Cleaning up - Protected nursery stock should still be sprayed with Octave, Rovral WG (EAMU 2011-3200) or Switch during the winter period as precautionary disease treatments. Use an air-assisted sprayer if possible to get good penetration. Focus applications on hellebores, lavenders and hebes.
Changeable weather - Warm days and cool nights can increase the risk of damage on soft growth. Get fleece or Cosytex in place to be able to quickly cover vulnerable, saleable crops this month. Make sure that someone is accountable for this important job to prevent unnecessary crop damage. Covering crops allows plants to adjust slowly to changing temperatures. Cropaid or Frost Protect (Compo) may help prevent damage before frosts set in.
Disinfectants - Remove as much organic matter as possible from Mypex and sand before applications.
Soil sampling - Walk fields in a "W" pattern, starting away from gateways and avoiding any old lime or manure heaps. Plan next year's fertiliser programme and apply only the nutrients needed by the crop according to NVZ and Catchment Sensitive Farming legislation. Phosphate levels can remain high for many years (locked up in soils), cause suppressed growth and prevent crops from accessing trace elements such as iron, so check results carefully.
Pest control - Aphids, whitefly and mites are still active on protected crops. Clean up with contact-acting products such as Majestik, Pyrethrum 5EC, Savona, SB Plant Invigorator or Spruzit. Apollo 50SC (EAMU 2016-2082) can be applied to any outdoor ornamental crops affected by mites this season. Avoid frost before, during and after applications of any pesticide at this time of year.
Bud blindness - Low temperatures and light levels affect concentrations of plant growth regulators in crops, leading to poor bud production. Move vulnerable plants outside to a sheltered but sunny position to encourage bud formation.
Sprayer Testing - The final date for having your sprayer with booms longer than 3m and air blast sprayers tested under the National Sprayer Testing Scheme is 26 November 2016. New equipment needs testing after five years. Knapsack sprayers and other pedestrian sprayers should be checked through for safe use but do not require external testing. Check the Voluntary Initiative website (www.nsts.org.uk) for a test centre near to you and download the operator checklist and knapsack checklist.