Ornamental SOLAs: Go online to the Pesticides Safety Directorate website to download the first set of new SOLAs for use in field and protected ornamental plant production and forest nurseries. Further approvals will be issued in the next few months. These SOLAs relate to products that were used under the LTAEU measures.
Cold weather: If these conditions continue until the end of January then review some of your evergreen subjects by knocking out the pots and checking roots. Sunny days may start transpiration especially in tunnels where the growing media is still frozen but the leaves warm up. Cover plants with fleece to try to prevent them from heating up too quickly.
Cladding polythene tunnels: If you are cladding your own tunnels during the winter don't forget the guidelines that have been drawn up to ensure the safety of staff and contractors. This involves the use of safety netting suspended under the polythene while the work is carried out.
Root cuttings: It's time to take root cuttings of herbaceous perennials such as poppies and Phlox. It is surprising just how small pieces of root will grow in some cases. Even the leftover tails put into a tray of compost will provide new plant material in the spring.
Plane anthracnose: Brown patches can start to develop underneath leaf buds but may not be easy to see. Overwintering on leaf mould, this disease infects trees during spring - with dark black patches developing, which are often worse in cooler, wet springs - and destroys new bud growth as it emerges. If you recall seeing large dead patches on the leaves last summer make sure you spray the trees early in the spring with a mixture of Cercobin WG and Bravo 500.
Grasses: Signs of powdery mildew can show now and into February. Spray with Systhane 20EW or Nimrod. Cordyline can start to develop small fungal leaf spots and requires a spray with Switch or Scotts Octave.
Water systems: Get your water pumps, fertiliser injectors and filters serviced and in good order for the coming season's hard work. Contact your pump supplier and get them checked over.
Mice: This damage can be evident through the cold months on protected crops. Mice tend to be messy eaters leaving slithers of uneaten stem at the base of the damaged area. Where mice are present, I have noticed that there seems to be less damage on crops where Ronstar 2G granules are applied. There may be an interesting correlation here.