From the nursery

Plant growth: Be prepared for early growth and protect it if we get hard frosts. Try to capitalise on any early growth periods by making garden centres aware of early maturity. Alpines, in particular, can make good sales now, along with Mahonia and Bergenia.

Root death: While it is a little early to be final about this, I am seeing a lot of root death on nursery stock subjects. Do check root condition before despatching early crops.

Biological control: Use this time to keep residual pest levels in heated structures under control with applications of Agri-50E, SB Plant Invigorator or Majestik. If you intend to use predators on your crops this season, stop spraying products such as Decis, Toppel 100 EC, Dimethoate or Hallmark WZT (2008-2944) now.

Compost tea: Clean equipment produces a more effective brew, so implement a thorough cleaning regime after each brew to include all the filters and the bubbler. Any ingredients that did not get thoroughly mixed in and are not removed will contaminate the next brew. Check the bubbler sock and main tap sieve each year and replace as required.

Leaf spotting: Spray Scotts Octave or Switch once onto protected crops to control leaf spot fungal diseases that still seem to grow in the winter months. Botrytis is often active on closely-spaced, protected container plants such as heathers and Lithodora. Spray Rovral WG at least once and choose a day when the foliage will dry out and there is no frost on the plants. Give hellebores a spray of Cercobin WG + Bravo 500 or Switch to prevent damage by the black leaf spot Coniothyrium hellebori. Include Cordyline, phormium and yucca in that list too.

Pine aphid: Dry weather provides the ideal conditions for the emergence of aphids on pines that cause needle drop later in the summer period. Check plants now and spray with Aphox, Decis or Hallmark WZT (SOLA 2008-2944). Use a wetting agent to get good penetration and coverage of the product on these small brown aphids, found aggregated at the branch axils. Make a close inspection - they are small and hard to spot but do a lot of damage later in the season. Frosts will have an effect on the aphid population, but a visual check is still important.

Grasses: Check for signs of powdery mildew from now into February. Spray with Nimrod, Stroby WG or Systhane 20EW if seen.

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