Brian Kidd, retired Parks Officer for Portsmouth City Council, will be giving weekly gardening advice and answering gardeners emails. Email your gardening questions to



Tar oil winter wash for fruit trees was withdrawn some while ago which won’t help us in the garden. There are alternatives at the garden centre, look out for winter wash for fruit trees in an organic form, Growing Success is a name you may be familiar with There are other brands at Keydell Nurseries. Take your glasses.


For instant colour effect, have a look at the winter flowering heathers in pots at Keydell Nurseries, they are already in and if planted now, they will give your garden a glow during this winter. None of the heathers like chalk, so, plant them in a raised area or in a container of acid compost, the best one is John Innes ericaceous mix, the ordinary John Innes composts are not suitable for heathers. You will find lovely containers and the correct compost at Keydell of course.

Plan ahead, after digging the area where the summer cabbages are to be planted, scatter on a thick dressing of garden lime but don’t apply this where other crops are to be grown. Lime can be difficult to find but is always in stock at Keydell Nurseries.

Buy a packet of exhibition onions, you will find the seeds just inside the entrance to Keydell Nurseries so that they can be sown on Boxing day in your greenhouse, my dad always did this to get away from us children for an hour on Boxing day!

If you are buying a Christmas tree with a root, pot in up into a potting compost from the garden centre. It is much easier to handle and the tree is more likely to survive. Remember too, if you buy a small one, already in a pot and there is moss growing on top of the surface of the compost, it is far more likely to survive after Christmas. A lot of people think it is a pity to buy a Christmas tree which has no roots because the poor thing has been sacrificed, if you feel that way, buy an artificial one like me! If however you buy a Christmas tree without roots, buy a water retainer so that the tree stem can absorb water during the Festival. Cut off an inch off the bottom of the stem before using the water retainer, this reduces needle drop. You will find exactly what you are looking for at Keydell.

Top up the water retainer just before going to bed BUT THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS MUST BE UNPLUGGED, we don't want any readers to be killed by electricity.

The blackbirds are eating the holly berries as if there is no tomorrow, pick some ASAP if you want berries for indoor displays, otherwise you will need to buy some of those which are on wires and they have to be twisted onto the indoor decorations. Berries are natural food for the lovely blackbirds.

Are you going to make a holly wreath with a red ribbon to go onto your front door? This job is made easier if you buy a circle of Oasis at the garden centre, simply soak the Oasis circle for an hour and then thrust in the fresh holly, ivy and mistletoe with baubles and the ribbon and everyone will feel welcome into your home What a wonderful selection of all you need at Keydell, yes, even Oasis circles !

On the mundane side, try to get some more digging done on the vegetable patch, leave it rough so that the frosts will break down the clods.

This is a good time to undertake fruit tree pruning, particularly apple trees. Buy a good pruning saw and secateurs and remove all branches which are crossing and scraping. Reduce all side branches back to 2 or 3 buds