Q. We have a barrel as a pond in the ground it is supposed to be water tight however it is not. What can we do to make it water tight?
A. How long has it been filled with water? If barrels have been allowed to dry out they will initially leak like a sieve when filled until the wood swells and fits together tightly.
If this doesn't happen, then it is not an easy thing to correct. You will have to dry the barrel out first to apply any water proofing compound, this means that the wood will shrink, once wet again it will swell meaning that it will move and so possibly the sealant won't work any more.
If your barrel is almost totally in the ground however I think the easiest way would be to pull it out and then line the hole with plastic, almost any will do as long as it's reasonably strong, and then put the barrel back. It will still leak, but the water won't leak away and the problem should be fixed.
If this is not possible, then take the barrel out of the ground, dry it out and clean the leaking points thoroughly, the best bet for a sealant is probably a silicone sealant available from pond supplies shops. Like I say though, this is a bit hit and miss and you may need to resign yourself to the fact that your barrel will now make a better planter than pond.
Q. How can I deter 2 ducks from visiting my small garden pond? They are polluting the water which is killing the fish and wrecking the vegetation.
A. The easiest and least obtrusive way is to net the pond for a while. Nets are available that stop autumn leaves falling in the water, peg it around the pond just above the water and it will physically stop the ducks from getting in there.
It sounds like this pair have got into the habit, leave it for a couple of weeks or so and then remove it, they should be trained by then and go elsewhere. Of course there's nothing to stop them trying later on or another pair from arriving, but it's not that likely if your pond is small.
Q. We've just bought a new build house and are about to move in this summer, end of August. In a recent visit to our plot though, we discovered that the garden is sloping upwards dramatically which result in that we are unable to put any garden furniture at all, and not to mention the risk for flooding towards our house! The building society are apparently not able to do anything, but in our opinion there must be a solution! We bought a house for its outdoor possibilities, but now we fear that we cannot be able to take advantage of it! Please, what can we do?
A.Your first port of call should be the builders, though it may be too late. Did you mention the garden when you bought the house? Were you told anything about what the garden was like? I'm no expert in this respect, but sounds like a contractual thing to me "it will be like xyz" means that it should be just like you were told.
If that doesn't work, then try the naive approach - "What will you be doing with the garden? How will we be able to arrange our furniture is the slope is so great?" If you get no joy from the sales representative, ask to speak to the area manager. Bear in mind that builders often cut corners on the garden especially if it's not mentioned, "don't ask don't get" is often the rule. Simple landscaping is of negligible cost compared to the house and they may well get a JCB to shove soil around to make it more sensible for you. This kind of approach is best before any kind of deposit is handed over and sale agreed.
If this still doesn't give you a result, then all is far from lost. Drainage and flooding - shouldn't be a problem as this certainly is the builders responsibility. Ask about it if you are concerned and keep a record of what was said, by whom and when.
The garden can be dealt with by terracing, large flat patio / deck area near the house then retaining wall/s further up the garden to give useful areas. These conditions are frequently easier to deal with than is immediately evident to the inexperienced eye, a landscaper (not necessarily a hugely expensive designer) should be able to come up with some quickish simple solutions.
In short, don't worry too much about flooding, don't be afraid to ask the builder to correct things that you aren't happy with and if all else fails it's probably easier to rectify than you imagine.
The mortgage lender won't care at all what the garden is like, all they want to know is can and will you pay the mortgage and is the house worth the mortgage if they have to repossess? I am prepared to be corrected, but it's the builder you need to approach.
A. sub-species: a group belonging to an identified species that are not reproductively isolated from the species (they can inter-breed) but are sufficiently different from the basic type and uniformly similar to each other to be so designated. This is possibly a new species in the making. Below species but above variety in the hierarchy of names.
Syn: "Synonym" e.g. Tom, syn. Thomas, Bill, syn. William, Bob syn Robert. A name that is the same as another name for the same plant / species / variety etc. but not necessarily the most commonly used one.
X: cross or hybrid between two types sometimes the name of only one of the parents is given - this usually means that the other is not a named variety, so it means that 50% of the plant is named variety.
A. Pretty emphatically - no. We need vitamins because we can't make them, because we are heterotrophs (we get our food ready made) plants are autotrophs (make their own food) and so make all of their required chemicals from carbon dioxide, water, and minerals in the soil. So if a plant needs a compound, it makes it from available raw materials and vitamins are not available in the soil - unless you can consider minerals as "plant vitamins" which is something of a moot point.
As far as we are concerned a vitamin is a chemical that we can't make for ourselves and have to ingest ready-made, for plants it's a case of if they can't make it - they have to go without.
