Ask the Expert

Can I apply farmyard manure directly on to lawns/shrubs if so is the Autumn the correct time and what is the correct rate of application?

Posted 08/11/2011 by Patrick Casey, Cork

Farmyard manure would not be suitable for lawns as its texture would be too coarse. You should use Shamrock Moss Peat by spreading a light layer and brushing this into the grass. You can also add sand to this and spike the lawn as this will help to open heavy clay soils. Alternatively use Growise Enriched Top/Soil as a top dress. Autumn is the best time to do this work just make sure you do it on a good dry day.

For shrubs, yes you can use farmyard manure. Spread a layer several inches deep around the root area and this will act as a mulch and it will also release the nutrients slowly over time. When planting new trees and shrubs use plenty of farmyard manure in the planting hole and with vegetables dig in several inches to the area for planting in spring.

Can I use raw seaweed as a fertilizer to replenish my ground for next year over Winter instead of farmyard manure?

Posted 24/08/2011 by Martin, Co.Cork

If you are lucky enough to be close to the sea, then yes, seaweed is a great traditional soil improver! It's important not to use it raw. For best results, spread it out thinly to dry for 3 weeks and then gather it up. Use it on its own or bulk it up with garden compost or farmyard manure. If you dig your vegetable patch in the Autumn you can spread the seaweed over this for the Winter and it can then be dug in fully in Springtime with an additional layer. A great natural soil improver!

I have been using the same ground for a number of years for my  veg and potatoes. Sadly, results this year and last are not as good as before and I'm also fighting a battle with perennial weeds. I need advice on how replenish the ground starting now for next year.

Posted 24/08/2011 by Martin, West Cork

If you are using the same ground year after year yields and crop quality tends to go backwards. If you have only the one small patch you need to rotate the different crops yearly. Plant your potatoes in a different part each year as well as onions, carrots and brassicas. Dig the ground in the Autumn and leave it exposed for the Winter. This will help to reduce the weeds, as you can pick most out as you dig, and again in Spring.

In order to improve the quality of your soil, and so your crops, you need lots of organic material; well rotted homemade or quality bagged farmyard manure should be dug in before planting in Spring. If you repeat this year after year the soil structure and fertility will be improved and the weeds will reduce, leaving you with bigger healthier crops.

I want to plant some honeysuckle in my garden as I love the smell of it! I was wondering what growing conditions it needs, i.e. soil type and how much sun does it need etc.

Posted 20/07/2011 by Helen Co.Kildare

Your Honeysuckle will grow best in full sun or semi-shade. It likes a rich fertile soil type which has good drainage. Most soil types are like this but if yours is heavy with poor drainage dig in plenty of Growise Farmyard manure or our Enriched Top soil. Choose  a good hardy type like Lonicera periclymenum the common woodbine which has the best fragrance and is fast growing with brilliant striking purple red and white flowers.

I have several trees that were planted three to four years ago and this year after a harsh winter they have no leaves on them. The branches are still soft. Are they still alive and what can I do for them?

Posted 20/06/2011 by Sharon

If at this stage of the year there is no sign of leaf growth things are not well. Trees and plants need a full season of leaf growth to grow into healthy and sturdy specimens. They should be in full leaf right now. Scrape the bark and see if there is healthy sap green in colour or is it just brown. If there is green underneath and buds that might break you could give the tree a tip pruning plenty of water and hope for the best.

I have a young cottonwood tree that was planted two years ago. I have noticed damage to the tree after a harsh winter. It only has leaves on one side. What can I do to save this tree?

Posted 20/06/2011 by Sharon, USA

Cottonwood (Populus) trees have a habit of loosing most of its leaves over the course of a season. Make sure it is well supported and not rocking at the roots. They are relatively hardy but you might consider putting some wind break on the windward side to protect it in the coming winter. A light tip pruning in the summer will help to promote new growth.

I received a present of a STAR JASMINE (trachelospernum jasminoides)in a pot and would like to plant it out against my garden fence,would that be ok? Is it scented? Also what other scented climbers should I look out for?

Posted 20/06/2011 by Brendan, Kilcullen Co.Kildare

Yes you can plant it outside but choose a south facing position sheltered from cold winds. This plant is extremely scented with beautifull white flowers in summer. A good idea may be to plant it in a large container with a Growise Multipurpose Plus John Innes compst so as you can move it indoors or to a more protected area in a harsh winter. One of the best hardy fragrant climbing plants is honeysuckle "Lonicera" and there are many varieties to choose from the best been "serotina" and "sempervirens". Another good scented climber is Wisteria which flower in late spring early summer in shades of lilac and purple.

Can you recommend any trees and plants that like wet ground? My back garden has some drainage issues.

Posted 13/06/2011 by Anthony, Balbriggan Town

As long as the ground in question is not waterlogged the following will tolerate wet conditions.

Trees that grow large - Alnus "Alder" Salix "Willow" Liquidambar styraciflua,

Shrubs - Cornus "Dogwood" Hydrangae in variety,Hosta, Astilbe, and many Ferns in shady areas.

Dig in plenty of organic material as this will break down heavy clay soils. Growise Farmyard Manure and grit used together will help with this. 

My lawn is covered in clover and the grass is yellow in places. Whats the best cure for that?

Posted 09/06/2011 by PJ, Wexford Town

Clover is a difficult perennial weed to eradicate but here are two ways you can try.

1 Use a good quality Lawn "Feed & Weed" that lists clover as a target. This will feed the lawn overall and kill off a good percentage of the clover. Any remaining weeds can be spot treated. Use these products when the lawn is growing actively in spring and early summer but not in drought conditions.

2 Feed the lawn only using a good quality lawn fertilizer. When everything has greened up including the clover try to dig out inpidual pieces using a sharp hand trowel as clover has a taproot which is easily got at.

If the lawn is totally overrun with the clover it may be best to start again and reseed a new one!

My question relates to daisies and other weeds in lawns and how to eradicate them?

Posted 26/05/2011 by Ger Co.Westmeath

Regular mowing from March to October will be the first step. This cleans out any annual tall growing weeds. Daisy and deep rooted weeds like dandelions need to be treated to eradicate. The best way is to use a good quality lawn Feed and Weed which can be applied from mid April to mid June while growth is strong. As the weeds die out and the grass strenghtens you will find less weeds next year and may only need to feed then. 

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