In this section we’ve provided answers to our customers most Frequently Asked Questions. We’ve tried to cover a variety of topics, from jargon busting and general gardening tips to delivery information and our plant guarantee. Simply click on the question to reveal the answer (a second click will hide).

 

General gardening questions:

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Q. Why does my azalea have yellow leaves and what should I do about it?

Yellowing leaves on an azalea is caused by iron deficiency. Being ericaceous plants, Azaleas thrive in a low lime environment. If you have alkaline soil, then your azalea will be having trouble absorbing sufficient iron to keep it fit and healthy. Haskins recommends feeding it regularly with a specialist plant food, such as Miracle-Gro Liquid Ericaceous Plant Food – a fast-acting tonic that combats iron-deficiency and boosts lack-lustre blooms. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. My lawn is very mossy what can I do?

Moss growing in the lawn is usually a symptom for an underlying cause.

The cause could be one of the following:

• That the site is too shady

• That the soil itself may not have sufficient drainage

• That the grass is starved of nutrients making it weak, vulnerable and in need of food.

Whatever the cause, if you don’t deal with the underlying problem the chances are that the moss will return even after you have removed it all. So if you have moss in your lawn here are some points to consider:

1. Do a soil test, if your soil is heavy clay it will require annual addition of sharp sand to improve drainage.

2. Aerate your lawn every autumn, using a machine or hand-tool that removes a plug, refilling the holes with sharp sand.

3. Scarify your lawn every Autumn. Use a decent lawn rake rather than a machine because machines don’t tend get all of the moss. Raking a lawn with a rake is also an excellent way to keep fit! You can also lightly rake the lawn in Spring, removing further thatch and moss.

4. If moss is a problem on shady patches of the lawn there are shade tolerant grass seed varieties that may be more successful in such conditions.

5. Keep your lawn healthy by feeding it regularly with a fertiliser high in Nitrogen. Well-fed, healthy lawns will compete strongly against moss. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. My daffodils didn’t produce any flowers this year. Why?

When Daffodils do not produce flowers they are said to be blind. There are many possible reasons that Daffodils do not flower, these are:

1. The site is too shady, Daffodils prefer full sun or light shade.

2. A high Nitrogen feed has been used in the area where the Daffodils are growing to feed other plants, resulting in excessive leafy growth at the expense of flowers.

3. The leaves have been cut back prematurely in the previous year. Daffodil leaves should be withered and brown before they are cut back.

4. There has not been enough rain during the growing season.

5. There has been too much rain during the period of dormancy. If the soil is waterlogged the bulb will rot.

6. The clump of daffodils has become congested. Dig up the clump and only replant the best, healthiest bulbs. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. What does FSC on furniture mean?

The Forest Stewardship Council enables you to buy forest products of all kinds with confidence that you are not contributing to global forest destruction. FSC certified forests are managed to ensure long term timber supplies while protecting the environment and the lives of forest-dependent people. FSC certification can also cover non-timber forest products such as latex and foods.

How does FSC promote responsible forest management?

FSC has developed a system of forest certification and product labeling that allows consumers to identify wood and wood-based products from well-managed forests.

How does the FSC system work?
Forests are inspected and certified against strict standards based on FSC’S 10 Principles of Forest Stewardship. These inspections are undertaken by independent organisations, such as the Soil Association, that are accredited by the FSC. In order to be given FSC certification a forest must be managed in an environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable manner. This is what makes the FSC system unique and ensures that a forest is well-managed from the protection of indigenous people’s rights to the methods of felling trees. Forests that meet these strict standards are given FSC certification and the timber is allowed to carry the FSC label.

What does the FSC label mean?

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on a wood or wood based product is your assurance that it is made with, or contains, wood that comes from FSC certified forests or from post-consumer waste.

Which products carry the label?

The FSC label is currently found on over 10,000 product lines in the UK alone. You’ll find it on garden furniture, decking, sheds, conservatories, tools, bird boxes and bird tables, kitchen, bathroom and general house wares, brushes, wall paper, flooring, doors, shelves, furniture, toilet tissue, paper, pencils – in fact most things made from wood. It can also be found on less obvious items such as charcoal.

Why is the FSC trademark different from forest certification schemes?
There are a number of other forest certification schemes around but they do not have the same strict environmental, social and economic standards or such a rigorous chain of custody; tracking timber from the forest to the final user. Therefore the FSC is the only one endorsed by the major environment charities including WWF, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Woodland Trust.

