4 November - Getting ready for the first frosts

Plant hardening - Mild weather is good for growth but can leave soft foliage vulnerable to frost. Liquid feeding with products high in potassium can help to harden up this foliage. Applications of Cropaid (www.cropaid.com) may act as a natural anti-freeze on vulnerable plants. Make sure fleece or Cosytex is in place now for low overnight temperatures. It is important to make someone accountable for doing it to avoid unnecessary crop damage. A slow adjustment using protection in the early stages helps plants to better acclimatise to cold weather.

Trimming Wait - until late winter/early spring before trimming plants to avoid wounded stems and foliage sitting through a long period of dormancy until re-growth occurs. Crops will be at greater risk of stem dieback and Botrytis if trimmed now.

Hydrangeas - Exposure to the first frosts will promote flower-bud production.

Autumn bedding - Watch for downy mildew on crops such as pansy and viola. Products for use under protection at this time of year include Aliette 80WG, Amistar (EoA 2009-0443), Fubol Gold WG (EoA 2010-2567) and Paraat (EoA 2011-2585).

Green compost - Applying PAS 100 green compost as a mulch, or incorporating it into the soil, has multiple benefits across the horticultural sector.

Disease suppression and moisture retention are some of the advantages of using it.

Rust - This disease is still active on many species, including Euphorbia, Heuchera, hollyhocks and Hypericum.

Control it before plants defoliate with Amistar (SOLA 2009-0443), Bumper 250EC (SOLA 2009-0707) or Signum (SOLA 2009-1842). Clear up leaf debris to prevent early re-infection next spring.

Mites - An application of Apollo 50SC onto crops attacked by spider mites this season is a useful exercise. An Extension of Authorisation is required for use on protected crops.

Ventilation - Open polythene tunnel doors on days when the weather permits to reduce the risk of Botrytis. Night-time humidity can increase to 100 per cent in closed tunnels.

Slug pellets - See www.getpelletwise.co.uk for advice on safe metaldehyde applications, along with good application practice and the qualifications required to apply them.


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