Gardening: Cuttings: Weekend work

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The Independent Online
THE days are getting warmer at last, and with luck the nights are, too, which means that selective weedkillers applied to fine lawns now will work most efficiently. On lawns cut to a length of an inch or more, daisies and even buttercups are not the problem they are made out to be, and are perhaps better lived with. A lawn thick with daisies in full bloom is its own pleasure.

Moss, too, can be lived with if it is not so thick that it gets the better of the grass. Certainly a lawn with a little mossy insulation will survive the rigours of a summer drought much better than one that has been given the full textbook cleansing.

Summer cabbages and celery can be planted outside. Winter and Savoy cabbages, and beetroot, can be sown direct out of doors. The first pickings of asparagus should be ready, but only cut from plants at least two years old or you will weaken the crowns before they are properly established. Sweetcorn can be planted in pots ready for planting out next month.

Biennial flowers such as Sweet William, wallflowers and Canterbury bells can be sown now, and transplanted to their final positions in the autumn. Here is your chance to sow single-colour wallflowers, instead of the usual mixture on offer as ready- grown plants. Recent rain has sent perennials shooting away fast, so put in a few canes or pea sticks for support where necessary.

However verdant things look, summer is not yet here and there may be frosts still in many parts of Britain. Unlike last year, when the north had a dry spring, water is plentiful and trees and shrubs have begun to grow in earnest. This is the time when magnolia lovers stay awake at night worrying about the imminent prospect of frost.

To lose a year's flowers is tough, but to lose strong leading shoots is a serious setback. At least with the advent of those gossamer-light fabrics you can fling a covering over a promising young specimen and keep off a degree or two of frost. If the plant is small, put in a cane taller than the leader to support the fabric and to keep the weight off those very shoots you want to protect.

Just when it seems too late to move anything in the garden until autumn, remember that this is the right time to split ornamental grasses and bamboo. Both hate being disturbed when at a standstill. But now, just as they begin to grow, they will accept it. Bigger bamboos and pampas grass will require a sharp spade wielded with quite a bit of muscle to separate a chunk. An established bamboo may have you reaching for the axe, and you will not be the first to do so. Keep the new plants well watered for a few weeks until they look established. It pays to be generous: small pieces of bamboo often founder; a larger chunk stands a better chance of survival.

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