Quick Questions & Answers
Q I read somewhere that you should prune blue-berries now, but thought they didn’t need it. Can you advise please? Sue Mann (via email)
A It’s the oldest brownish-black branches that need pruning. The red shoots are newish growth that you can leave to mature and fruit.
Q I have seen fantastic huge purple thistles that have bees all over them. Are they cardoons or artichokes? Hazel Bradley (via email)
A Thistles in general are very good for insects, being rich in nectar and pollen.
You could well have seen cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) or artichoke (Cynara scolymus) but it might also have been globe thistle (Echinops), sea holly (Eryngium), plume thistle (Cirsium rivulare) or milk thistle (Silybum marianum).
There are others too, more suited to a wild garden rather than cultivation, but still fitting the description.
Q What happened to my parsnips this year? Colin Jackson (via email)
A The usual cause of misshapen parsnip roots is stony soil. Root tips are damaged and respond by ‘forking’.
Then again, if you have fortified the site with relatively fresh manure, it is probable that root tips have been burnt, and then grown again.
Ideally, grow parsnips on soil that was manured the previous year, working in a balanced fertiliser, such as Vitex Q4, before sowing.