Trees, Shrubs and Roses
If deciduous hedges sucha s beech were not clipped since the ideal time in late July, this must be done at any time up the start fo bud break.If bare-root trees have been purchased, and the ground is too wet for planting, the trees can be kept for weeks before planting by being heeled in to a trench, after opening out the bundles so that all the plants have access to the soil. Rose bushes and repeat-flowering climbers can be pruned now.
The first of the spring bulbs are showing their snouts — snowdrops and crocuses, daffodils too. Border flowers can be lifted and divided, if necessary, but not if the ground is too sticky, or the holes fill with water. A good guideline is to stop if the mud is clinging solidly to your boots. Seeds of geraniums, lobelia, busy lizzie and bedding begonias can be sown in a heated propagator, but it is still too early for most of the easy kinds, such as dahlias and french marigolds.
If a dry spell comes along and the lawn surface is firm and no squelchy, mow the lawn. If a lawn area is being prepared for sowing in the spring, it cannot be cultivated until the ground dries, but weed seedlings could be controlled using Roundup to prevent them taking the ground over and making it difficult to rake.Control moss with sulphate of iron on a calm dry day.
Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs
Sow seeds of early varieties of cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce and onions. These will give an early crop but have to be started off in warm conditions indoors, or in a propagator, and grown on in a greenhouse or tunnel. Watch cabbage family crops, especially purple sprouting broccoli, for attacks by pigeons and net them if necessary.Seed potatoes of early varieties can be put into a warm place to sprout now; this allows earlier harvesting by about three weeks. Rhubarb stools for forcing in a dark, warm place, under the stairs for example, should be lifted before the end of the month. Take the opportunity to complete digging a vegetable area if the ground is dry enough.Early potatoes can be placed in a bright place indoors, or greenhouse, to 'chit', or sprout which aids earlier cropping.
Greenhouse and House Plants
Greenhouse grape vines and peach trees will be starting to come out of dormancy - the sooner they flower the sooner they will ripen next summer, so a heavy watering helps to get them moving.Begin watering plants in pots more regularly, as they need it.Clean the glass and close the vents to make the most of whatever sunshine there is at this time.
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