WEEKEND WORK

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Trim hedges of Berberis darwinii as soon as the flowers are over. Trim forsythia similarly, if it has not already been done. Remove unwanted runners from strawberry plants, cutting them of at the main clump. Thin outdoor peaches and apricots, leaving roughly one fruit for each foot of stem.

Start to earth up early potatoes. Sow new rows of lettuce, radish, cress and some main crop peas. Set up pea sticks, netting or some other support for early peas. Set out plants of broccoli and other brassicas as they become available.

Collars made from old carpet, underlay or roofing felt fixed round the base of plants will prevent cabbage root flies having their wicked way with the crop. Cut out circular collars and then make a slit from the edge to the centre of each circle to fit round the stem.

Sow biennials such as verbascum, Canterbury bell and wallflower. I am sowing yet more foxgloves: Digitalis purpurea 'The Shirley' (Thompson & Morgan, pounds 1.39), with wide, outward facing mottled flowers and 'Apricot' (Thompson & Morgan, pounds 1.99), the most beautiful of all foxgloves with gorgeous apricot coloured flowers. You could also try some perennials from seed: aquilegias, lupins, oriental poppies, delphiniums. Seed of violas, pansies and different forms of primroses can also be sown outside, but a shady spot will give the best chance of success.

Watch for suckers on roses and pull them out as soon as you can. Grafted rhododendrons also have a habit of suckering back to the root stock. Pinch out the growing tips of fuchsias and ivy-leaved geraniums regularly. This forces them to make extra side growth, which eventually will produce extra flowers.

Aphids have been slow to build up in this cold season. To every cloud there is a silver lining... But if you see them building up on roses or honeysuckle, and want to spray, use only an insecticide specific to this particular pest. Some insecticides kill everything that moves which is hard on the good guys such as lacewings and ladybirds.

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