Do FSC certified products cost more?
Like all products it depends on the availability but on the whole familiar items will be roughly the same price as non-FSC items. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. My pots state that they are frost resistant on them. What does this mean?

This does not mean that they are frost proof. Nothing is completely frost proof and most pots, regardless of what it is made of, if filled with water and allowed to freeze will crack.

How frost resistant a pot is can be determined by the firing temperature of the pot and the type of clay it has been from. However, the important thing to remember is to ensure that the pot is well drained. Do this by raising it off the ground using pot feet of small stones and keeping the drainage holes in the base of the pot free from obstruction.

Terracotta pots are very vulnerable in the winter due to their porous nature. Treating the pot with a sealant may prolong the life of the pot but water may still soak into the surface of the pot and then freeze. This causes the surface to flake.

Earthenware pots are normally glazed. They are normally less porous than terracotta pots and tend to be more durable over the winter. However, the unglazed areas, such as inside the pot, are still slightly porous and can absorb water and therefore be vulnerable to frost damage. In bad winter conditions the glaze on the pots may blow out or flake off. It is important to keep these pots well drained at all times.

The most durable type of pot is the stoneware or salt glazed pot. These are fired at a much higher temperature than other pots. The firing makes the types of clay vitrify, meaning that the clay particles bond together so that water molecules are too big to be absorbed into the pot. The water proof nature of the pot makes them more durable in frosty conditions. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. How do I control weeds on my lawn?

The following are suggested:

• Use a daisy grubber to remove shallow rooted, rosette forming weeds from the lawn

• Stubborn rosette forming lawn weeds can be painted with a herbicide gel

• Tackle coarse grasses growing in the lawn by slashing through the crown with a knife before mowing

• Rake the stems of weeds with long runners to the surface before mowing lawns. Regular mowing will eventually weaken and kill the weed

• Haskins recommend that lawns that are smothered with weeds and moss are best treated with a weed and feed product. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. Why is it important that I know what type of soil I have in my garden?

Different plants thrive in varying soils, so it is important and to know what feeds or treatments can be applied to help balance or match in your soil to your plants.

You can test your soil acidity with a simple soil testing kit available to purchase from Haskins. Most plants prefer a pH of 6.5 to 7 , however Ericaceous plants (e.g. rhododendrons) need acid soil, while plants such as lilacs grow better in alkaline soil. A simple way of finding out the type of soil in your garden is by rubbing some damp soil between your fingers:

• Clay soil will be sticky and be easy to roll into a ball

• Sandy soil will feel gritty and won’t hold together

• Silty soil will feel silky, and while it won’t hold together into a ball like clay it will make a roll

• Loamy soil is brown and crumbly in texture and has a lot of organic matter in it

• Chalky soil is very light and doesn’t hold water well. When digging you will find chunks of white chalk or flint. Chalky soil is always alkaline

• Peaty soil is almost black and spongy to touch and holds a lot of water [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. Why do I need to feed my garden?

Feeding garden plants provides the best opportunity for them to thrive. Here are a few tips on giving your garden a healthy diet containing the right nutrients for your plants.

• Feed beds and borders in the spring with a slow release fertiliser around plants

• Vegetables will also thrive if fed three times a year with a slow release fertiliser

• Use a liquid fertiliser weekly to keep flowers in pots healthy during the peak growing and flowering season

• Mix controlled release fertiliser granules into compost mixes to feed container grown plants over a long period

• Fork organic matter into soil before planting in the spring and mulch existing permanent plant displays with a thick layer of organic matter

• If a plant appears unhealthy, use a fast-acting, quick release liquid plant food to give it a pick me up. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. How do I change the colour of my hydrangeas?

The colour of most hydrangeas (not white ones) varies due to the Ph of the soil which affects the aluminium availability. Typically they grow blue in acid soil conditions, mauve in acid to neutral soil conditions, and pink in alkaline conditions.

Mophead cultivators are the only ones that it is possible to change the colour of. Encouraging colour change can be tricky and if not done correctly can have a negative effect on the plant’s health. To change hydrangea blooms to pink the plant must not take up aluminium from the soil. To do this try adding dolomitic lime to the soil several times a year to help raise the pH level. Alternatively, use a high level phosphorus fertiliser. Look for a fertilizer with a ration of 25/10/10.

