Professional Gardener - A very difficult year

Good riddance

This year has been one of the toughest that I have known in terms of weather extremes. An early drought, then a lack of sunshine followed by far too much rainfall and then high winds and gales have made work difficult, spoilt displays and even wreaked havoc in some gardens. In addition, as well as having to cope with saturated ground conditions and storm damage, some gardens are reporting a severe drop in income as the weather and television events kept the fee-paying public away. What's more, we still have winter to cope with. By now the flexible work schedules, the long johns and all the equipment and materials needed to cope with freezing temperatures and snowfall should be on hand and ready for use.

Time to catch up

All essential office tasks should be cleared before the end of the year. Records of spraying and other practices will have been made at the time, but now is a good moment to reflect on the things that worked and those that did not. Make sure that maps and plans of estate and gardens are accurate and up to date, and work out how much time was spent on major tasks such as mowing. Although adjustments will have been made in this difficult year, it may still be possible to spot where there is a need or room for more efficient practices. Make notes on the performance of any contractors brought in during the year. Check planting plans, propagation data, personnel and volunteer details, accident reports, tree maps, machinery servicing logs and rolling purchase plans.

Looking ahead

Set up plans and records for 2013. Consider staff training needs and review your insurance policies. Add any major not-to-be-missed events to your diary/wall planner — such as garden shows, machinery exhibitions and plant trial dates.

Cuttings and storage

Continue to take hardwood cuttings of deciduous subjects, especially climbers and hedging material, plus root cuttings of perennials. Clear any fallen leaves from the rock garden, especially around alpine plants, and consider sowing alpine seed. Inspect any items in store — fruit, bulbs, corms and tubers. Also, remember to keep a check on your greenhouse and conservatory heating.

Finish the Christmas shopping

What about an Eco Garden Notebook & Planner from Burgon & Ball? It contains tips and ideas as well as 73 pages of plain, lined and squared paper. The paper is recycled and even the covers had a previous life as tyres. Price is £8.95.

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