MONTY DON solves some delicate problems that readers have sent in

I get a lot of questions and advice from these pages every year, and yet I know how few of them are actually addressed each week. I'm sorry if you feel neglected, but I'm really trying.

I search and choose and do my best to outline the most pressing issues you send me, and still try not to repeat myself too often.

But once a year I take the opportunity to catch up with some of those who have slipped through the net and answer a greater amount than the three that are usually assigned to this page every week.

I love hearing from you, so please don't stop sending in your questions – hopefully it will be your turn in time.

What I would say is that questions that are as specific as possible and yet can be applied to as many gardens as possible are most likely to be answered.

Anyway, here is a batch that I hope is of great relevance to gardeners across the country.

Monty Don with his parsnips in his garden. The British garden expert answered all of the reader's urgent problems

Figs especially like good drainage. warehouse

Figs especially like good drainage. warehouse

F: Four years ago I got a fig plant in a pot. It has grown well and showed the first signs of fruiting last year. When is the best time for a new pot and what type of compost should I use?

Bev Green, Rainham, Essex

A: Figs like above all good drainage, so I recommend peat-free bark-based compost with additional sand and – if possible – some garden compost.

Although they need good drainage, they also need a lot of water. So give them a weekly bath and a liquid seaweed feed every week or every other week between April and September. The best time to repot is when there are signs of new growth in the spring – probably sometime in April.

F: I want to prevent my 12-foot tall palm – a Trachycarpus fortunei, I think – from getting bigger. Should I just hop off the top or is there another way I can limit the height?

Jeffrey Snodin, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

A: You can't really prune T. fortunei to limit its height. Like all palm trees, it can only grow upwards. So take out the top and it will stop growing. But this tree grows relatively slowly – no more than one foot a year – and can be cleared of all its dead leaves and hairy "body wrapping" to get a smooth, slimmer, much more elegant plant.

The more sunlight it gets, the thicker and shorter it is. Shadow makes it bigger and thinner.

This is exactly how lemon likes it

F: I grew two lemon plants from pips. I don't have a greenhouse. So what should I do with them over the winter?

GM Birkett, Lincs

Lemons don't like winter cold much below -3 or -4 ° C. Stock photo

Lemons don't like winter cold much below -3 or -4 ° C. Stock photo

A: Lemons don't like winter cold much below -3 or -4 ° C and hate sitting in cold and damp soils, so some protection is needed.

Ideally, they should be kept cool, dry and in fairly humid air until the risk of frost is over and then exposed to as much sunshine as possible with regular watering and feeding.

A shed or basement is fine as long as it has some light and is frost-free. A living room will be too dry, but a veranda could be fine.

If not, take them to a sheltered place, protect them from the worst of the cold with garden fleece, lift them up on chocks so they can drip thoroughly – and don't water them at all when they're outside in winter .

F: My son has a big problem with horsetail in his garden. Can it be eradicated?

Sandra Thomas, Llangunnor, Carmarthenshire

A: I'm afraid that horsetail, Equisetum arvense, is one of the most difficult weeds to clear. The roots go down to 8 feet and shoot again if they are not completely removed.

However, you can weaken it. The first thing you need to do is cut it back regularly (it's an excellent addition to the compost heap). Horsetail likes bad – and poorly drained – soil, so it helps to give it a thick mulch of garden compost regularly and to improve drainage.

HELP! I have a PEONY problem

F: Everyone comments on my beautiful yellow peony. What should I do if the flowers die – am I cutting them off properly?

Val Carruthers, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

Paeonia lutea does not need to be pruned (stock photo)

Paeonia lutea does not need to be pruned (stock photo)

A: That sounds like Paeonia lutea, which I also have in my garden. It is lovely. Tree peonies are woody shrubs that have simpler, generally smaller flowers than their herbaceous cousins ​​and require different treatment.

They don't need to be pruned, but if they get too big or crowded, individual older stems can be cut back hard to the ground and sprout healthy new shoots.

However, resist the temptation to cut back apparently dead wood well into spring, as there is often a bud in a brown, scaly shell.

