Paraic Horkan on Radio 1 – 20/04/2016 Listeners’ Questions

Can I plant my sweet peas outside yet?

Sweet peas are hardy annuals that wont be affected by frost at this time, so planting out is not really an issue, even if we are still having nighttime frost occasionally. Just make sure to plant out into rich soil, you should add plenty of organic matter into the soil before planting out. Sweet peas if treated correctly will bloom from now until October. You have to remember to pinch back the flowers, removing about an inch, maybe an inch and a half, from the tops of the sweet pea plants. This will encourage the plant to branch and the more it branches the more flowers you’re going to get. If you do this this then you should have a wonderful continuous bloom until very late in the season. These are a beautiful looking and fantasticly scented flower so be sure to get the most from them that you can!

What is the correct soil for pink hydrangeas?

hydrangea photoHydrangeas are a wonderful versatile flower which can be either pink, red, or blue depending on what type of soil you put your plant in. The colour of your hydrangea will depend on the pH of your soil. If you put a hydrangea into acidic soil you will get deep red or blue flowers, if you want pink hydrangeas then you need to put your plant into limey soil. Even if you plant a blue hydrangea, once the soil is limey then the flowers will turn pink! Now is also the time to prune your hydrangeas. Follow the flowering stem down to soil level and prune, only prune out the shoots that flowered last summer, leaving shoots that have any green on them. Remember to feed afterwards. A great feed for hydrangeas is OSMO Pro 6, or even just a good rose fertiliser.

Will putting broken egg shells on my lawn affect weeds?

lawn photoUnfortunately eggs shells will have no affect on weeds in your lawn. Broken up egg shells are a useful and organic slug and snail repellent, the slugs and snails do not like the sharp edges, but they will have no affect on weeds. Right now lawns are full of weeds, because of the wet winter so now is the time to be thinking of weed removal. A three-in-one feed is a good idea right now, something to kill the weeds and moss, and feed the lawn. If you have any bare patches on the lawn now is the perfect time to lay some grass seed. If you have just mowed your lawn wait about a week before applying any weedkiller, as you need the weeds to have some leaf growth to fully absorb the weedkiller. Read our full guide on how to have a beautiful lawn for Summer here.

Is it OK to plant new geraniums back into an old geranium pot, should I replace the compost?

geranium photoAs the pot already had geraniums in it a lot of the nutrients that geraniums need will have been used up by your old geranium plants. So, before planting your new plants I would recommend replacing about 50% of the soil in the pot with new soil and also adding a slow release feed, this will refresh the soil and ensure that your geraniums thrive! This same principal applies to vegetables; you should always rotate your crops so you are never growing the same type of vegetable in the same soil over and over.
Take care to remember that geraniums are frost sensitive so keep an eye on the temperatures at night, maybe wait until the second week of May before planting outdoors.

What is an effective way to get rid of Bluebells in my garden?

blue bells photoWhile bluebells can be quite attractive they can also take over your garden very quickly. One possible treatment is to use Round Up Gel. This is a gel, quite similar in appearance to a hair gel, that you rub on the leaves of the plant you want to kill. The bluebell plants should be quite large right now so this type of treatment will work quite well. This type of weedkiller is very effective, travelling all the way down to the bulb. Of course another option is to dig up the bluebells. The bluebells, being quite large right now, should be quite easy to dig up and you can even give the plants away to friends or neighbors. You may not want them in your garden but ‘a weed is just a plant growing in the wrong place’ so maybe someone else will want it!

My camellias haven’t bloomed yet, what can I do?

Camellias are a beautiful winter and spring flowering plant that can provide a vivid splash of colour when little else in the garden is in bloom, but they require a lot of forward planning to ensure a full beautiful bloom. Unlike a lot of other plants you feed them this year for next years flowers. Unfortunately that means that the treatment needed for this years flowers should have been carried out last year. If you did not feed your camellias properly last year then there is not a lot to be done. However, you can feed it this year to ensure a beautiful bloom next year. Camellias are acid loving plants that don’t do well in limey soil, so make sure to use an ericaceous feed and plenty of water and next year you will have a fantastic bloom!

What is the correct soil for Aloe Vera plants?

Aloe Vera is a brilliant plant to have around the house. It is great for using on irritated or mildly burned skin, simply cut the stem and put the gel from the plant directly on to the wound. Aloe Vera grows in tropical climates and therefore prefers a sandy compost, I recommend gro wise with added John Innes. Keep on the dry side being careful not to over water. This is an indoor plant so do not plant out. If it begins to get too big for its container just re-pot it in the next size container. It does best being re-potted slowly so increase the pot size gradually.

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