Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

Can you suggest a lasting method to clear a back garden lost to brambles? When would be the best time to do it?
Brambles can be particularly vicious when you try to pull them out. Their thorns pierce through the toughest gloves, and their whippy stems have a habit of lacerating you from behind. It’s definitely worth considering a local forestry firm or landscape contractor for total elimination without war wounds. If you’re feeling energetic this winter, you could always grab a mattock, dig them out and burn them. Or how about a ‘Bash the Bramble’ party, where you invite your friends over to do the job with you – a steady supply of mulled wine and mince pies should work wonders. Effective chemical solutions include SBK Brushwood and Root Out, which are recommended by garden centres and are best used in the spring, when active growth begins.

Can you advise me about using horse dung in a vegetable garden? How long should one wait before planting vegetables in it?
Working manure into the soil helps to conserve moisture and nutrients, and improves drainage. Manure that is not turned over regularly will take longer to become well rotted – anything up to a year. Apply lots of the stuff in autumn, ready for planting crops next year. If planting onion sets or garlic this winter, make sure that the manure has had a few weeks to settle before planting.

I have a beautiful town garden which is plagued by squirrels. They dig up the lawn and (I suspect) they ate the rhubarb I was trying to grow. How can I keep them at bay?
While nuts are plentiful, squirrels will be busy burying them in lawns and elsewhere in the garden. They’re stockpiling to survive the winter months. One way of deterring them is by confusing their sense of smell. Dip rags in a strong smelling substance such as petrol or creosote, and attach them to stakes placed around the garden. Bulbs are particularly vulnerable to being dug up and can be protected by placing chicken wire just under the surface of the soil.