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Talkback: Summer berries

I am a kind of part-time gardener, having a busy 9 to 5 job and my hobby being long distance cycling. So I have organised a garden that doesn't require a lot of help to keep in good order. I am therefore quite annoyed that Gardeners World appears to take a relaxed view of using insecticides and pesticides in the small garden. If I don't need to use these abhorrent substances no-one does.
The fate of the bumble and honey bee is in our hands. I was able to buy only one jar and one honeycomb from my local apiarist this season due to the near-demise of his bees. You should be advising people how to totally avoid use of chemicals. For example I go out in the garden with a torch in the evening and pick up all the slugs by hand and put them out in the morning for the gulls and crows to eat. DDT was banned throughout Europe as a direct result of research into the alarming decline in peregrine falcon numbers. The same fate may await the potions we are using in our gardens if bee numbers decline further. I have also noted an even more alarming decrease of butterflies visiting my garden in the last two years


  • Last winter, we experienced the lowest temperatures in my lifetime. My bay tree had sat happily outside in a pot for 6 years with no ill effect. Last September I planted it in a shady spot in the garden and it continued to thrive. Sadly the leaves gradually turned brown and hard when the temperature hit minus 16 celsius, even though I covered it with a bell cloche. I finally got round to putting it in the garden bin yesterday when, to my utter delight,I found it is not dead. There are 6 tiny bright green leaves right at the base. I have now removed the barren branches and look forward to a beautiful new tree flourishing.
  • A vegetarian friend has asked what to use if you don't want to use gelatine, which is derived from animals. You can use Agar Agar instead (made from seaweed).
    You can find it in good health food shops and sometimes in supermarkets in the vegetarian section.
  • I can recommend jostaberries for those who hate the prickles of gooseberries - they are a cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant. I treat mine like a blackcurrant and prune a third away each year after harvesting. They are delicious raw and you can use them as substitutes in blackcurrant or gooseberry recipes.
  • Talking about bees etc ,i have a bird box full of bees on my garden fence,initialy placed there to encourage the birds to nest,apparently,these are french bees ,
  • I planted some Larkspur seeds in the spring. Have just taken a better look at what has come up and the whole area, which I believed would be covered in pink and blue loveliness, was in fact some sort of mayweed! Has anyone else found the same ? The mayweed was ONLY in the spot where the larkspur should have been in quite a large newly created bed of annuals. M.C.
  • Sadly, strawberries and high humidity don't mix. I fear you will encourage fungal diseases and rotting fruit...
    At least you have lots of exotic alternatives.
  • Don't forget the berries that are for FREE !! Elder growing wild is excellent for making wine with the flowers. Or leave the flowers to turn into berries and make jam with them - easy in your microwave and the berries are a rich source of vitamin C.
  • Hello Lila
    I planted red & black currant bushes for the first time this year & didn't know that I should have cut the stems back to 2 inches after planting. I know it's too late for flowers & fruit this year. Will they be ok if I cut them back now, at over two feet high or should I wait? What do you advise.
  • I have jsut got an allotment for the first time this year and am growing many things. I have never grown potatoes before and they are doing well but have just noticed that they have what looks line a vine of white balls growing off of the plants. What is this and should it be removed or not?
  • Hello Dragonfly,
    Don't worry about cutting them back now, lots of people cut them back at harvest time so that they can pick the berries more easily. It shouldn't be a problem. The main thing is to keep them very well watered - it's been a very dry summer.
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