Miscellaneous - Any Questions? - Page 2

Gardening matters with no particular theme, questions that I couldn't categorize elsewhere.


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 an 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? It's the builder you need to approach.


Q. In very simple terms please could you explain what the word sub-species means in the naming of plants (Subsp) Also Syn and an X in front of a plants name?

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.


Q.  Can vitamins for humans affect how plants grow?

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 vital 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.


Q.  Where can I buy on line things like Phostrogen? It's one of the things which is hard to get in the Czech Republic.

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.

While Phostrogen is a great product, it's not quite as unique as the manufacturers would like us to believe, nor is any other proprietary fertiliser brand. Fertilisers are given 3 numbers, "14-10-27 + Trace elements" in the case of Phostrogen, this gives the NPK - Nitrogen : Phosphorous : Potassium amounts in %, so here there is:

    14% N - Nitrogen - for leaf growth
    10% P - Phosphorous - for fruit and flower production
    27% K - Potassium - for root growth

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.

If you heat your home with wood fires for instance, I'd be wary of putting too much of the ash in any one place as it would change the nature of the soil over a long time period and like I said, doesn't add so many nutrients. Any ash you add this year, will probably not have a real effect until next for instance, whereas a liquid fertiliser will have a more or less immediate effect.

As for getting hold of fertilisers, are there any stockists near you that sell to small holders or market gardeners? I'd go along for a look if I were you, people-skills aren't always too hot amongst professional horticulturalists in this country either, so I can imagine your phone calls.


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.


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