13 March - Mixed-up timing

The terrain and nature of the job will dictate which machine you should be using, Sally Drury explains.

Crazy weather The mild but wet winter means some areas are weeks in advance of what we normally expect. Other locations are way behind because of floods or snow. For some estates, gale damage still needs attention. Plan work schedules according to your location, weather forecasts and ground conditions.

Ground cultivation Cultivating the ground when it is saturated and heavy can do long-term damage. Plants can be started under protection, giving soil a little longer to dry out or warm up.

Pests and diseases Keep a watch for slugs, snails and fungal diseases resulting from the wet autumn and winter. Treat accordingly.

Compost bays Be ready to use decomposed material and prepare bins or bays for the coming season.

Pruning Sharpen secateurs, loppers and pruning saws. Before growth commences, prune Buddleia, Salix Cornus and Caryopteris. Also prune shrubs that flower new wood.

Weeds Don’t reach for the sprayer just yet. Most herbicides work best when the weeds are actively growing. Try to minimise spray applications by waiting for the slower species to emerge and then take them all out in one go. Above all, consider whether it is necessary to spray.

Lawns Aerate when conditions allow and mow as the grass begins to grow. General amenity grass can be left at around 50mm, amenity lawns at 18mm and finer lawns cut to 12mm where conditions permit. On fine ornamental lawns, consider using a blower to disperse heavy dews and reduce the risk of disease. Deal with moss before it gets out of control.

Ornamental garden Feed, especially rose gardens.

Kitchen garden Sow parsnips, onions, peas, cauliflowers, broad beans, carrots and leeks when soil and weather are suitable. Plant early potatoes and tidy asparagus beds. Finish planting fruit and apply general slow-release fertiliser to all trees and soft fruit. Keep weeds down and mulch if appropriate.

Greenhouses Watch for whitefly, greenfly and red spider mites. Vent when temperatures are high. Sow cucumbers, melons and tomatoes. Hand-pollinate apricots, peaches
and nectarines.

Records Ensure that all paperwork is up-to-date — weather reports, seed-sowing diaries, fertiliser and pesticide notes, staff training details, insurance and holiday requests.


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