Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

We want to make a small, raised vegetable bed, about 30cm deep. What’s the best soil mixture to put in, and which vegetables will be most productive in this type of cultivation?
The best soil would be John Innes No 3. Add an annual application of good compost or manure in autumn, to raise the bed’s fertility, as well as improve drainage and water-holding capacity. Think about crop rotation; not growing the same crop on the same soil year after year helps to prevent pests and diseases. Also, search out the mini-vegetables in seed catalogues. I recommend Pippa Greenwood’s book, Pippa’s Organic Kitchen Garden (Dorling Kindersley, 7.99).

I have managed to grow a rambutan from the seed of a fruit. It has grown about 2ft in only a few months, but is rather spindly and precarious. It is on the windowsill in our kitchen. Can it go outside? And can you give advice on care and maintenance?
Rambutan ( Nephelium lappaceum ) is native to Malaysia, and is an evergreen tree that produces a lychee-like fruit. It requires a tropical climate, so it’s not hardy and will damage at temperatures below 40F. Your plant will benefit from a moist but well-drained soil with a high content of organic matter. A monthly feed, and pinching out of developing shoots, should help stop it becoming too spindly.

We have a small pond with several fish, which we installed this summer, but we are concerned that it might ice over this winter. Is there something we could do to prevent this? Will a floating ball do the trick?
Noxious gas can build up and kill fish if ice prevents it from escaping – and, of course, fish need oxygen. A ball on the pool surface is not enough to keep an ice hole open. Pond heaters can be attached to the pump supply (pumps should be removed from the pond in winter), and cost around 30. Standing a pan of hot water on the ice will melt a hole gradually; you may need several refills. Never smash thick ice, as this may concuss or even kill the fish.