WEEKEND WORK

'Keep your bulbs damp'
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Lovers of tender perennials hover at this time of the year with buckets of sand, ashes and peat to heap over the crowns of their favourite plants. This extra protection helps prevent frost damage during winter, but is not always successful. Tender shrubs, particularly evergreens, may need windbreaks built round them. Use broken twigs, straw, bracken or fern fronds. Protect the crowns of globe artichokes with loosely packed straw or bracken. I gather net curtains work well, too, although I've not tried them.

Check that the bulbs you may be forcing inside for early flowers have not dried out. The compost should be damp but not soggy. Outside, tulips should be in the ground now. If you are using them in mixed borders, plant them extra deep. This way, you are less likely to spear them when forking over the soil.

In sheltered areas, sow a row of early peas, choosing a round-seeded variety such as 'Feltham's First'. You could also try a row of broad beans. 'Aquadulce Claudia' is a good choice for planting at this time of the year, but autumn sowing is a gamble. Cloches will provide necessary protection if the weather takes a turn for the worse, but rodents are more difficult to guard against.

Dig over any ground that is clear of crops and plants, leaving the soil in rough clods to be broken down by frost.

Continue to cut down and clear away old stems of Michaelmas daisy, goldenrod and perennial verbascum. Mulch thickly round the clumps.

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