Growing season now almost here

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The anticipation of a fast-approaching growing season increases daily. Various spring bulbs are flowering strongly – snowdrop, iris, aconite, daffodil and cyclamen, with herbaceous hellebores and pulmonaria joining in.

As days’ lengths increase, the sun is appearing more often and seed potatoes have returned to the shelves at retail outlets.

Tempting offers for groups of plant plugs fill the horticultural press, and this fellow is beginning to reach more often for the gardening tools.

It’s almost two weeks since we heard the sound of a distant lawnmower coming from somewhere down the lane. Later, friend George admitted responsibility. His lawns were overgrown and dry, so why not cut them?

It amused him that he had turned the heads of passers-by, but they should not have been too surprised by the activity. Our mower has not had a full winter’s rest for several years, and one cut when the February lawn is looking ragged can transform the whole scene.

The downside of this is that given the continuous wet weather of late, the first cut is going to reveal a lot more moss than usual.

The presence of moss can be attributed to various causes – poor drainage, acid or impoverished soil, shade from overhanging trees, repeatedly mowing too close.

To keep it at bay, you need to identify the reason and do something about it before another growing season starts in earnest.

But as a stopgap measure, there’s still time to rake out as much as possible, create voids over the whole area by forcing in an upright fork to its full depth and following up with a soil-based top dressing.

Anyone aiming to create and maintain a top-grade lawn must realise how demanding of maintenance it can be. You have to treat it like a crop needing special attention.

Prepare the site well in advance of seed-sowing or turf-laying so it can settle. The optimum times to lay turf or sow grass seed are early September or late-March to mid-April.

Essential repairs to existing lawns, such as broken edges and filling in hollows, are best tackled now, if there’s no frost.

Maintenance involves much more than weekly mowing when you’re after the standard that wins gardening competitions or turns the heads of people passing by.

Annual weeds appear alongside germinating grass seed, but the first cut takes care of them. Perennial types are much more troublesome.

The use of selective weed-killers that zap them without harming the grass is still widespread, but safe storage and application is essential.

Choose a calm day for both liquid and granular or powder forms to avoid spray or dust drifting onto nearby plants.