Herbicide applications: There are new labelling requirements for herbicide applications to non-porous hard surfaces to ensure that targeted spraying takes place.
Labels should be updated at their next reprint or by May 2012 at the latest. Temporary label stickers can be used up to November 2012. Lack of specific application instructions on some product labels and recent evidence that "blanket" applications are being made over urban drains on roads and paved areas are the key reasons for these label changes.
Winter jobs: Carry out some much-needed office work by reviewing your pesticide and nutrition programmes from 2011. Hand-weeding and staking and tying-in climbers can be carried out under protection. If gutters are being cleaned, make sure that you follow the Code of Practice and read the Health & Safety Executive leaflet AIS12. Carry out other structural maintenance jobs in glasshouses and tunnels that were not completed from last year.
Choisya: Prevent snail damage by applying Ferramol Max pellets - safer if animals or birds are present - which acts as an attractant as well as a control. Decoy Wetex can be applied to outdoor crops and will remain active for up to six weeks even under overhead irrigation. Order your choisya liners early - pot them in March rather than May onwards for a higher survival rate.
Irrigation: Get your water pumps, fertiliser injectors and filters serviced and in good order for the coming season's hard work.
Water stress: Drought can be an issue on evergreen outdoor and unheated crops. Frozen growing media makes soil water unavailable to roots - apply an anti-transpirant to foliage on sunny days to prevent foliage scorch and dieback. Cosytex provides excellent plant protection, helps prevent plants from heating up too quickly and performs better in snowy conditions.
Fireblight: Use field test kits (www.pocketdiagnostic.com) to check vulnerable plant species for this notifiable disease.
Botrytis: Maintain good ventilation around evergreen crops and apply Rovral WG, Scotts Octave or Serenade ASO (EoA 2009-0246) if required. Make sure that sprays are directed at the base of the plant and include a wetting agent. Compost tea applied monthly should also provide some protectant control.