Awkward Gardener’s question and answer time

Dan Hatch is a long-time journalist, comedian and RHS horticulture student who blogs as The Awkward Gardener. His attempts to create flourishing garden at his small east London maisonette have been quite an adventure, with endless mishaps, hospital visits, run ins with the law and a cast of colourful characters. His most popular blog post encapsulates all that. You can read it here.

Dan Hatch
Dan wearing his ‘I’d Remember’ t-shirt! Get yours here.

Here, Dan answers some burning questions on Christmas plants and gardening (note: neither I nor Dan take any responsibility for any mishaps that may arise from following the advice in this very serious Q&A).

Why is my poinsettia dropping leaves? 

What your poinsettia is actually dropping is hints. Don’t you dare give it a Joni Mitchell CD for Christmas, it saw you at the jewellery counter and is expecting something in gold leaf.

How can I stop my dog chewing the lower branches of my Christmas tree? 

Have you considered Judaism? Most of the major religions, and indeed practically all the minor ones, do not celebrate Christmas. Or, even if they have a Christmas-like celebration, they’ve sensibly avoided filling their homes with specially-executed gymnosperms. Convert to Shintoism and your problem is solved.

What’s the best way to make a Christmas cactus re-flower?  

Hold a misting gun to its head and ask it, Dirty Harry-style, if it feels lucky. 

Why is my cactus shrivelling? 

It’s a common myth that cacti don’t need much water. In fact, they love water and the minute your back is turned, the sneaky little bastards are running themselves a bath. I once came home to discover my Crassula ovata skinny-dipping in the kitchen sink with an Echeveria of dubious repute! If your cactus is shrivelling it’s just probably fresh from a really long soak. Nail it to the windowsill.

What’s the best type of mulch?

I was recently told by an ex-pat Glaswegian gardener working in Australia that the best mulch is “something chunky”. The logic is that chunky mulch allows water to flow through and is less likely to collapse into a thick, sodden matt that does more harm than good. His advice? “Use a mulch that hurts to walk on in bare feet”. It was great advice. I’ve been using Lego ever since.

Follow Dan on Twitter @HortiDan.

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