Plant growth Protect any early growth in times of very cold weather. Strong winds on exposed, frozen crops can be particularly damaging. Check that fleece or Cosytex is still secure around vulnerable crops.
Sprayer testing Before the busy season starts and pests, diseases and weeds appear in higher numbers, make sure that all your equipment has been tested to comply with the Sustainable Use Directive. The NSTS (National Sprayer Testing Scheme) is the UK’s only recognised testing scheme. New equipment has until its fifth year to be tested for the first time. Knapsack, handheld and pedestrian controlled sprayers are exempt but should be checked at regular intervals and records kept for inspection. Do not wait until the test itself to replace blocked filters and nozzles, and repair any obvious leaks. Go to www.nsts.org.uk/pesticide-application-equipment-(pae)-testing-as-required-by-the-sud-(sustainable-use-directive) for more information.
Monitoring With changeable weather, install sticky traps now to start monitoring for pest activity on protected crops. Put a date or week number on each one, check them regularly and replace every three-to-four weeks or as appropriate. Yellow traps help to monitor whitefly, aphid (winged), sciarid flies, leafhoppers and flea beetles. On dull days, these traps can also catch thrips. Install traps 20cm above foliage and move them up as the crop grows.
Root death Make random checks on the root condition of early crops about to be despatched. Cold damage is often expressed by the health status of the roots.
Liverwort Clean up liverwort on cleared outdoor growing beds with Venzar Flowable. AHDB research has shown that Chikara and Springbok (EAMU 2014-3006) applied to non-cropped areas will also provide some control effect. Mogeton (EAMU 2015-2273) is also available.
Powdery mildew Check ornamental grasses in protected structures for infections — apply food-grade potassium bicarbonate if seen but avoid frost before, during and after applications to reduce the risk of frost damage.
Scale insects Check Camellia, citrus, Euonymus, Hedera and Taxus. Apply Pyrethrum 5EC or SB Plant Invigorator.
John Adlam, managing director, Dove Associates