I swore off chemical fertilisers years ago, feeling shamefaced about the massive inputs of oil and water required to make my peonies grow a little better. Poultry manure pellets make me feel more virtuous, and are excellent, but they can be a good deal slower to release their nutrients. Sprinkle them now around permanent plants and onto vegetable patches, and they will be feeding your plants as they come into strong growth later in the spring.
Go to Otter Farm
Devon’s Otter Farm Kitchen Garden School opens this summer, but pledge support now for rewards such as wine, cider, courses, dinner, garden consultation and nights in the shepherd’s hut. See crowdfunder.co.uk/otter-farm.
As alpines start to flower, it’s a good moment to give them some love. They are martyrs to rot, so remove dead leaves from around the bases and add a handful of gravelly chippings to keep them away from wet soil.
Tackle your soupy green pond early. Barley straw (or even Extract of Barley Straw from ecopond.co.uk: far less messy) can help, but only where the pond water is well aerated, so consider installing a pump at the same time.
If you covered your rhubarb at the start of the year, you should have some baby-pink forced stems ready to pull now. Once you have harvested all your forced stems, do not pull any more from this plant for the rest of the year.
This is the time to cut back big, overgrown climbers such as honeysuckle and rambling roses. New shoots show you what is what. Cut back hard, but always to just above new growth.
Willow stems can still be bought for fashioning into near-instant green hedges, edges, tepees and mazes: just push them into the ground, weave them together, water and wait. Buy colourful stems from worldofwillow.co.uk.
Prepare deciduous trees or large shrubs you have earmarked for a move next winter. Dig a deep trench around the drip line, severing thick roots as you go. This will encourage new fibrous roots to develop within a “rootball”, which you can transplant next winter.
This week it is the turn of aubergines to hit my heated propagator. I sow Italian 'Cima Viola’, Indian-style striped aubergine 'Calliope’ and 'White Egg’, all from Simpson’s Seeds (simpsonsseeds.co.uk).
This is the final week of the Scottish Snowdrop Festival, and the last chance to feast your eyes before they are gone for another year. Full details of all of the gardens involved can be found at scotlandsgardens.org.