Your Gardening Questions, Answered

Hints & tips

For the last few weeks our resident gardener, Ralph Hoare, who at 104 years old, also happens to be the oldest gardener in the UK, has been taking a look at your gardening questions to offer his many pearls of wisdom- he’s had a few years practice after all. We’ve had loads of really great questions but unfortunately, Ralph hasn't been able to answer all of them yet, those roses don’t look after themselves. We’ve picked questions that cover quite a lot of the topics people have asked about and some that Ralph just liked…


Sonja Barfoed - Are there any plants from your childhood that you don't see around much anymore?

Virginia Stocks, Sweet Williams and Solomon's Seal.


Charlie Farrell - Where is the best place to plant a rose?

Where it has plenty of sunshine, is sheltered and has a good draining soil.


Jacksons Nurseries - Out of all the roses that you grow, which is your favourite and why?

My favourite rose is Papa Meilland because of its dark red colour and strong scent, but unfortunately it does not grow well with me. I also like Great Expectations and Champagne Moment.


Felicity Morris - I keep a lavender plant on my windowsill which, although still flowering, has quite a few dead stalks - should I prune it? Thanks!

Cut out all the dead bits and prune after flowering.


Carla Nicholls - Hello Ralph! Can you recommend any interesting plants for a window box please? I'm new to gardening!

Grow salad -- pea shoots, baby lettuce and rocket -- in succession and keep well watered. They will look nice and do you good at the same time.


Shaj - I really like snow drops and have never grown them before, how do I do it?

Buy some now 'in the green' (just flowered) and plant them in a shady spot, under a tree for instance.


Gemma Pettman – What’s best to grow in a flower bed that never gets much sun?

Dog violets and primroses (for the spring), Michaelmas daisies (last a long time) and Aquilegia (lovely colours and shapes).


Debbie - Can roses be pruned when the days are ok but the temperature at night is still dipping well below zero regularly?

Best not to. But my roses have survived a cold night or too after pruning this year.


Bongani Zulu - How do I keep weeds out of the lawn?

Dig them up with a special hand weeding tool, or just enjoy them! Keep the lawn mowed short.


Tiffany Francis - Do you think gardening has contributed to your longevity?

Gardening keeps me on the move and my mind active. The thought of my garden in bloom gives me the willpower to continue through the winter.


Alison Woodhouse - Was thinking of planting herbs in hanging basket, what would you recommend?

Thyme, basil, oregano, lemon balm, savory and mint are good. Nasturtiums look pretty and are edible. Water well and turn the basket regularly.


Rachy Robots - Can you recommend a good scented disease resistant rose bush that can take some shade? A big ask I know but I have bad rose luck!

Gertrude Jekyll and Queen of Sweden


Willbates - When should I start growing my tomatoes?

Plant seedlings now. I’ve just been preparing my pots with some good horse manure mixed in. Keep well watered.


Sheila Fey - What's the perfect mix for a vegetable garden's soil base?

Lots of good compost and rotted manure. You need to identify your soil and get the ph to between 6 and 7.


David Blackwell -Ralph we admire your beautiful garden every year. Can you tell us what your secret is to keeping such fragrant roses?

If you call me over the fence I’ll tell you! Can’t do it in 140 characters.


Erin - How do I keep slugs off my veg patch?

Don’t have dank spots where they can hide, hoe regularly, clear up vegetable debris and you could put out a shallow bowl of beer to drown them in.


HT - Hi Ralph, how can I get rid of moss growing in my small front lawn in a simple way without chemicals please?

You need to try and find out the cause of your moss in the first place. The lawn could be too wet, too dry, too compacted. Then contact me again!


Terry Antony Chaplin - Indoor plant question, I have an Anthuriem, lady love plant… but it has never flowered! It’s got lots of leaves. Any ideas?

I’m sorry, I don’t really know much about house plants.


Susie Q – Please can you tell me how to get rid of black spot on roses

Jeyes fluid sprayed on the ground around your roses at the beginning of the year, then spray with Roseclear or similar. Keep the ground clear of rose debris.


Marcello Spero - My roses' leaves turn yellow in patches, then drop. I fear a mosaic virus, nobody can help me. Can you #askralph about that?

If you’re sure that’s what it is, I think you will have to get rid of the infected plant and replace with an obviously healthy specimen.


Rosemary Peers - Does Ralph have any tips on growing sunflowers?

Choose the strongest of seedlings, feed and water regularly. They need a lot of sun, surprisingly enough!


Carrie Bennett - what veg can I grow in a shady clay soil plot? Any tips or advice welcome

Potatoes (there’s still time to grow some, add plenty of compost), celeriac, cabage, broccoli, caulifower and Brussels sprouts


Kate Gee - my geranium's started to get a pinky colour in its leaves. My mum thinks I might have overfed it! Any idea why this might happen?

Could be lack of magnesium or keeping them too dry.


Richard W Bevis - Ralph: can i move rhubarb in the spring or do I have to wait for autumn?

It's best moved in the early spring while it's still dormant. Put in lots of manure.


Jill - How wonderful to still be gardening at 104!! Any tips for pretty coastal plants?

Fuchsia, crocosmia, thrift (sea pink) and fleabane and the shrub Rosa Rugosa are all pretty.


Stevie Arnold - Ralph how do I get rid of mares tail in my veg plots ? Thanks Ralph your doing a great job.

Use a weedkiller in late summer. You might have to do it several times as it is very persistent!


Granny Jan - when it the best time to put nematoads on the garden?

Now or in June.


Peter Renfrew - how can I get rid of moles? Tried humane trap, they don't fall for it but don't really want to kill them

Call in a molecatcher?


Erin - Looking for an evergreen shrub to grow in mostly shade, clay soil

What about hydrangeas, mahonia, catoneaster or pyracantha?


Kat - What is the best fast-growing evergreen for along a fence line?

Clematis armandii, euonymus, pyracantha and mahonia aquifolium should all fit the bill.


Dragon Realm ?- if i was going to set up a greenhouse what would be the best way to go about it as i want to grow some tomatoes could you help thx

I would buy a book to help you with this, or look at online forums.


gibbee - Not very successful with roses (hybrid teas). What am I doing wrong?

They like sun and good drainage. Don't water late in the evening and give them rose fertiliser in June, not later.


Mountain & Molehill - what plants would grow in a very tiny north facing courtyard city garden. Not much sun and mainly pots.

Clematis armandii a climber, hellebores and vincas for early spring, busy Lizzies and pansies for summer, spinach and mint for veg.


Ralph is going to be taking more questions during April and May and he’ll try and answer as many as he can. Send your questions to or via our Twitter  (put your question to @officialFV and include #AskRalph with your question) or Facebook