Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

I have a problem with liverwort in my garden (the soil is heavy clay). I have tried adding sand to the soil, as well as ferrous sulphate, but I can never get rid of it. What should I do?
Mosses and liverworts, still haranguing us in the 21st century – fantastic. (Sorry, got a bit carried away there…) Liverworts will thrive in areas of poor air circulation, where it is damp and the earth is allowed to compact slightly on the surface. To improve the conditions, you need to disturb the soil around your plants with a hoe, and then apply a mulch of bark chips about 5-10cm deep, allowing the first 5cm to be dug into the soil. There is a ready-to-use spray called Organic Weed Control, by PBI (check out pbi.co.uk for a local supplier), but this will only give you a short-term solution.

We have grown vegetables for the first time this year, and were wondering if there is anything we could plant now, to get next season’s crop off to an early start?
Broad beans, such as the variety ‘Aquadulce’, can be sown outdoors in fertilised soil any time up to late February – remember to pinch out the growing tip once the first pods have formed, as this will deter blackfly. Garlic is very easy to grow, and can be planted from the autumn through to early spring. Shallot sets are traditionally planted on the shortest day of the year (December 21 or 22) and harvested on the longest (June 21).

Blue tits nested in our bird box last year. Should the old nesting material and contents be removed? If so, when is the best time of year to do this?
It’s a good idea to clean out the nest box once a year with boiling water, as parasites often lay eggs in the nesting material. Do this several weeks after the young birds have left the nest, as they often return to roost for a while. To be on the safe side, though, you should leave the job until autumn or even now, making sure the box is completely dry before re-positioning it. For more information, contact the RSPB on 01767 680551 (RSPB).