Weekend Work: Time to lay new turf

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The Independent Online

What to do

Lay new turf now so the grass can settle during the winter. Dig over the ground, get rid of all weeds and rake the tilth so the surface is even. Use a line to keep the turves straight and lay them so the joints are staggered, like brickwork. Sift soil into any gaps and firm down the turves by banging them with a rake head.

Bare patches in lawns can be repaired either with turf, or with lawn seed. Choose a mixture with ryegrass where lawns get heavy wear. There are also seed mixtures which contain slow-growing grasses. These are especially useful for steep slopes or for using in wild flower meadows.

Fill some containers outside with plants for winter interest. Heathers such as white 'Lyonesse' and pink 'St Keverne' flower through the autumn. White 'Springwood' and pink 'King George' pick up the baton in December. Use a compost suitable for acid loving plants. Variegated ivies and dwarf hebes will provide good foliage contrast.

If you are going for wallflowers, look for plants that are bushy and compact, with their growing tips pinched out. Wallflowers have done as much growing as they are going to – a plant that is scrawny now will still be scrawny in spring.

Moss growth accelerates as grass growth slows: if you don't like moss in the lawn, treat it now with a residual killer.

Divide and replant clumps of chives and mint. Rake up fallen leaves. If you have room, stack them in a separate compost heap to rot down over winter. Leaf mould makes an excellent mulch.

Lift dahlia tubers after stems have been blackened by frost. Cut dahlia stems back to about an inch and leave them to dry for a week or so. Then dust them with a fungicide such as flowers of sulphur and pack them in boxes of damp compost or sand. Store them in a place that is free from frost.

What to buy

Keep topiary in order with top-notch Tobisho clippers (£65), made by a small family firm in the Yamagata mountains in Japan. Hand-forged, beautifully balanced, but not to be used as secateurs. Available from Niwaki, Harvard Farm, Halstock, Yeovil BA22 9SZ, 0845 116 2372, niwaki.com