17 February 2015 - 6:54pm

Get your garden ready for the new season now!

I hope you gardeners have some good, strong gloves, a warm coat, sharp secateurs and a compost bin empty and ready to be filled. Between now and April is the time to get out there and get ready for the rest of the year; time spent now is always worthwhile and saves more work later on. Here are a few jobs to get you going: • Wisteria should be hard pruned now. If you have an already established framework of stems, make sure they are well tied in and cut back each branch to 2 or 3 buds (see photo). It sounds drastic, but you will be rewarded with more flowers. Do it in a mild spell and give it a good water and a handful of bonfire ash or sulphate of potash to get those flowers moving; • You can also hard prune shrubs such as cotinus (smoke bush), and sambucus if you prefer a lower growing, multi stemmed effect with bigger leaves. You are unlikely to get any flowers but you will get real impact; • Cut back your deciduous ornamental grasses to the ground. If they are evergreen – such as the golden oat (stipa gigantea) put on a pair of stout rubber gloves and pull out the dead leaves; • Talking of grasses, now is the time to lift and divide them, they hate it at other times of the year. Again, pick a gentle weather week and do it when you can see new growth. You can be quite brutal and cut it up with a spade as long as there is plenty of root on each piece; prepare the soil well and keep them watered for a few weeks after; • Cut back old stems of perennials as you have time and energy. No need to be too tidy or do it too early, they are little havens for wildlife such as ladybirds who you will find having a snooze there in winter. Chop up the stems and add to the compost heap. They work well with grass clippings, soaking up some of the sogginess and getting some air into the heap; • Early March is a good time to prune clematis. It’s not as complicated as you think, if in doubt just prune hard back to a strong shoot and give the plant a handful of feed, a thick mulch and a good drink. They like a moist, humus rich shady root run with the flowers in the sun. For a more detailed description of how to prune the different types the RHS website is good; • Check overwintering dahlias and cannas regularly for signs of rotting and mildew; • When your snowdrops have finished flowering you can lift and divide them to make a bigger show next year; • Prune autumn fruiting raspberries to ground level; • Weed and mulch your borders while there is still bare soil and you can see where things are. It’s easy to bury the smaller, special plants, I’ve done it times! I could go on, but you get the idea, it’s a busy time for us in the garden for the next few months! If you haven’t already you can get on with sowing vegetable seeds under cover. It’s plenty early enough in my view. If you sow too soon they only end up leggy and ready to plant out before the ground is ready. I’ve planted tomatoes as late as April before now and still got a decent crop. My advice is if you want to try something out don’t let the experts put you off with complicated instructions, use your common sense and have a go – it’s your garden, what have you got to lose?!