In contrast to herbaceous peonies, they should be planted fairly deep – with the pot about 3 to 4 inches below the ground – and mulched thickly each spring.

F: Can I grow vegetables on a plot shaded by protected forests behind my garden?

Linda Strickland, Dorset

A: All vegetables need more or less sun, but some are better in the shade than others.


Write to Monty Don this weekend, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email monty.don@dailymail.co.uk. Please enter your full name and address. We regret that Monty cannot reply personally to letters.

Leaf fruits such as lettuce, spinach, arugula and mizuna have nothing against shade, especially in summer because they grow best in cool conditions.

Root crops such as potatoes, beetroot, radishes, carrots and parsnips are worth growing. All brassicas – like cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli – will be good too. Leeks are particularly good for shade and broad beans and broad beans are viable from the legumes.

But do everything you can to maximize the light. Since the growing season in the shade is shorter, I recommend using raised beds so that the soil warms up faster.


Greet the two new ones Species you might see humming around your flower beds

They are Britain's newest bee species and eat ivy flowers with a honey scent in the fall.

But don't be afraid; You won't sting because ivy bees are pretty harmless.

The bees, Colletes hederae, were first sighted in Dorset in 2001 and are now all the way to Cumbria.

The bees, Colletes hederae (picture), were first sighted in Dorset in 2001 and are now to Cumbria

The bees, Colletes hederae (picture), were first sighted in Dorset in 2001 and are now to Cumbria

It's hard to miss a group of ivy bees, says naturalist Brigit Strawbridge Howard, author of Dancing With Bees, a new book that celebrates the diversity of bees.

They nest in individual caves in loose or sandy soil or on lawns.

At one point on a sandy cliff in Cornwall that had holes from earthworks, she estimated tens of thousands of nests – which is not uncommon.

Female ivy bees release a pheromone that keeps the males close to the nesting site until they mate.

At the beginning of the season, the males fly back and forth frantically, looking for aspiring females.

Ivy bees came here from Northern Europe and were first identified in 1993 as an independent species.

They are non-invasive and do not pose a threat to native bees.

"They have velvety coats, their chest has a beautiful ginger color and their belly is black and yellow-orange stripes," says Brigit.

"People are scared when they hear them humming, but they're pretty sure."

Amazingly, despite the landslides caused by the digging in of neighbors, every bee finds its way back to its own nest.

After only six weeks of flying, these beautiful bees die and the next generation pupates underground until the following autumn.

Brigit will be known to viewers of the BBC2 series It's Not Easy Being Green, which aired between 2006 and 2009 and documented her family's attempts to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle in Cornwall. After the end, Brigit was fascinated by the behavior of the bees.

Most people, she says, think of honeybees and bumblebees, but they're a tiny minority.

And while honeybees and bumblebees are social beings, the vast majority of our bee species are lonely and only interact when mated – out of around 270 native bees in the UK, around 250 are lonely.

With the increase in beekeeping, honeybees are thriving, but many native species are declining due to increasing competition for resources.

Another new addition in 2001 was the tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), which quickly spread from the New Forest to Scotland. It nests in holes in trees, but also likes abandoned bird boxes.

It lives on garden plants like Cotoneaster and loves bell-shaped flowers like bluebells and heather.

Since nests are often at eye level, tree bumblebees are easy to observe.

One of the first lonely bees to appear in spring is the hairy flower bee (Anthophora plumipes). "You have an attitude!" says Brigit. "The males frolic around comfrey and lungwort, and they'll hunt a bumblebee three times their size."

If Brigit has a favorite bee, it is the red-tailed mason (Osmia bicolor) that nests in empty snail shells. "The female lays eggs and seals the shell with chewed leaves and gravel or sand," she says.

& # 39; Some bees are smaller than a grain of rice; Some have long tongues to pollinate wild flowers. But each species has a different role – it is not a bee for everyone. & # 39;

Dancing With Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard is available from Chelsea Green, £ 20. To order a copy for £ 16, call 01603 648155 or go to mailshop.co.uk. Free Shipping. Offer valid until November 30th, 2019.

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