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Early in the Year

Winter

The early part of the year is still a time when we should be out in the garden to ensure that we are on top of jobs before the real rush starts in April.

Ensure that you have your mower serviced, or service it yourself if you have the knowledge, and make sure it is set correctly so that it cuts evenly across the blades and is ready once the growing season begins.

Shears and pruning tools should be sharpened and cleaned making sure all splits to handles are repaired or replaced.

This is a good time of the year to treat fences and trellis work with wood preservative. It is far easier painting behind deciduous plants when they are out of leaf. If you have large areas of fencing to treat, sprayers for wood preservatives are now available and they make the job easier and quicker.

I also find this is the time of the year when it pays to check that I have all the equipment and tools in place. I go through my shed and check that I have enough pots, trays, labels, and seed sowing equipment, fertilizers, and horticultural fleece to hand. If I find I have a shortfall I nip off to the garden centre and stock up. In the past I have found it maddening to be half way through a job only to run out of something and then have to go to a garden centre only to find they are out of stock, then onto another before sourcing what I need. By the time I get back most of the day has gone. Stock up now to prevent this waste of time.

Obtain a small border fork and prick over the surface of the soil and remove any small weeds between beds and borders. It’s also a good time to check that any recently planted plants have not been lifted out of the soil by frost heave. If they have, re-firm them, but be careful not to over compact the soil.

Check your garden sprayer. Ensure it is clean and in working order. Now is a good time to apply a good fungicide to the roses while they are still dormant to prevent rose rust, powdery mildew and black spot. I know it sounds mad spraying what appear to be dormant twigs and branches, but believe you me; it’s one of the steps that professional growers take in the battle to keep their roses clean throughout the summer.

If you do not have sprayers, try and obtain one with a curved/bent nozzle. This makes spraying the underside of the foliage much easier. This is where the vast majority of both pests and diseases occur yet most of us fail to spray the underside of the leaf. Then when we do not get control we say the spray didn’t work, not that we did not apply it correctly!

February is a good time to carry out the planting of shrubs, hedging, fruit and trees. Always ensure you have a strong fork and spade available for this job as digging holes on heavy land can be hard work and poor quality tools often break when being used on heavy tasks. Remember to fork over the bottom of the planting hole as well as the side walls. This allows the water to drain more easily and removes the smearing that occurs with a spade on damp soil.

Start to prune any of the early-flowering winter shrubs that have finished flowering immediately they fade. Winter flowering Jasmine can be pruned and then re-tied to the support ready to make its new extension growth during the summer. Remember a good sharp pair of strong secateurs and long armed pruners make this task far easier than when using blunt or dirty tools. Remember not to prune in really cold frosty weather as this can result in damage to the cut surfaces.

Take your gardening gloves indoors over night the evening before you start work. Your hands will be much warmer by putting them into a warm pair of gloves rather than damp cold, ones when taken straight out of the shed.

It’s still time to lift and start dividing garden perennials. Lift the old clumps using a fork, then place two forks back to back in the middle of the clumps and pull the handles apart. This should split most clumps. Remember to remove and throw away all the old outside material and only replant the young vigorous pieces from the centre of the clumps.

A forceful power sprayer makes removing pathway moss, algae and small weeds so much easier at this time of the year. Slime, etc can make pathways very dangerous so a good clean reduces the risk of accidents. If frosty or freezing conditions are expected the evening following washing, put down some salt or fine gravel to prevent any remaining dampness freezing.

Get your seed order in early. The keen gardener will be looking for the best varieties and these are the first to sell out. The earlier the order gets to the seed man the better chances are that what you want will still be in stock.

In milder parts of the country in March it’s time to get the rakes, forks, draw hoes, garden lines out and start seed sowing. Keep an eye on the soil, and when the annual weeds start into growth that’s the time to start seed sowing.

Keep on top of the jobs now and in April you will be grateful that you did. Happy gardening to you all.


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