Garden Problems Saving seeds, Compost, Tree stumps

Garden Problems Saving seeds, Compost, Tree stumps

Saving Seeds

Q. If I do not use all my vegetable and flower seeds one season can I sow them the following season?

A. In principle the answer is yes, but there will be a lessening of the percentage of germination. I would not hesitate to sow any flower seeds left from a previous season, especially if these were hardy annuals being sown out of doors, as a sufficient percentage of germination could be obtained by sowing thickly.

With flower seeds which are sown under glass, where sowing is done fairly thickly in any case, there is not the same problem about using two-year-old seeds as the seedlings have to be pricked out in any case. A small trial sowing will give an advance indication of the percentage of germination.

Some vegetables like parsnips lose their viability, i.e. their germinating power, very quickly, so I would prefer to buy fresh seed each year for these, and also for carrots and onions.

Brassica seeds which are to be sown in a seed bed can be kept from one season to another, but should be sown more thickly than usual in the second year. If last year’s seeds are being kept store them in a dry cool place.

If in any doubt, sow a small sample of the seed in question in a heated greenhouse, or on a warm window-sill, and note the percentage which germinates. As a rough guide, I would say that if less than half germinates it would be better to buy fresh seed.

I would not use seed older than one season, in any case.


Q. I get confused with the word ‘compost’ used to denote potting or seed-sowing compost and also for compost as a substitute for farmyard manure.

A. If one thinks of the compost which is made in a compost heap as garden compost, i.e. made up of waste vegetable material, straw, rags and woollen waste, and think of this as being for digging into the ground or using as a mulch, this will help differentiate between seed-sowing compost or potting compost used under glass for pot plants or raising plants in boxes or seed trays.

The position could be complicated by using some sieved garden compost as a constituent of a potting compost, as for tomatoes in 10 in. pots, for example, where one would be using one sort of compost to make up another compost.

The dictionary definition of compost (at least the one I use) is : ‘A mixture of soil and various manures’, which would refer to potting compost.

Tree Stumps

Q. What can I do to get rid of a tree stump?

A. There is a proprietary product called S.B.K., which is a Brushwood Killer, which can also be used for treating tree stumps. The product is available from garden sundries shops and full directions are given with each bottle.

In my view the real answer to dealing with a tree stump is to dig it out, but this may involve too much work, and is

certainly tough going. It may be possible to hire or borrow a winch and this method should certainly be considered.

A method often used is to bore several holes in the stump 6-8 in. deep and fill these with hydrochloric acid. This can be purchased from a chemist, in a glass bottle, and I must stress the need to take great care in the handling of this liquid.

Creosote can also be used to help with the rotting down and to make burning easier later on. This is poured into the holes made 6 in. apart and 8 in. deep and sealed off with a piece of turf. Leave for six to eight months, renewing from time to time.

Q. I have the problem of slippery steps and stonework. Please advise.

A. This can be a nuisance in wet weather and even dangerous in winter, and is often caused by the green thin skin or layer due to the small green plant-like growth called ‘algae’. This is the same sort of growth as I have mentioned under pot plants, and the same product can be used to give a control, i.e. `Algamine’.

On concrete steps or paths I have used a tar-oil spray, i.e. the winter-wash product used on apple trees in winter to clean off the moss and algae on the branches, especially on old neglected trees and particularly in high-rainfall areas. I find that if the same strength as is used on fruit trees (usually a pint in a gallon of water) is applied and if the spray application is made on a dry day with a rosed watering can good results will be obtained.

There are proprietary stone cleaners available from garden sundries shops used on unpolished stonework. One, called Bentley’s Stone Cleanser, is not used on polished marble.

Rubber gloves are worn to apply the cleanser. Full details are available from the firm mentioned (at Barrow on Humber).

Q. I am moving house in late spring, and have arranged to lift and take with me some roses, fruit trees and shrubs. What would you advise?

A. Lift all the plants to be moved in March or early April and ‘heel’ them in, i.e. transplant them temporarily in a shaded spot like under a north-facing wall or hedge to keep the growth back, i.e. as dormant as possible.

If you delay lifting until growth has started this may cause some check to subsequent growth. When the plants are planted finally water very freely if the soil and weather stays dry, and mulch around the base of the plants with some peat to help conserve moisture.

Any very late transplanted rose bushes should be pruned rather harder than usual. If only a few shrubs or bushes are to be moved lift them in winter and pot them into boxes or large whalehide pots. They can then be transplanted where they are to stay, with minimum or no check.

Q. Which trees are best for growing mistletoe?

A. This grows best on old apple trees, but it also grows on hawthorn and sometimes oak. Seed is set in cracks in the rough bark, but the results are sometimes disappointing, as some plants, being the males, do not produce berries. Growth is rather slow in any case, and setting seeds is not a practice I would advise.

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