ABC Wednesday 4: Q is For...


The questions that hit our blogs are often unintentionally hilarious: it's their juxtaposition with our particular sites which make them so funny. Take these latest examples from Veg Plotting's statistics:
  • I want to go to the Isle of Wight on Monday, where do I go and what time is the ferry
  • Park Keeper Custard Rhubarb Joke
  • Car Rally Peas Holiday Weekend
  • Where is Monty Don

Sadly I don't think anyone found what they were looking for on here, but a near neighbour blogger at least knew the answer to where Monty Don is a couple of weeks ago as she was standing next to him at a Bob Dylan concert. And whilst I'm often amused, I must admit I do feel guilty when I find perfectly good questions on my site's hits which weren't answered for the person who pitched up on here. My inner imp also wishes Chester Hunt could be a regular contributor just to liven things up a bit.

Well, I'm going to feel guilty no longer as I'm introducing a new occasional theme called Question Time. I'm afraid it won't be as expert or learned as radio's Gardeners' Question Time, but I'll do my best to provide answers to some of the things I've found in my site statistics 'postbag'. I'll also say if I don't know, but of course someone out there will, and with any luck will leave their pearls of wisdom in the comments. And Chester, if you're reading this anything you'd care to add is most welcome ;) Here goes for the first batch of five questions:

Will we have a hot summer this year?

I do hope so and the Met Office seems to think we will. I have of course made arrangements to maximise the likelihood of this happening.

Does forced rhubarb die?

It depends. If you're digging up rhubarb to do 'proper' forcing indoors, then this will weaken the plant sufficiently for it not to be worth continuing with after cropping. If you leave it where it is - which is really blanching, not forcing - and it's been well established for a couple of years, you give it a good mulch of manure in February and you only blanch part of the plant, then all should be tickety boo.

Eradicate Spanish Bluebells

Either spend lots of time digging every scrap of them up, swearing an awful lot and find they still come up next spring, OR try the method I saw on The Guardian blog recently, which is to trample them down. That's what I've done this year.

What do earthworms do for the allotment?

Well, they effectively dig and aerate the soil for you by moving through it bit by bit. And compost would take a lot longer to make if they weren't in there. That'll be quite a lot then.

Can you plant raspberry and asparagus together?

Seeing my 'Autumn Bliss' raspberries seem to be on a mission to spread through the rest of my plot and asparagus needs a weed free area, I'm going to say no to this one.

BTW if you're a little disappointed I'm being a bit serious for once and providing a real service for my readers [Shorely shome mishtake - Ed.], I must point you in the direction of my sister 'publication' - You Ask, We Answer - aka YAWA - where the usual fun and mayhem reigns supreme.

For other Quintessential articles on the letter Q, do have a look at the ABC Wednesday blog.

Update: I had further questions in the comments on flowering but beanless broad beans and when to prune ornamental quince (Chaenomeles).


  1. you make me laugh... which is great news for a garden blog!

  2. What a fun post for the "Q" day! Always enjoy finding some giggles! Great job! Enjoy your week!

  3. Great idea for a post! Whatever you do, though, avoid mentioning moss and lawns on your blog - most of my site stats now involve people asking about removing moss from lawns or alternatively wanting moss to grow in a japanese garden.

    My one delight though, is the search for "inelegant gardener je t'aime". Unfortunately for the ego, it was probably to do with my post last year on lily beetles :(

  4. This is great, VP! I especially love "Where is Monty Don?" (perhaps you're secretly his personal secretary) and asking you to predict the weather. I've been saving up a few good blog queries for a future post, but thank heavens, nobody's asked me to track anyone's whereabouts!

  5. My head is spinning with this very quirky post. The team thanks you for your very original idea for a green fingered post.

  6. Quality Q&A - A laugh and a learn - Thanks for each!

  7. Hi VP it is always very educational and amusing to visit your blog blog my friend :-) Thank you/ Tyra

  8. Great post, I had a good chuckle

  9. Hi VP, lovely post. Now may I ask a question here, since you are on the Qs? I have planted broad beans for the first time, having never seen, eaten or grown them. They are up and nicely full of many many flowers. But nothing that looks like a bean, or that will become a bean, ever. What is wrong?

  10. Hi - I'm answering slightly out of order as Frances has asked a question.

    Frances, I'm assuming you mean you get lots of flowers on your beans, but no beans subsequently. Hmm that's a little tricky. It sounds like your beans aren't being pollinated. Are they being visited by bees, or is it too cold for them? Even if they are visiting, they may not actually pollinate the plant, but steal the nectar instead.

    However, this is where it gets tricky as beans have been shown to be self-pollinating. Darwin found 40 beans on plants that were covered up and 135 on plants that were open to visiting bees.

    It might depend on the variety you're growing on how successful they are at self-pollination.

    This is a very long winded way of saying I don't really know, but lack of pollination appears to be the key!

  11. I've had a follow up thought since I posted my first answer. How long have your beans been in flower? If it's only recently, the beans may not have had time to form yet. If it's been a while, then I'll stick with my first thoughts re pollination.

    I must admit I'm not much of a bean grower, so let's see if I get any other answers!

