Weekend Work: Time to tickle the ground up around your bulbs

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The Independent Online

What to do

* Early flowering Iris reticulata and crocus are already spearing through the ground, with scillas and grape hyacinths. If the earth looks sour, tickle the ground up around the bulbs and remove any seedling weeds.

* Continue to mulch thickly round herbaceous perennials, such as hosta and rodgersia, both of which are quite greedy plants. The mulch feeds, but it also suppresses annual weeds and, as it is drawn down by earthworms, gradually improves the texture of soil.

* Keep greenhouses well ventilated so that air constantly circulates through it. There is a difference between circulating air and icy draughts. A temperature as constant as possible is what you are aiming for. Winter sun can build up a surprising amount of warmth in a greenhouse. If you close the vents in time at the end of the day, you can trap some of this warmth and keep down the amount of artificial heat you use through the night.

* Gently force batches of early spring bulbs by bringing pots of them into a cool greenhouse. Dwarf narcissi, hyacinths, crocus and iris all respond to this kind of treatment. When the flower buds begin to colour up, you can bring the bowls into the house.

What to buy

Gardeners this year have access to a new blight resistant potato, 'Blue Danube' a Sarpo cultivar developed by the Sarvari Research Trust. The trust was set up in 2002 to research potato blight and develop kinds with a high resistance to this damaging disease. Thompson & Morgan already sell two Sarpo maincrop potatoes, 'Mira' and 'Axona'. 'Blue Danube' is an early maincrop with a purplish skin and is available (£3.49 for 10) from Thompson & Morgan on 0844 573 1818 or from the website at thompson-morgan.com.