Ask the Expert

I planted early main crop and late potatoes this year, but even the earlier ones I planted are still tiny and none of them have flowered. Is it due to the Easterly wind? Also, no cooking apples have grown for me yet at all!

Posted 13/08/2013 by Veronica in Cork

This year has been particularly difficult for crops. The early cold spell, wet weather and the heat has caused confusion for plants. A lot of plants are unsure of what to do in these conditions. This could be the reason the crops are so late.

I sowed gladioli bulbs in April. They are about 2ft tall with three or four leaves now. Will I get flowers this year? There's not a sign of any buds yet!

Posted 13/08/2013 by Barbara in Dublin

I also have these strange, flowerless gladioli in my garden! In fact, most of them did not come up at all this year! I have a feeling it may have to do with the cold start to the year. We have had some pretty extreme temperatures this year so it’s not surprising that some plants are confused!

When is a good time to pick mini cucumbers? I have one on a plant and it is full of what look like spikes. It is 6 to 7 inches long.

Posted 02/08/2013 by John, Limerick

The easiest way to tell if they’re ready is to press them and feel how soft they are. Generally, they can be about 3-8 inches long when they finally ripen so you may just have to test! 

I have 5 tomato plants in a small green house. The tomatoes are growing but from the beginning all the plants have had serious leaf curl. What causes this to happen and what can I do?

Posted 02/08/2013 by John, Dublin

Tomato leaf curl can be caused by varying temperatures at night or by aphids. Make sure you ventilate the green house well to regulate the temperature. If it is caused by aphids then I would recommend spraying the plants with a mixture of washing up liquid and water.

My honeysuckle has developed something that looks like a fungal plant infection. A black fungal like spotting appears on the foliage and then it turns silvery and then it dies. The plant then puts out new shoots further up but it spreads to them too. How can I combat this? Two years ago I had clematis planted in the same spot and it died from what looked like the same thing.

Posted 02/08/2013 by Ann, Offaly

This sounds like black spot and it is caused by a fungus on the leaves. Get rid of any infected leaves and apply lime sulphur to the plant. You can get it in any garden centre. 

Help! I am growing two tomato plants in pots, now that the weather has changed should I bring the pots indoors? There are tomatoes out already.

Posted 26/07/2013 by Clair via Facebook

Tomatoes won't do too well in heavy rain yet indoors they may not have enough ventilation. In wetter weather the ideal climate is a greenhouse where it is warm yet not too wet and can be ventilated. If you do not have one though, bringing them under cover but not indoors is a good move. You could always buy one of the mini plastic greenhouses in a garden centre that are created exactly for this purpose. 

How can i protect my strawberries from birds in the garden?

Posted 26/07/2013 by Valerie via Facebook

Birds love strawberries as much as we do! Get yourself some netting, available at most garden centres. That should work!

My strawberries are small and weak, what have I done wrong?

Posted 26/07/2013 by Margaret via Facebook

Strawberries love PH of about 6.5 so maybe start by checking that the soil is not too alkaline or acidic. Also, they love a good one year old manure soil mix so you could try and improve the soil by adding some well rotted manure along with some bone meal and seaweed meal. 

How do I get rid of caterpillars? The white cabbage butterfly has laid her eggs all over my garden!

Posted 26/07/2013 by Catherina via Facebook

The easiest method to get rid of the white cabbage caterpillars is to hand pick them off and place them else where. Remember, they do produce beautiful butterflies which you may appreciate at a later stage! I am not a fan of chemical control and would therefore recommend as a second option using a pathogenic nematode, steinernema carpocapsae, which you can buy online. They are a natural enemy of the caterpillar. These can be sprayed on to the cabbage with water

How long after spraying weeds can you sow lawn seed?

Posted 26/07/2013 by Fiona via Facebook

The best time to sow lawn seed is between April and September. If you have used a weed killer and then want to rotate the lawn (level and grade the site), it is advisable to wait 3 - 4 weeks, then spray again. This gives the ground a chance to let all remaining weeds come up again. If you have a level and graded site you are best looking at the particular product you have used for exact details as it varies. 

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