Wilde side

Published in
The Guardian (UK)
Written by
Kim Wilde

Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.

I was going to cut down my tired old climbing rose, but saw new shoots at its base. Should I still give it the chop?
Check if the new shoots are suckers, which grow below the budding union (the bulge at the base of the main stem, where the plant has been grafted). If not, promote new growth by cutting old branches back to 1m and feeding with rose fertiliser. Cuts should be at a 45-degree angle, just above a bud, with the bud at the high point of the cut. The wound will heal much faster if it is cut close to a growth bud.

Can you explain the basics of pruning and feeding, please?
A one-line question with an answer as long as Labour's excuses for the NHS! But here goes. Pruning is the removal of parts of a plant to encourage it to grow, flower and fruit. All dead, diseased or damaged parts can be cut back to healthy growth at any time of year. Plants that flower on the current year's growth (usually from mid-summer into autumn) should be pruned in early spring. Those that flower in spring and early summer produce blooms on the previous year's growth: prune after flowering for summer growth that will produce flowers the next spring. Use sharp tools so as not to damage the stem: wounds can allow infection in. Now to feeding. Fertilisers are either organic (for example, manure) or man-made (made of nitrogen for leafy growth, phosphorus for roots and potassium for fruit and flowers). Feed during active plant growth, and after a heavy pruning, to cheer the plant up.

The yield from my potted broad beans and peas was pathetic this year. How can I improve production next year?
Peas and broad beans are legumes: plants that produce their seeds in pods. They grow best in fertile, well-drained soil to which compost (or some kind of organic matter) has been added to help retain moisture. Legumes can fix nitrogen in their roots, so they don't need a nitrogen fertiliser during their growth. If you feed them with a fertiliser high in potassium, this will encourage flowers and therefore a higher yield. Pots are prone to drying out, so add mulch to retain moisture.