Wilde side

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

I have a west-facing garden with fairly neutral soil. I want to lay new turf because the lawn has some large bare patches, mainly due to shade from shrubs and trees enclosing the garden. When is the best time of year to put down turf, and is there a particular type that would thrive in shady conditions?
The ideal time to lay turf is either September or March, when the ground is moist but not wet. However, it can be laid at any time when ground conditions are suitable, ie, not frozen, waterlogged or in time of drought. The important thing is to keep it watered until established. It is possible to get shade-tolerant turf – look up a local landscape contractor in the Yellow Pages. Shade-tolerant grass seed is available from garden centres for sowing in April. Lawns can have running battles with the shade cast by trees and shrubs, and also have to compete with them for moisture. I would plant dry, shade-tolerant plants at the base of trees and shrubs, for instance, Liriope muscari, an evergreen with purple flower spikes in autumn, Epimedium x perralchicum, which is also evergreen with pretty yellow flowers in spring, and my old favourite Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, with acid green spring flowers.

A farewell to Guardian readers

It’s time to say goodbye in my last Q&A column. I’ve loved reading your letters over the past two years, and I’ve certainly learned from you. I think we’ve proved that, despite what the textbooks say, plants are as likely to confound us as people are. It has also amazed me how often I’ve been stopped by people telling me how relieved they were to discover that someone else was experiencing precisely the same problem as them. So, I’m grateful to all those who have taken me on, pop-star credentials and all, and I shan’t be disappearing for ever – I hope to pop up in Guardian Weekend from time to time. In the meantime, I wish you a wonderful year in the garden, and remember, if you would have a lovely garden, you should have a lovely life.