To change hydrangea blooms to blue, aluminium must be present in the soil. To ensure this add hydrangea colourant to the soil, following the manufactures guidelines carefully. Before adding this colourant make sure the plant is well watered to prevent the roots from being burnt. An alternative method of lowering the pH is to add organic matter to the soil such as coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peel, grass clippings or using iron sulphate. Using a fertilizer low in phosphorus and high in potassium will also help. 

One of the best ideas for growing hydrangeas is to grow them in a large pot where the soil and growing requirements are easier to control. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. What does companion planting mean?

Companion planting is where you plant certain plants in near proximity to benefit each other. It is an ancient gardening tradition that’s primarily about pest control where different plants attract beneficial insects. Companion planting also helps to create plant communities where the plants help each other by providing nutrients in the soil and offering protection from the wind and sun. 

Another theory is that because pests find their host plants through taste and smell mixing different crops together makes it harder for the pests to find their host plants and to travel through the crop. 

For this method of planting to be most successful, make sure companion plants are planted at the same time as the edible crop to prevent pests from getting a foothold.

Here are some companion planting suggestions:

• Plant French Marigolds in between tomato plants to deter aphids

• Planting nasturtiums in with cabbages attracts caterpillars which will then leave the cabbages alone

• Garlic planted among roses will ward off aphids

• Grow dill in the garden to attract aphid-eating hoverflies [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. How can I reduce the amount of water I use in my garden?

It is essential, particularly in periods of drought, that water is used wisely in the garden. Water saving tips include:

• Mulching flower beds and borders to prevent moisture loss

• Water in the evenings when the temperature is cooler and evaporation is reduced

• Fitting an automatic irrigation system to target watering and run at night

• Use a water butt or recycle grey water from the house

• Mix water-retaining gel with your compost in baskets and containers

• Raise the blade on the lawn mower so that grass becomes deeper rooted and loses less moisture from evaporation [bg_faq_end]

 

Pests & diseases:

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Q. How can I prevent cats from damaging my garden?

Cats can cause general damage to the garden and are a particular nuisance when they use it as a toilet.

The Animals Act of 1971 states that owners are obliged to keep their pets under control. However, it excludes cats which are treated as wild. Scaring away or removing the cat is allowed, but you may not cause it harm. 

Here are a few suggestions for deterring them from your garden:

• Plant coleus canina ‘Scaredy Cat’. Cats do not like the smell of this plant and so avoid it.

• Try an ultrasonic cat scarer. These are portable and run off batteries and so can be placed wherever necessary. The unit is triggered when the cat walks in front of the PIR detector and emits a high frequency noise. Because cats have highly sensitive hearing they will run away.

• Keep a water pistol to hand and squirt the cat when you see it. It will soon deter them from your garden.

• Placing mirrors on the ground where the cat enters the garden will scare them. Also try filling bottles with water and place where the cats enter the garden. Cats will see their enlarged reflection and think they are in a larger cat’s territory.

• Hang moth balls where the cat is entering the garden as they do not like the smell. They will need replacing from time to time as the smell fades. However, you may find that hedgehogs are also put off by the smell of the moth balls.

• Mixing orange or lemon peel with water and watering a post may deter the cat, or try sprinkling some dry ground chilli peppers over the area you wish to keep cats off.

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Water gardening & the pond:

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Q. How can I stop my pond from freezing over?

We recommend that you never smash the ice as the shock waves can kill the fish. Instead install a heater before the Winter, which must be installed by a trained electrician as required by law. Switch the heater on when a frost is expected, to melt a hole in the ice. Alternatively stand a pan of hot water on the surface to melt a hole.

Expanding ice can damage a pond by putting excessive amounts of pressure on the walls of the pond. At Haskins we recommend a float made from polystyrene or an inflatable ball, which will absorbs some of this pressure. After removing the float it is possible to siphon out some of the water to create an air pocket below the ice.

It is important that the pond does not freeze over completely as it traps gases such as methane and hydrogen sulphide that result from the decomposition of decaying plant material and are poisonous to fish if levels build up. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. How can I prevent heron from stealing my pond fish?

A heron can clear a pond of fish very quickly. Herons are protected and so it is against the law to harm them. Here are some suggestions for preventing the theft:

• Cover the pond with netting, or install a steel grate over the top if small children may go near the pond.

• Place a decoy heron in or around the pond. Herons are territorial and will be discouraged from landing if they see a bird already feeding. Move the decoy regularly, herons will realise that it is a decoy if it doesn’t move!

• A fishing line supported 18″ above the surface of the pond will discourage herons from feeding as they land and walk into the water – they do not like anything touching their legs. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. How can I prevent algae growth in my pond?

