Ask the Expert

What treatment should you use for a lawn in late Spring/early Summer? The grass is in poor condition and some areas have yellow matting with sparse grass growing. There are dandelions, daisies and some clover growing in the grass too. Also, how many days after cutting should I treat the grass? 

Posted 27/05/2013 by

The lawn sounds like it’s in need of a bit of help. First of all; a good quality Spring/Summer lawn feed should be used at this stage to ensure good Summer growth. Mow regularly as this encourages new and strong growth. As for the yellow matting, it sounds like a drainage problem unfortunately. Raking the moss out in Autumn and planting new grass seed may be a good start. If you have small patches of weeds I would avoid using a weed killer and try to remove them by hand. If the weeds are covering larger areas use a good weed killer that targets the exact plants that are the problem. Treatments differ so be sure to follow the label of your chosen product. 

Can you give me a foolproof way to store nasturtium seeds?

Posted 24/09/2012 by Geraldine, via Facebook

To simplify save the seed from the best plants as these will produce the best seed for next year. Save the seeds dry, pop them into a paper bag and store in a frost free dark spot until needed next spring. They are best sown the following year from saving.

What plants could be used to cover fencing in a windy area?

Posted 24/09/2012 by Marie, via Facebook

This situation will not stand soft leafy plants particularly in the Winter and early Spring. You need strong robust plants preferably deciduous and twiggy, A clematis that originates in the Alps and other mountainous regions is Clematis alpina of which there are several varieties in white blue and pinks. They will flower from March through to May with lovely nodding flowers followed by interesting seed heads for the rest of the year. You could leave this run up through honeysuckle or a hardy climbing rose like Rosa New Dawn.

What can you suggest I plant that will grow quickly in a shaded area to cover a fence?

Posted 19/09/2012 by Denise, West Cork

Hello Denise
A good plant to use for this situation is the evergreen clematis - Clematis armandii. This has dark green evergreen foliage and produces masses of pure white scented flowers in Spring. You could also mix in with this Lonicera periclymenum (the common honeysuckle) to extend the flowering season and add interest. Faster growing but not evergreen is Clematis montana 'Rubens' which grows like a vine and produces masses of pink/purple flower in spring.
Best regards
Brendan Howell

2011 I used growise potatoe and was very pleased with the results. 2012 bought maybe 18 bags that was spread over 4 small areas of my garden the results, disasterous. no potatoes, even lettuce was very poor,peas,beans struggled.cabbage failed any reasons?

Posted 19/09/2012 by David, Cork

Hello David
Sorry to hear your results this year did not match 2011. It goes to show no two years are the same in gardening.
Most vegetables struggled this year due to the high rainfall, cold temperatures in the key growing season and the lack of good sunlight. A lot of growth was drawn towards the available light and spindly and weak. This really does not lead to plants developing properly to produce a harvest that you would expect. Hopefully next year will be a better year for vegetable growing and you will give it another go.
Best regards
Brendan Howell

I spent some amazing Summers in Ireland when I was young and remember, among other amazing memories ,a purple flower growing freely  everywhere. It was 1984...I am not sure if you remember or if it can be grown here but do you have any idea what it was? Or can anyone find out, thank you.

Posted 14/09/2012 by Maria, USA

Hello Maria
Without doubt the plant you describe is foxglove or Digitalis Purpurea. It has beautiful purple flowers on tall stems all summer long. It is a hardy native plant to Ireland and is found in hedgerows and ditches throughout the country. It likes a cool climate, some shade and a rich moist soil. It is found in other European countries but has also come into gardens by breeding cultivars of this natural variety. Try looking for Digitalis at home and you should see if it is the same plant as you remember.
Best regards
Brendan Howell

I planted Rose New dawn early this year, it has grown about 5 feet but not a single flower or bud Why? should I cut it back?

Posted 14/09/2012 by Margaret, Wicklow

Hello Margaret

Do not expect too much from this rose in its first year. This year was particularly poor for roses with high rainfall and little sun. It likes a warm sunny position ideally on a trellis or against a nice south facing wall.
Do not prune it much this year as it needs to form a frame work in the first few years. You may just tip prune each long shoot which will encourage side shoots which will produce plenty of flowering buds for next year. And remember to begin feeding your rose early next spring as roses like plenty of food.

Best regards
Brendan Howell

My Gardener has just put your Growise Mini Bark Mulch down in my garden and   my puppy appears to want to eat it all!!!  I have heard that some mulch is  poisonous for dogs - As there is a 'smell' to it, please can you tell me if it is dangerous for puppies?
Many thanks

Posted 11/09/2012 by Jenny, Worcestershire

Hello Jenny
Our Growise Mini bark is a completely natural product, made from 100% bark. It is not poisonous for your puppy to chew. Maybe you should try to make sure your puppy doesn't swallow it, since it's not dog food, and may cause your puppy discomfort.

Brendan Howell

Hi. I have variegated privets. One row is planted in the shade part of the garden and are extremely slow to grow. Is there anything I can give them to make them grow fast?

Posted 11/09/2012 by Paul, Longford

Hello Paul
The plants that are growing in the shade will tend to be drawn towards the light and lack colour and vigour. Ideally they need an open position. Try and reduce some of the shading from overhanging trees to let more light in. Certainly make sure to feed them each year with a general purpose fertiliser like Growise Multipurpose Garden Fertiliser.
It will just take longer for this row to establish in that situation.

Brendan Howell

Can anyone help me? I have a globe artichoke plant which I  grew from seed. It is quite old now Maybe 5 - 6 years and this year and last  year has not produced any heads fit to eat. It is completely covered with  ants and I have found out that they are drawn by the aphids. Do I need new plants or is there anyway I can save this one.

Posted 11/09/2012 by Emer, via Facebook

Hi Emer,

Your globe artichokes are a perennial plant and after a number of years the centre will lose its vigour and weaken. You need to lift the plant in the Autumn and pide up the younger growths.  In the new plants' first year do not pick any of the heads just leave them on the plant. After this you will begin to harvest each year and if you pide up the older plants every few years you will always have a harvest.
Your present plant has reached its end and is under stress which leaves it open to pests and disease.



Brendan Howell

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