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The weather is still pretty foul. Is there much we can do in the garden

01:00 Thu 28th Feb 2002 |

A.� Before getting into specific jobs it is worth repeating the old proviso about the weather. March can be a funny month, with the first hints of spring suddenly drowned out by days of torrential rain or frozen out by late frosts or even snow. Don't try working over ground if it is frozen or saturated and keep off the grass in both cases if you can.

That said, even if we are still in hibernation mode much of the garden is starting to spring into life and getting prepared and organised now will help your garden look at its best earlier and longer.

Q.� What about winter bulbs that are flowering or just finishing flowering

A.� It is worth giving the things that have brightened up the winter garden some TLC before they make way for other things.

Feed daffodils with a general purpose liquid fertilizer while they are in flower and deadhead regularly to help the development of the flower embryo for next year and to build up their vigour.

Snowdrop clumps can be divided up once they have finished although the foliage should be allowed to die back naturally rather than chopped back.

Q.� Is there anything to be planted

A.� If you haven't done so already buy or order summer flowering bulbs and tubers like dahlias, gladioli, lilies and crocosmia in time for planting towards the end of the month.

Some half-hardy annuals like cosmos, gyposphila, sweet peas and delphiniums can be sown direct at the same time as long as the ground is not saturated or the weather too cold.

Q.� Buds and shoots are starting to appear. Is it too late to prune

A.� No, there are plants that need a short back and sides at this point. All those shrubs that provide coloured stems during the winter like dogwoods should be cut hard back to their basic framework.

Buddleias, which flower on this year's growth should also be cut back to a framework of hard wood. Many hydrangeas such as 'paniculata' need the same treatment but check the needs of individual varieties before getting out the secateurs. Roses also need a bit of taming, gentle pruning in the case of old fashioned shrub varieties but much harder in the case of modern hybrids.

Q.� What about general maintenance

A.� Before we start planting and sowing this is the ideal time to give the borders a spring clean, forking them over to break up to the soil to produce a good, fine tilth and removing stones and weeds. The winter rains will have washed away some of the goodness in the soil so either apply a layer of garden compost or sprinkle on an all purpose fertilizer.

Q. And the vegetable garden

A. When conditions allow it's time to put in broad beans, carrots, dwarf French beans, early lettuce, spinach and peas. Chitted early potatoes should be planted in trenches back filled with a layer of compost.

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By Tom Gard

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