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Facebook Questions and Answers for the 3rd February 2012

Hello Facebook fans, thanks for your questions this week, here are Carly's replies:

Edie Mercer

Can you grow ginger?

Hi Edie, ginger is an interesting spice to grow - there are some lovely examples of it growing in the tropical biome at the Eden Project. This gives you some idea of the conditions it likes! Ginger is quite slow growing so you probably won't get a large crop. You'll need to start with a piece of ginger showing some buds (these look like little horns around the edges of the ginger rhizome). Plant your ginger about 5-10cm deep in a good quality multipurpose or loam-based compost. Place the pot somewhere warm and bright - ginger likes a minimum temperature of 28 °C at all times. You'll also need to keep humidity high by misting the leaves with water, unless you grow your ginger in a greenhouse which you damp down in warm weather anyway. Ginger is not suitable for growing outside in the UK due to low night time temperatures and low humidity.

Once your ginger starts to grow, feed it every two or three weeks with a general purpose liquid feed. Make sure you keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. In the autumn stop watering your ginger plant and let the compost dry out which should encourage the plant to form rhizomes. Once the foliage has died back you can use the rhizomes for cooking. Let us know how you get on if you do try growing some ginger Edie.

Cathy Johnson

I planted some garlic in the autumn, it's coming up nicely, but I'm a little worried about the weather forecast. Do I need to protect the new shoots from snow and ice?

Hi Cathy, garlic is very hardy and can cope with frosts and cold weather well so I wouldn't worry too much. The year before last, my garlic sprouted in the autumn and came through the December snow and ice unharmed! Severe fluctuating temperatures in the spring are more likely to cause damage, but this is rare in our climate. If your garlic shoots are quite tall and we get heavy snow fall it's probably worth mulching around the shoots with straw or shredded paper to support the weight of the snow. If the foliage becomes crushed this could disrupt the development of the bulbs later on. I hope this helps, good luck!

Adeline Johnston

Hi I have purchased on two separate occasions tri-coloured Abutilon plants and after one of them flowering it died. The second one I got last summer planted out and it died as well is there some secret to get them to grow. They aren't cheap plants so would like advice as I do like them. Was really disappointed.

Hi Adeline, Abutilon is a lovely plant which originates from tropical and subtropical parts of the world. They enjoy a nice sheltered position in sun or semi shade to perform well. They're not reliably hardy in the UK and will only tolerate our winters if given some protection. They're best either grown against a sunny, sheltered wall or grown in containers which can be brought into bright, frost-free conditions for the winter. If grown outside it is worth covering your plant with horticultural fleece over the winter for added protection. You could also pack some straw around the base of the plant (secured in place with fleece) to help insulate the roots.

Abutilons resent being allowed to dry out so make sure you water them as needed, particularly during hot weather; they tend to drop their leaves when they get too dry. They do also enjoy a fertile soil so if you're growing your Abutilon in the ground, work some organic matter into the soil such as compost or well-rotted manure, before planting. Container plants will need feeding every month during the growing season with a balanced liquid fertiliser to maintain growth and flowering. I hope something here helps Adeline, best of luck.

Jessica Hope

Hi question for Carly, I had a delivery yesterday (not from your selves) of 100 Buxus sempervirens bare rooted. The ground here at the moment is frozen how should I care for them until planting conditions are ok. They are currently in my garage! Many thanks Jessica.

Hi Jessica, wow that's quite a lot of Box! The most important thing is not to let the roots dry out as this can impair growth. If the box plants are wrapped in plastic and the roots feel damp then they should be fine like this for a week or so if kept in a very cool but frost- free place.

Traditionally the plants are 'heeled in' temporarily outside until it's convenient to plant them. If after a week or so, the ground is still too frozen for planting then its best to temporarily plant your box plants into buckets of compost. You can pack the plants closely together as it is only a temporary measure, and then place the containers outside in a sheltered spot against a wall or in a cold greenhouse. They shouldn't need watering but if the compost does show signs of drying out then do give the plants some water! Hopefully the ground will have de-frosted by this time and you can put them out in their final positions. With spring just around the corner they should settle well. Good luck Jessica, let us know how you get on!