From the nursery

Hydrangea Wait until we have the first frosts and the leaves have dropped before bringing Hydrangea in under cover. The flower bud initiation is enhanced by the period of cold. Bring the plants in too early and you will have fewer flowers next season.

White fleece Make sure you pull white fleece over young soft material at night when the temperature drops and staff know what to do; make someone accountable for doing it. I see so much plant damage caused by a lack of management delegation in this area. Protection in the early stages helps plants to acclimatise to it gently.

Field-grown crops Some trees and bushes have not shed all their leaves yet, making lifting, transport and packing difficult. When trees are lifted with leaves still on them the risk of spring stem cankers is higher. Make sure the leaves have dropped by spraying Synthron EDTA Cu 9.1% (formally Leaf Fall). Try to avoid physical damage during lifting. The eastern side of the country has been very dry until recently, making crops hard to lift and ploughing both hard and costly on spares. It is, however, still a good time to get that plough pan busted well with a sub-soiler as soil shatter is very extensive, so it is not all bad.

Herbaceous clean up If you have late-season herbaceous perennials that die down and shoot again in the spring, use the dormant months to clean up the weeds by spraying over them with Harvest and Flexidor 125. Make sure plants are dormant with no green portions showing. Check the tolerance of herbaceous perennials for Flexidor 125 using the Horticultural Development Company's Weed Control Handbook.

Green compost Applying PAS 100 green compost as a mulch or incorporating it into the soil has multiple benefits across the horticultural sector. Disease suppression, slow-release of nutrients and moisture retention are some of the advantages of using this UK-based recycled product.

Conifers When Picea is dormant, consider an application of glyphosate over the trees to control perennial weeds growing around them.

Heat treatment With Vydate 10G (SOLA 1993-0020) as the only effective insecticide against eelworm, consider building a stock plant hot-water treatment unit. This treatment of stock plant material during the winter can help in controlling eelworm in shrubs and herbaceous. Pythium, Phytophthora and rusts are controlled by this process too.

John Adlam is the managing director of Dove Associates

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