive. It is important to use a vegetable growing compost though to help them flourish and give you the best chance of a healthy crop.

Q. I have a Koi pond but also now have a baby on the way, I do not want to fill the pond in if possible. I wondered if I could just net it over but do worry a little that this isn't too safe - do you have a good “child friendly” solution?

As a pond lover and grandparent I appreciate the problem, but I have to say that even netting is not completely safe, an inquisitive child can get into a pond if your back was turned for a minute.

Q. If you could take one plant with you to your desert island which one would it be and why?

Over the years I have seen many plants that I would like to grow, so if I could only take one I would need to know the island was suitable for the plant to thrive. Assuming the island was Brownsea I would take Camellia Donation because it is one of the first signs of spring.

Q. I love my tomatoes and in the past have grown both Tumblers and Money-maker, I feel like trying a new variety that is sweet, an average size and a good yield, any suggestions?

I am assuming that you grow your tomatoes outdoors, it is always good to try different varieties. Last year I tried several varieties and these three meet your requirements, Roma a small bush type sweet and plum shaped. Totem a bush variety with sweet medium sized fruit. Sweet Million a cordon type very heavy cropping and Black Cherry another cordon small very sweet fruit good cropper. If you would like to experiment try one of the new grafted varieties for very heavy crops.

Life Begins 21

Ripe Summer Roma Tomatoes hanging on the vine.

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