LAZY GARDENER: Rob Foster gives advice on winter bedding plants

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Garden centres, nurseries and other outlets now have plenty of spring bedding in stock. The tried and tested polyanthus, bellis, primroses and winter pansies all flower well during milder spells throughout late winter and spring, while wallflowers and sweet williams give their best displays once temperatures start to warm up in early spring.

All of these plants are normally hardy enough to take whatever the winter weather throws at them. However, they do stop flowering during very cold spells but the blooms soon return as better weather arrives.

Bellis, primulas and forget-me-nots are traditional favourites to partner spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. Sweet smelling wallflowers and sweet willliams add their perfume to the mix, creating displays that are fabulous for their scent and colour and they really give you a lift throughout winter and spring.

How about something different, such as the giant or frilly-edged pansies or the dainty violas? You could ring the changes with pink or white forget-me-nots.

When you choose your plants, buy the ones that have green and healthy foliage; yellowing leaves or brown blotches on the foliage can indicate fungal diseases. Pansies can be susceptible so look for the tell-tale signs such as powdery patches or discoloured rings

If you have a lot of spring bedding to put in the garden, lay the plants in position before you begin to make sure you have enough and site them in an open, sunny or semi-shaded position.

Thatch in Lawns

Thatch is a term used for the accumulation of organic debris and fibrous material that occurs on the surface of many lawns. This build up is caused by grass clippings which elude the mower collection box.

Mosses, wind-blown debris, organic material from fertilisers that was added in the spring and summer all add, gradually, to the problem. In time even grass will root into it and the surface of the lawn becomes matted, consolidated and spongy underfoot, particularly in wet weather.

A lot of lawns are never troubled with thatch and these normally have a thriving earthworm population. Earthworms remove debris from the surface and at the same time provide good conditions for the development of grass roots.

Thatch, if left to accumulate, will eventually impede aeration and drainage resulting in poor grass with its associated problems. Removal of thatch is best done now; this allows time for recovery before the onset of winter. Don’t be too enthusiastic when you are doing this because deep penetration may damage underlying grass roots. Good lawn maintenance now will avoid problems next year.

Finally your lawn will benefit from a dose of autumn fertiliser. These are high in potash which will help strengthen the grass before the onset of winter. Apply it once you have scarified the lawn, if drainage is a problem then it is also a good time to spike the lawn. When applying any fertilisers to your lawn always work towards the paths or house so you do not walk on treated areas and carry any residue on the soles of your shoes into the house and onto the carpets.

Jobs for the week ahead

Plant garlic in small pots and keep in the cold frame over winter

Lift and divide hardy perennials, old clumps start losing their vigour

Remove any shading from greenhouses

Mow the lawn less frequently and raise the cutting height

Lift and store gladioli for the winter

Weed and top up gravel paths