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Ask Alfie

Q1. What’s the best way (if any) to re-use compost from summer plants? If we can’t what’s the best way to recycle it?

If the potting compost was new for your summer plants, then with a very minor re-fresh you should be able to re-use it for your autumn / winter planting. You will need to feed from time to time with a potash biased fertiliser.

If the compost is more than a season old, it is a good idea to completely replace it, in which case simply tip the old potting compost onto your garden beds or mix in with your composting.


Q2. Can I leave my lemon plant outside in the winter?

We have a client in Bayswater who leaves his lemon tree out on his balcony in winter and it seems to come through fine each year. North London is of course more risky, but with good drainage and a south facing, sheltered location they stand a chance of survival. If you have a conservatory or greenhouse, (and space!) I would strongly recommend bringing them in for the winter, or failing that protecting with fleece if a cold snap is predicted. Don’t forget, Citrus plants prefer a slightly acid soil and rainwater rather than tap water.


Q3. I like to leave the dead flowers on my herbaceous plants for the birds, but would the plants do better next year if I cut them?

I think generally with established plants not really, as the old flowers would naturally remain, set seed and then wither. In fact the dead flowers on many plants look great – sedums, achilleas and ornamental grasses spring to mind. However it is a good idea to dead head young plants so their energy can go into root establishment, and of course if you like things neat and tidy there will be a point where the housekeeping urge may take priority! But it’s always good to leave food and nesting material for our feathered friends. Big topic with lots more to think about.

If you have something to ask them please email becky@themuswellflyer.com and mark your subject Ask Alfie

Alfie Bines
About Alfie Bines (24 Articles)
I have been tending the gardens of North London for longer than I care to remember accumulating a huge amount of horticultural knowledge along the way.