  12. I love the fact that you knew where Monty Don had been!

    I got a blogsearch today for "Highgrove cashmere socks" do you think it was HRH Prince Charles?

  13. Here's another Question: Where/how do you check/find out what phrases people googled to come to your site?

  14. Monica - it's part of the site statistics website I use for free. See the little counter on the left hand side of my blog? That's it. Most people seem to use the one I use (Statcounter) or Sitemeter. If you find them on people's blogs, just clicking on the logo will take you to further information. Most of them are free unless you sign up for the super de-luxe all singing all dancing package, which isn't needed unless you're getting 100s of visitors per day.

  15. Arabella - that must make a change from all the hits from searches about pants ;)

    If it's not HRH, sounds like you need to get in quick and suggest a business partnership as it looks like there's a gap in the market!

  16. Right - now to reply to everyone else, before things get seriously out of synch!

    Emmabond - welcome and I'm glad you like what you see! I haven't forgotten about your kind invitation to meet for coffee - I'm just working out when I'm in Bath next :)

    Sylvia K - thanks and you!

    HM - oh dear, I've got moss and lawn mentions lined up already. My most popular searches are 'how long is a week' and 'what's today's date'. How they expect to find out from my blog is a complete mystery to me as a calendar would be much more helpful.

    OFB - I thought of you when I wrote this because your searches and answers are hilarious! I also get 'Carol Klein upset' and 'Who the hell is Toby Buckland', 2 of our other well-known gardening presenters. Perhaps I should set up an agency or something.

    Babooshka - quirky's a real compliment :)

    Tumblewords - you're welcome!

    Tyra - I'm glad you like it here :)

    Carolina - chuckling's a good thing to do :)

  17. Some quite quirky questions VP. An excellent post.

  18. Hi VP, thanks for the quick response. For follow up: There have been flowers and lots of them for about a month? or so. I have tons of bees here, but have not seen a one go near these beans, they are planted on stakes in the strawberry patch. One other thing, since they first germinated, black ants have been all over them. Could that keep the bees away? Are the ants taking all the nectar? The whole veggie area has many of these ants, carpenter ants I believe because it has old roots of an ancient, by US standards, privet hedge decaying below. The ants have not harmed any of the veggie plants and help break up our clay soil. I am not going to use pesticides there and if they are the culprits so be it. They do not hinder the bean formation of the peas or green beans. Anyone know what might be the cause for no broad beans given these conditions? We have also had a ton of rain. All help appreciated.

  19. Hi Frances - aaaaah ants. They steal nectar too, so I'm wondering if the bees aren't touching your flowers as a result of that. If they've been in flower for a month you should be seeing lots of beans by now.

    Daft question I know, are you sure they're ants and not blackfly? Because they like broad beans very much indeed. And ants could be there too as they 'milk' all kinds of aphids for sugar. If you've got blackfly, then you need to pinch out the tops of your beans and destroy the them. If any blackfly remain you can jet them off with a water spray.

  20. Hmm. Interesting about the Spanish vs English bluebells. I have both, co-existing on a patch at the end of the garden. They've been here for at least fifteen years, since I planted neither.

    What I really need to know is do English bluebells also die when you trample or destroy the leaves, because the landscapers are due to re-lay the lawn on Monday and the bluebells will be scalped and rotovated. Now, I happen to know that the bulbs are very, very deep, so I doubt that they'll be injured, but I'd hate to lose them. :(

    Note: this was not my idea!

  21. Obviously, VP, people look to you for guidance on all things garden-related and apparently a few other facts not so related:)

    Clever post! Actually, I do have a question today, if you have time to answer it--how does one prune flowering quince to get it to blossom?

  22. Jay - I've no idea, but logic tells me that trampling would have the same effect for both Spanish and English Bluebells :(

    Rose - I thought today's post might lead to a few questions! Ornamental quince flowers on wood from the previous season, so like all spring flowering shrubs (i.e. those flowering before June), it should be pruned straight after flowering. If you prune later than that, the new wood isn't mature enough to produce flowers. This does of course mean you don't get any of the fruit later on in the season. So if you still want your shrub to fruit, don't prune all of it back each season, just prune e.g. one third of it and you should get both fruit and flowers.

  23. Anna - sorry to leave you out - you were sandwiched between questions. Thank you - I sometimes wonder if I'm being quirky or not, so it's good to know that standards are being maintained here on my blog ;)

  24. Fabulous post I've learnt lots and had a chuckle what more could you want.

  25. Hi VP, thanks for the extra effort here. I do think it is the ants. I looked very closely at them today and saw thousands of tiny baby ants all around the flowers. Arghhh. I have read about blackfly, but have never actually seen any here. We do have our share of pests though. Sounds like these bean plants are ready for the compost bin.

    Now I know where to go with all questions about Monty Don. A friend loaned me his book and I inhaled it. Wonderful stuff. :-)


  26. I love the post, the comments to the post and your answers to the comments! An all around good experience! Take care VP~~gail

  27. Joy - welcome and I'm glad you enjoyed yourself!

    Frances - you're most welcome :) I've a few Monty Don books too - have you read Fork to Fork? I think you'd like that one.

    Gail - it's been a good one! Enjoy the rest of your week :)


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