Date: 22 February 2003
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
Eight months ago, my girlfriend bought a Dracaena ‘Massangeana’, which now seems to be deteriorating: the ends of the leaves have turned brown. It’s positioned by our television, with light from two windows. I’ve tried watering it more, then watering it less. No change. Can you tell us what we’re doing wrong?
Your plant is Dracaena ‘Massangeana’, also known as the corn palm. It’s a popular houseplant, with a palm-like habit, native to tropical Africa and the Canary Islands. Firstly, brown-tipped leaves can be a sign of dry air, and this could be caused by central heating: misting every few days might help. Brown edges on the leaves could also indicate a build-up of salts in the soil or a reaction to fluoride in tap water. Flush the soil with water to leach out excess salt, and try watering with distilled water. Dracaena will tolerate low light, but prefer bright, indirect light, and if set outside in summer will need protection from direct sun. Give it a good soak weekly but don’t allow it to stand in water or dry out. Start feeding your plant this spring with a water-soluble fertiliser, and trim off brown tips with scissors, or cut it to the base and let it re-sprout.
I have a small lawn and would like to buy a hand-powered cylindrical mower. Where can I get one?
Qualcast has one called the ‘Panther 30’ which costs around 44.99. One of my oldest friends raves about his, so I have no hesitation in recommending one to you. Call 01449 742130 for stores or a brochure (qualcast.co.uk).
I have moved into a new house and inherited a garden. As I have no idea what is planted there, do you have any tips for telling the difference between a weed and, say, a wild flower?
When this happened to a friend of mine, she waited to see what came up and was delighted to discover a treasure trove of goodies. The dictionary classifies a weed as a ‘plant growing where undesired’; so if you don’t like it, yank it out. Weeds compete for the same light, water and nutrients as your loved plants, and can be annual (eg, groundsel), perennial (eg, ground elder) or woody (eg, bramble). A good gardening book will help identify the usual ones. Get rid with hoeing, hand-weeding or with the appropriate weedkiller.