A. Unfortunately, you'll have problems
buying most garden-related stuff online from outside your own country as generally
it's all fairly bulky and heavy, but also very delicate in the case of the plants,
so shipping costs would be prohibitive. Seeds are the only exception as they're
light weight and so can easily go anywhere.
I'm sure there are alternatives available in CZ that are just as good, make sure you specify "soluble" if you want a Phostrogen alternative as these dissolve and are watered in being immediately available to the plants.
reply / Thanks for your reply, I think you are right in that the three basic ingredients are available here. The problem is that suppliers don't advertise much & they're not particularly helpful when you ring up. As a follow up question (if I may) can you, or someone, tell me if wood ash is a good source of Phosphorous (Hope I spell that right) An old gardener near me has told me to put wood ash on my currants to get better crops.
reply/reply / Wood ash is a fairly good source of phosphorous
and if you have it, you might as well use it. It's not that great however and is
slow release. I add the left overs of my garden bonfires to my compost heap, then
it gets spread around when I use the compost as a mulch.
Q. My Husband has recently dug out an area for a patio, the soil / chalk that he removed he spread onto our grass to even up a very sloping garden. We now wish to put this area back to grass (not specifically a perfect lawn), do I need top soil? Can I seed on top of the soil that is on top of existing grass? what would be your recommendation of grass seed for hard wearing, fast covering grass on a chalky soil? Any guidance would be appreciated.
A. Hard to say without actually seeing it, but it sounds like the chalk / soil mix is what you have as subsoil. To get a better lawn, use the subsoil to build up the volume and then top it off with a 4-6" layer of decent topsoil. The grass under the soil will be killed soon if it hasn't already and so you can essentially forget that. Chalk is a good soil for grass, you don't really need any special mix for it. The only thing is that chalk is usually very well drained so the nutrients run away, grass on chalk soils are best fed with a foliar feed rather than granular - though the new top soil will help hold it back.
Q. I have just dug up a large section of my lawn to make a flower bed and am wondering if there is anything I can do with my excess turf, i.e build a bank with it or is there a way to rot it down to use as a compost?
A. Turves make good compost, pile them grass side down out of the way somewhere and cover with old sacks / carpet / weighted down bin bags etc. to keep the light out. By autumn, they should have made good garden compost.
Q. (Aberdeenshire) This beautiful September morning, I found crawling along on the moss that covers the stones of wildlife pond an enormous green caterpillar with two sets of markings looking like eyes on either side of it's head (below one another) and with feathered black markings on the back. In old money it must have been about 2 1/2" long and as thick as my middle finger. I have never seen anything like this before even when I lived in England. Sorry no picture to show.
I do hope that the birds or frogs do not get hold of it. Have you any idea please from my description what sort of larvae it may be and what it could it turn into (moth/butterfly).
A. Sounds like a hawk moth caterpillar, they're amongst the largest of British moths and the fastest fliers (hence hawk). There's a number of species and the caterpillars are variable in colour, but it may be an Elephant Hawk Moth. The adults are as spectacular as the juveniles, though as they fly so fast and are largely nocturnal, they are not often seen even though they may be reasonably common in an area.
Q. Do you ship to the United States? If not, do you know where I can get the Lonicera Nitida (green leaf) in my country?
A. Plants are generally not shipped overseas - weight, import restrictions, damage/death in transit. I'm afraid I don't know where you can them online in the US at the moment, for some reason the online inventory of plants in the US is pretty restricted. Your best bet is to try local nurseries.
Q. For the past several months I've been trying to find tree farms or garden centres in my area that sell Robinia pseudoacacia "Frisia" trees, with no luck...do you sell these plants and would it be possible to purchase one from Canada?
A. Plants don't usually ship overseas as transport would be prohibitively expensive and they probably wouldn't survive anyway.
Robinia Frisia aren't very hardy while small which could be the reason you can't find any. Here in England, they need to be about 6 feet tall at least to survive a winter outdoors, I'd guess that in Canada, they'll need to be larger still. At the least they would need to be overwintered under protection for a couple of years and that's a chore to achieve.
On the other hand, there are plenty of plants that would grow fine in North America that just aren't readily available there for no particular reason. European nurseries seem to have a load more variety for some reason - I'm not sure why.
Q. There are many soil pH testers available from 4GBP up to 350GBP. Neither extreme seems right for me. I want accuracy but don't feel I need the top of the line. Which do you suggest?
A. If you're testing the soil in your own garden
and don't need to do it very often, then I'd go for a small chemical-based testing
kit rather than an electronic meter. I wouldn't trust the cheaper electronic meters
at all, only the more expensive ones are going to be anywhere near accurate and
they will need calibrating with buffer solutions every now and then. They are intended
for commercial growers and horticulturalists who regularly add things to and take
pretty heavy crops out of the soil, so the pH of it is likely to change and needs
to be monitored regularly.
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