New or recently cleaned ponds can suffer problems with algae. Providing some shade can help reduce this problem. Ironically a covering of Lemna (duckweed) can provide sufficient shade to help suppress the algae until cultivated aquatic plants establish sufficiently to suppress the duckweed’s proliferation. Other helpful measures include filling the pond with rain water rather than tap water, avoiding getting soil or multipurpose compost in the pond (as these contain fertilisers that encourage algal growth), and taking care to remove plant debris from the water promptly. Always use specialist aquatic compost for planting up pond baskets.[bg_faq_end]

 

Gardening terminology:

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Q. What does herbaceous mean?

A Herbaceous plant has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to soil level are known as herbaceous. A herbaceous plant can be biennial or perennial. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. What does ericaceous mean?

Ericaceous plants are usually heathers such as pieris, rhododendron, camellia and vaccinium, which all like acid soil. These plants are also known as lime-hating or calcifuge plants. Ericaceous plants are best grown in peaty lime free soils as Lime or chalk in the soil will often turn the leaves yellow. If your soil does contain lime, you can still grow them in containers or beds filled with lime-free, ericaceous compost. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. What is an annual plant?

Annual plants live for only one growing season, during which they produce seeds and then die. Familiar annual plants include impatiens, zinnias, and sunflowers. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. What is a biennial plant?

A biennial is a plant that lives for two growing seasons before setting seed and dying. It germinates and grows from seed for a summer, overwinters one time, then blooms and sets seed the following summer, then it dies. An example of a biennial plant is some types of foxglove. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. What does the term perennial mean?

The term perennial is reserved for plants that live for more than two years; examples include daylilies, hostas and peonies.

Technically speaking, trees and shrubs are perennial plants – they live for more than two years. But in common usage the term perennial refers to herbaceous perennials: non-woody plants that die back to the ground each Autumn, then regrow in Spring. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. What does deadheading mean?

Deadheading is the removal of flowers from plants when the flowers are fading or dead. It is done for maintaining appearance and improving performance.

Flowers can lose their attraction as they fade, spoiling the overall appearance of bedding schemes or individual plants – particularly where the display is in a container or extends over several weeks. Flowers with numerous petals, such as peonies, some camellias and many roses if allowed to drop as they fade, may scatter widely.

Flowers which have been pollinated soon fade, shed their petals and begin to form seed heads, pods or capsules. Energy is channelled into development of usually unwanted seeds, slowing further growth and flower development. Regular deadheading directs energy into stronger growth and improved performance and encourages the plant to flower again. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. What does NPK mean on fertiliser packets?

Many of the fertilisers at Haskins will display NPK on the packet, which represents the key constituent chemical elements Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).

The percentages of each chemical element are shown as numbers, e.g. 10-8-12, where the first number is N, the second P and the third K.

Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium promote plant growth in 3 different ways. These are:

N – Nitrogen: promotes the growth of leaves and vegetation
P – Phosphorous: promotes root growth
K – Potassium: promotes flower and fruit growth

The NPK values help you to identify the best fertiliser for the job in hand. For example, lawn fertilisers are typically higher in Nitrogen to promote leafy growth of the grass.

A balanced fertiliser is when the 3 chemical nutrients NPK are included in equal measures and reflected so in the ratio e.g. 5:5:5. A balanced fertiliser is good for all round, general use. [bg_faq_end]

 

Pruning:

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Q. What is pruning?

Pruning the selective removal of specific plant parts. Shoots and branches are the main targets for removal, however, roots, flower buds, fruits and seed pods may also be pruned.

Why is pruning necessary?
 There are several reasons why it may be necessary to prune plants. Here are some of them:

1. To improve the appearance or health of a plant. Prompt removal of diseased, damaged, or dead plant parts speeds the formation of callus tissue, and sometimes limits the spread of insects and disease. For trees, pruning a dense canopy permits better air circulation and sunlight penetration.

2. To control the size of a plant. Pruning reduces the size of a plant so that it remains in better proportion with your landscape. Pruning can also decrease shade, prevent interference with utility lines, and allow better access for pest control.

3. To prevent personal injury or property damage. Remove dead or hazardously low limbs to make underlying areas safer. Corrective pruning also reduces wind resistance in trees. Prune shrubs with thorny branches back from walkways and other well-travelled areas. Have trained or certified arborists handle any pruning work in the crowns of large trees.

