Jobs to do in the garden this week.

  • Geranium cuttings should be taken now. Cut off a 8cm (3in) shoot just below a leaf joint (node), remove all but the top pair of leaves and insert the cuttings 4cm (1.5in) into a small pot of potting compost. Gently water in the cuttings and place in a warm, well-lit place. When they have begun to produce more leaves they can be moved to larger pots, containing general-purpose compost.
  • Weed and spread compost from the compost bin over the borders and vegtable patch. This adds valuable nutrients to the soil and acts as a mulch, to retain moisture and reduce weed growth. Ensure that the soil is moist before adding mulch.
  • Feed fruit trees with a potash fertiliser.
  • Plant onion sets (bulbs). Run a string line across the bed and plant the bulbs, 5-10cm (2-4in) apart, up to their necks so just the tips are showing. Space the rows 25-30cm (10-15in). Firm the soil around them and water well, cover with a cloche for added protection. Keep an eye on them until they get established as some birds like to pull the sets out.
  • Plant summer fruiting raspberry canes.
  • As it's starting to warm up, it's a good time to lay a new lawn, althought the best time is in Autumn or late winter, as it's damper and cooler, allowing the turf to bed in without you having to worry too much about regular watering. See here: laying a new lawn for further information.
  • When you see the new shoots forming on sedum, cut down the old, dead flower heads.
  • Hard prune dogwood/cornus stems every other year. This will ensure straight, upright, brightly coloured stems. Use the prunings as hardwood cuttings. Cut into 8inch lengths, trim the bottom at a 45 degree angle and the top straight across, so you know which way up it should be planted. Push the stems into an empty space in the border.
  • Prune summer-flowering clematis before they start producing new growth.
  • Plant lily and gladioli bulbs in 4in (10cm) deep holes. Cover with soil or compost and gently firm down the soil to ensure that there are no air pockets as this may cause the bulbs to rot.
  • Wash any used pots and seed trays, ready to be used for seed sowing.
  • Apply fertilizer containing nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus around trees, fruit bushes and shrubs.
  • Put holly branches on the ground to stop mice and squirrels digging up newly planted peas, broad beans and bulbs.
  • Now's a good time to service your lawn mower. If you've got an electric mower it's just a matter of checking the blades aren't too badly damaged (if they are the plastic type, they are easily replaced) and that the underside of the deck is clear of debris. For petrol mowers it's a bit more complex. Remove the air filter cover and give the filter a good vacuum. Lift the mower onto a bench and examine the underside of the mower deck and the state of the blade (note that most manufacturers suggest not tipping the mower unless it has been drained of oil as well as any petrol), remove the spark plug and check that the spark gap is bright, if not give it a clean with some fine emery paper and reset the spark gap. Old petrol from last year will be 'stale', making it difficult to start your mower. Mix it with some new petrol in your fuel can. For the first start of the mower I find a short spray from a can of Easy Start into the intake will get the mower going pretty quickly.
  • Remove algae and moss from patios and paths with a proprietary patio and path cleaner or tar-oil winter wash.
  • Prune gooseberries and cover with netting to prevent birds from eating the buds.
  • If you are ordering seeds or plugs from mail-order companies, you'll need to get your order in soon.
  • Start off seed potatoes, standing them in seed trays with eyes uppermost.
  • For an early crop of strawberries bring the pots into the greenhouse now.
  • Pot up any cuttings that have rooted.
  • Check produce and plants that are in storage for damage or drying out (dahlias, chrysanths etc.).
  • Clear away old crops from the greenhouse, including grow bags, they can harbour hibernating insects and their eggs. Spread the grow bag compost on the soil as a soil conditioner.
  • If you have had a fall of snow, gently shake shrub branches, a build up of snow and ice can cause branches to snap.
  • Refirm the roots of any shrubs that may have been lifted by frost.
  • Put out feeders for birds, not forgetting fresh water. Encouraging birds into the garden will help reduce the number of insects and slugs.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast. Cover shrubs that are likely to be damaged by frost with garden fleece, sacking or an old light blanket.
  • On a dry still day rake up fallen leaves, don't put them on the compost heap, as leaves break down in a cold process, whereas a traditional compost heap breaks organic matter down in a warm/hot process. Put them into a leaf composter, or make leaf mould. How to make leaf mould.
  • If you have any decorative plant pots that aren't frostproof. Empty them of all soil and store them in the shed, greenhouse or garage.
  • Plant or move roses. They like plenty of sun and a clay soil. Leave 60cm (24in) between plants to allow air circulation, which will reduce the chance of infection.
  • Plant apple and pear trees. Check and adjust any stakes on young trees and remove stakes on any trees that have been planted more than 3 years.
  • During autumn and winter, indoor plants will require less feeding and watering. However as the temperature drops outside, the central heating goes on and the temperature in the house tends to go up, so whilst it's a good idea to keep your pot plants on the dry side and not water them too often, you should check a couple of times a week to ensure they haven't totally dried out. Oh and if you have a water spray bottle, hold the plant over the sink or bath and give the foliage a quick little squirt (don't do this to hairy leaved plants like african violets).
  • Don't go and buy an indoor (small) watering can, I find that the kettle does just as good a job, but obviously not after it has just boiled!! (the water should be room temperature or cooler).