Your gardening problems answered

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Head gardener, at Althorp House, in Northamptonshire, David Williams, takes on the challenge of answering your gardening problems and questions this month...

Question 1: “I am about to construct an ‘n’ shaped vegetable patch out of reclaimed railway sleepers. Ideally I would like to split the patch into three separate zones to plant different families of veg in different zones. What do you recommend to put in each area, and when should I plant them?”

David: “Firstly it is best not to use old railway sleepers due to the tar and creosote that is in the sleepers this will over time seep out of the sleepers into the soil and will be taken up by the vegetables, which in turn you will eat. If it is possible I would not use them for vegetable production.

“I would recommend a product called Link-A-Bord, which is one of the best raised bed kits on the market at the moment. But if you have to use them I would recommend putting a barrier of polythene between the soil and the sleeper to prevent seepage into the immediate soil in the bed.

“What to grow is more a case of what you like eating, there is no point growing crops that you don’t eat or like. But basically if you want to use a three year crop rotation this is the best method as it stops the build up of diseases in the soil. Split the area up in to three.

Year 1

Area 1 is for your root crops, carrots, beetroot and parsnips etc, also do not manure this bed as you will get forked roots. Area 2 is for brassicas, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower etc. This soil should be well manured in autumn and you should add lime to the soil. Area 3 is for all other crops beans, celery, marrows and sweetcorn etc, again you need to well manure the soil in the autumn.

Year 2

Area 1: Other vegetables.

Area 2: Root vegetables.

Area 3: Brassicas.

Year 3

Area 1: Brassicas.

Area 2: Other vegetables.

Area 3: Root vegetables.

Year 4: As year one and just keep on repeating the cycle.

Question 2: “I have small round bite marks in my chilli pepper plants and the leaves are starting to yellow. How can I save them?

“It’s difficult to say what has caused the holes without seeing a picture of the leaves as so many insects can cause holes in leaves, vine weevil, slugs etc.

“But with regard to your leaves going yellow it is unlikely to be related to the holes; the most probable cause is lack of nutrients in the soil.

“This can be simply rectified by a high potash feed such as tomato food applied weekly or as the manufacturer recommends.

“The more healthier and vigorous the plant is the less likely the plant is to be attacked by pests.”

DO you have a problem you would like David to try and solve? Please email Nicole Le Marie at or write to her at Northampton Chronicle & Echo, Upper Mounts, Northampton NN1 3HR. *David is better placed to answer your questions if you accompany them with pictures, these must be sent in digital form.