4. To train young plants. Train main scaffold branches (those that form the structure of the canopy) to produce stronger and more vigorous trees. Pruning often begins with young plants for bonsai, topiary, espalier, or other types of special plant training.

5. To influence fruiting and flowering. Proper pruning of flower buds encourages early vegetative growth. You can also use selective pruning to stimulate flowering in some species, and to help produce larger (though fewer) fruits in others.

6. To rejuvenate old trees and shrubs. As trees and shrubs mature, their forms may become unattractive. Pruning can restore vigour, and enhance the appearance of these plants. 

What tools do I need?

Hand pruners (secateurs) can be used to cut stems up to 1.50cm in diameter.
Two types are available:

• Bypass pruners – sharpened, curved, scissors-type blades that overlap

• Anvil pruners – straight upper blades that cut against flat lower plates. 



Lopping Shears can be used to cut through branches up to 4.50cm in diameter. Loppers have long handles that give you extra reach and better cutting leverage.

Loppers are available with ratchet joints and gears for heavy duty pruning jobs. 

Pruning Saws are available to remove stems that cannot be reached with hand pruners or lopping shears. These come with either straight or curved blades and with fine or coarse teeth. Fine toothed saws are used for branches with 6cm diameter. The coarse toothed saws may be used for heavier branches with diameters of 7.50cm or more.

Pole Pruners may be used to cut out of reach branches with a diameter of up to 5cm. They may be used when the use of a ladder is not possible. These consist of a spring loaded blade attached to a stationary hook mounted on a long pole. The cutting action is controlled by a cord or chain. 

Chain Saws may be used to remove branches greater than 7.50cm in diameter. Chain saws may be petrol or electric. Care should be taken when selecting the type of chain saw. Consideration needs to be made about the tasks it will be used for which will determine the size of engine and length of blade. Great care should be taken over their use and chain saws should be used only with appropriate safety gear by people who fully understand their operation. 

Hedge Clippers or pruning shears are used to trim thin-stemmed hedges. Hedge clippers may be manual, electric or petrol driven. They shear off growth in a straight line. With repeated shearing, hedges develop a profusion of outer twigs, die back in the centre and often show an increase in pest problems. [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. How and when do I prune my clematis?

There are three points to remember:

1. Clematis flower quite happily in the wild and they are never pruned!
2. The key to Clematis pruning is to establish which wood it flowers on; new or old
3. Consider feeding your Clematis with a specialist Clematis food after pruning

All Clematis plants can be split into two groups:

Clematis that flower on wood that was produced last year.
To see if the Clematis is flowering on wood that was produced last year, look at the shoots that are flowering to see if they are woody and tough. Are there other obvious signs that the flowering wood has been maturing for some months? Clematis that flower on previous year’s growth tend to flower early but there are also some Clematis that flower early on current season’s growth so be careful to confirm the age of the wood. If you think that your Clematis is flowering on shoots produced last year prune it immediately after flowering has finished. This allows your Clematis a whole year to produce the wood that will flower at the same time next year. Prune back to a strong, healthy looking pair of buds. How low down the plant you prune is up to you, if you have spent many hours training your Clematis, through a trellis for example you might not want to waste all you hard work by cutting back to 6 inches from the ground. As long as you prune to a healthy pair of buds, you cannot go wrong. As with any pruning, remove any dead or weak shoots.

Clematis that flower on wood that has been produced in the current growing season.
These Clematis produce flowers on wood that is new, produced in the current growing season. They can flower at any time. Prune Clematis that flower on current season’s wood in late Winter or early Spring. They can be pruned hard, often to within 6 inches of the ground. Just make sure you don’t prune any lower than where you can see active signs of life i.e. pairs of plump, healthy growth buds. Remember the harder you prune the more vigour this will generate in the plant’s reaction, if you are brave you will be rewarded! Hard pruning of this type of Clematis will result in lots of new young shoots that will all produce flowers.

If your Clematis has grown 20ft along a Pergola, is very tangled, but flowers beautifully every year don’t bother pruning it! [bg_faq_end] [bg_faq_start]

Q. When is the best time to prune forsythia?

The best time to prune your Forsythia is immediately after flowering. Cut out the shoots that have flowered, leaving the young, flowerless shoots ready for flowering next Spring.

If your Forsythia has not been properly pruned for a number of years it may well have become congested and choked with old wood. If this is the case, hard, drastic pruning can be used to trigger many young shoots that will still flower next Spring. [bg_faq_end]