Professional Gardener - Stretch your muscles

After the holidays - If you have enjoyed a Christmas break sitting by the fire and eating mince pies, or if you have spent time in the office working out summaries and preparing plans, you may need to stretch your muscles and build up physical activities gradually.

Weather - Records of temperature, rainfall, snow, wind and hours of sunshine can be helpful. A quick look back through notes can show trends, help predict displays and assist in planning work schedules. If you do not keep records, now is a good time to start.

Trees - Take a walk round the gardens to inspect the impact of December's weather. There may still be gale damage requiring attention. Mature trees showing signs of injury should be dealt with immediately, especially where the public has admittance. Check young stock and ensure tree shelters, ties and stakes provide protection and support. Consider the need to shape young trees.

Lawns - Inspect grassed areas for lying water. Wet lawns are prone to moss and algae. Spiking may help improve drainage in the short term and after heavy downpours, but where water continually collects it may be necessary to carry out remedial work or invest in drainage. Check that existing drains and ditches are flowing freely. If the weather turns icy, keep everyone off the grass.

Kitchen garden & conservatory or greenhouse - Plan crop rotations for vegetables. Cover ground with polythene where the soil needs warming. Complete winter pruning of fruit trees, except plums and cherries. Prune gooseberries as well as red and white currants. Grapevines should be pruned before the middle of the month. Sow broad beans in pots under cover. Ventilate greenhouses when sunshine and temperatures permit. Ensure that all outdoor taps and pipes are lagged.

Machinery shed - Check the pressure washer is working - machinery coming back to the shed at this time of year is likely to need a good clean. Sharpen tools such as shears, secateurs and hoes.

Orders - Have a look through seed and nursery catalogues and place any late orders. Consider annual fertiliser, weedkiller and moss-control requirements and place orders for pots and trays.

Events - Finalise dates for events and plan promotional activities.

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