Q. I have been growing Acers in containers for the past 9 years. We went on holiday and asked our neighbour to water them for us. He very proudly explained to us that he has been giving them a good helping of Miracle Grow (which is a liquid feed) each day for the past 3 weeks.
They are now all dying, is there anything I can do to save them it breaks my heart to watch them dying, after so many years of loving tender care.
A. Flush them through with lots of plain water, stand the pots in water (need something big) for a couple of hours, take it out, let it drain, leave overnight repeat 3 or 4 times, don't immerse the roots in water for more than about 2 hours at a time, use as large a volume as possible. It's all about getting rid of the excess of fertiliser in the soil.
Q. I have a small conifer in a pot which for the last four years has done really well. In the last year it has started to die in patches and go brown. What is the cause of this, would it be its location as moved just over a year ago and now in south facing garden.
A. I'd say the move is the cause, but indirectly. Conifers are sensitive to a lack of water when in containers and are easily killed or suffer as yours seems to be by a lack of water. Being south facing means more sunshine and water loss than before which will probably be the cause.
Conifers are particularly difficult in this regard as they don't wilt like broad-leaved plants as a warning to top them up. They sail through the drought phase looking fine and only start to show the signs of the drought when they're being watered again and when it's too late.
Alternatively, and this is probably an equally likely alternative depending on what is around you. Your conifer could be suffering the effects of vine weevil larvae feeding on the roots - a particular problem for containerised plants. Dig into the compost or upend the plant and remove the pot, whichever is easiest, and look for small cream coloured c-shaped grubs 5-10mm long.
What to do about it? Re-pot your plant is appropriate (if it's too big for its pot), top dress the soil by replacing the top 2 inches with fresh soil / compost if you don't want to repot and give it a feed.
If you've vine weevils, they can be killed by liberally watering the compost with a systemic insecticide diluted as per the instructions - even then they might not all be killed / there might be more eggs / it might be too late for the plant.
A. Not really, but it's great as a mulch or for digging into planting holes elsewhere in the garden. As a bag of potting compost is a lot cheaper than the container plants you'll put in it, don't even risk it.
Q. We need to create a barrier between our property and the next door house, at the moment divided by a dry stone wall with a tarmac drive alongside it. Could we grow Lleylandii in pots to achieve a height of about 8 ft and if so, what would their approximate lifespan be?
A. Theoretically yes, practically no. 8ft Lleylandii would need very large pots. You would need to water them regularly as the rain just wouldn't keep them going in pots. One episode of a lack of water and one would be dead leaving an awkward gap.
Have you thought about making planting holes through the tarmac drive for them? a minimum of 2 feet diameter, make sure you go through all hardcore to under laying soil and fill the hole up to the top with good top soil. Of course there's the danger that eventually the roots may damage the drive, but it's not a major risk with Lleylandii and it's a long time before that's a possibility.
A. Yes they can, but aren't usually because - they grow very large and will outgrow even a very large tub / they have lots of large vicious thorns, tubs and troughs are usually placed where people walk close - it will also give major problems at repotting time too, rather you than me! / they are not particularly "regular" in their growth habit, fine for the garden at large, but not a good characteristic for a container plant.
Q. I am in the process of trying to re-home a large Rhododendron bush for my Father, it was housed in a wooden barrel that over the years has rotted. I need to find a Ceramic/Pot Pot if you get what I mean to house a root ball of about 22" x 22" with a depth of 10", I would prefer about an extra 2-3" added to the measurements of a new pot to allow for re-planting. The last and most important thing is the cost!, everywhere I look all the large ones are about £60.00 and with fancy glazes and patterns, these are not required just a plain pot.
A. Sorry I can't find anything on the web that suits your purposes. I have seen large simple pots at garden centres for less than £60 -forget how much though, but they've been part of special purchases.
I wouldn't feel too happy though about getting a cheap terra-cotta pot that large though, even cheap would be around £30 or more and the risk of breakage would be too high for me to consider. Terra-cotta or glazed ceramic (often concrete) needs to be thick and heavy - read expensive - in order to last.
There are cheap resin pots that large available. though to my eye they still look like resin. If you're handy with a hammer you could knock up a square one using decking boards cheaply, line with plastic and raise off the ground for a longer life - I also paint inside mine with bituminous paint to further prevent water leaking in - wash it out well when the paint is dry before using.
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