Ask the Expert

I am looking for advice on hanging baskets. I have 7 around the garden wall at the moment. What is best to feed them and how often?

Posted 24/06/2013 by Diane, Dublin

It depends on what you have in the planters but generally the best method is water and feed once a week with a good quality fertilizer. This depends totally on levels of rain. You are best to judge by feeling the soil. For most plants it needs to be moist but not wet. Some people swear by tomato food! Also, regular deadheading is vital for best results.

I grew my sunflowers from seed very successfully, and planted some of them out only to discover the next morning that all the leaves were gone. Only the stems were remaining. The ones I left in the pots are ok but the ones I planted out are gone. What could it be?

Posted 24/06/2013 by Carmel, Kerry

I would guess that it is slugs that are attacking the soft leaves of the sunflowers. Have you checked them early in the morning and late at night? There are many ways to repel them. Maybe try the copper method. Use strips of copper around the plant to repel slugs!

How and when can I take peonie cuttings? My friend has a beautiful one in her garden and I would love one myself?

Posted 24/06/2013 by Janette via Facebook

Peonies are fabulous flowers. The best way to get a new plant for yourself is to ask your friend to pide the clump for you at the end of the season. In order to do this you must remove the foliage and lift the clump out of the soil. Wash the roots and growth buds and using a sharp knife remove sections of the crown to get an extra plant. This should have roots attached and at least three growth buds in order to do well. 

How do I stop woodlice eating seedlings, including lettuce and courgette in my timber raised beds? Everything is decimated!

Posted 14/06/2013 by Fran via Facebook

That is strange, are you sure it is woodlice that are eating your crop? Woodlice are not known to do too much damage to fresh crop as they prefer to eat rotting plant material. Have a close watch of what is doing the damage - woodlice come out at night so you may have to take a night-time excursion to your beds to see if there may be some slugs or other culprits around. If it is woodlice, then make sure there are no dark, damp hiding places for them to rest during the day. As far as I know there are no pesticides to treat woodlice in the garden as they are poisonous for plants. 

My front lawn is covered with moss! I have tried to rake it out, but it did no good. What can I do to get rid of the moss?

Posted 13/06/2013 by Martin, Donegal

A lot of people in Ireland have this problem. It can be a sign of poor drainage conditions. You say you have tried scarification (vigorous raking). Maybe it is worth using a moss control product based on sulphates and iron. There are many available in local garden centres. This should be done in early autumn or spring if possible. It is important to give the lawn a good feed in areas where growth has become sparse. Use a good nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium lawn feed. 

Can you please tell me how to get rid of leatherjackets? This is the third year that they have eaten our small patch of grass. We've treated the area with a solution before.

Posted 13/06/2013 by Geraldine, Donegal

A biologicaly friendly wat to get rid of leatherjackets is to use a pathogenic nematode called steinernema feltiae. It is a miniscule worm that is watered into turf or soil. The nematodes infect the leatherjackets with a disease inside the body. They work best if they have well drained, moist conditions and a temperature of at least 12 degrees. It works best if done in winter.  

I was told that the best way to get rid of green, white and black fly is to crush one bulb of garlic into hot water and leave overnight. How much water should I use with one bulb?

Posted 13/06/2013 by Pat, Athenry

One cup of water, one garlic clove and one teaspoon of washing up liquid should do the job!

I have Japanese knotweed. What is the best way to get rid of this?

Posted 13/06/2013 by Imelda, Waterford

Japanese knotweed is a terrible pest. Cutting the stems four times a year at the base and removing as many of the roota as possible is one option. This reduces the vigour with which the plant spreads. Keep in mind though, that even the smallest bit of stem/root can produce a new plant so leave nothing lying behind. There are companies that specialise in dealing with this issue so maybe investigate using a professional company if you have no joy removing the knotweed yourself.

What can I do about the sudden infestation of tiny yellowish/green bugs that are assaulting my flat-leaf parsley? 

Posted 12/06/2013 by Kim in Dublin

This sounds like aphids and there are many ways to get rid of them. You should steer away from any sort of chemical as you are probably planning on eating your parsley! The first is a bit yucky, if they don’t wash off – squish them between your thumb and finger. If there are lots of them you could also try using a mix of 500ml water, a squirt of washing up liquid and a few drops of eucalyptus oil which is said to work very well.

I'm attempting to grow aubergine in my greenhouse. Every year the blossoms on the plants fall off as if they were not pollinated. What could the problem be?

Posted 12/06/2013 by Joe in Meath

I know exactly what you mean. Aubergines are a tricky one! They tend to like very warm and humid conditions. In this respect, your greenhouse should do well for them. The second issue is the pollination, which in a greenhouse is a bit tricky as there tends to be less or no bees inside it. Try taking a soft toothbrush and cross pollinating the plants yourself! People seem to get great results when they try that.

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