February 3 - February 10

With this very mild weather, it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that winter is over, but we are likely to get another very cold snap.

t Feathered friends

With this very mild weather, it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security that winter is over, but we are likely to get another very cold snap. Look after your feathered friends in the garden during icy periods when food is scarce. Keep a good supply of bird food such as nuts, and make sure there's always fresh water for them. The birds will repay your kindness by helping to control pests that attack your plants.

t Keep off the grass!

Having spent time in the autumn planting bulbs in the lawn, it is pleasing to see the first crocus up and in flower a little bit earlier than last year. The narcissus (daffodils) are poking their heads through the grass too, at this time it is essential to keep off the grass and avoid stepping on the emerging bulbs or you may damage them.


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t Get set for bulbs

Summer-flowering bulbs, a worthwhile addition to borders and bedding displays, will appear in garden centres soon. Plan what you want so you get them before they sell out. Even if you get the bulbs before you are ready to plant them they can be stored in a cool, dry place away from nibbling rodents. Prepare the areas for planting well, incorporate a reasonable amount of organic material and add a balanced fertiliser such as growmore 10-14 days before planting.

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t TLC for alpines

This is the time of year when alpine plants in a rockery or trough need some tender loving care. Remove dead leaves and debris that may have built up round them. Take out any weed seedlings before they become established. Ensure gravel mulch is topped up, particularly round the plants, to suppress weeds and help avoid water-logging around the crown. Alpines cope with very cold temperatures much lower than we get in England, but cannot tolerate the high rainfall we get so adding grit is essential.

t Slug watch

I was surprised this week to pick up some bits in the garden and find slugs munching beneath. I guess because of the mild weather they are not dead or asleep but eating my plants. Check under and round pot and baskets planted with pansies and bulbs and either crush or collect in a bucket of soapy water all the molluscs you find. Also, remove faded flowers from pansies to encourage them to produce more flowers.

t Dreaded vine weevil

What's worse than slugs and snails? Vine weevil. Although slugs eat leaves and flowers, at least you can see them and pick them off. Vine weevil lurk in the soil and you are unaware of them until your plant is all but dead. Having potted some plants up, I found a lot of these maggot-like grubs in the compost. They have a brown head and are 1-2cm and eat only the roots of plants, usually only plants in pots as they are less partial to soil. To control them treat the compost the plant is growing in with Provado which, although expensive, is effective. If you prefer a chemical-free solution you can use a biological control called nemasys available from the green gardener at Brundall (www.greengardener.co.uk) or Just green in Essex (www.just-green.com) which can supply natural pest controls. It can be applied only when the soil temperature rises above 12C as it is a living nematode.

t Are you currently employed in horticulture or a similar type of work? Would you like to gain a level 2 qualification? Would you like the training and qualification for free? If the answer to these questions is yes, come and see us at Easton College to get started on your free course. Call 01603 731219 for more details of train2gain.

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