Gardening tips for spring

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It's been a tough winter for the garden but with spring just around the corner it's time to prepare for the months ahead. March can be tricky, there's still some bite in the weather and new fruits and flowers are bursting through. You may not be that keen but starting work now will reap rewards later.

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Tidy up
It's time to get outside and clear the decks for the spring months ahead. Start with the beds first. Get rid of any dead wood from the year before but take care to watch out for any new shoots or emerging bulbs underfoot. It's the perfect time to get rid of any weeds. Clear leaves and any other rubbish as this is where the slugs, snails, vine weevil and woodlice live. These culprits can introduce damaging disease into your garden.

Clear the pond
It's possible your pond will have turned an unpleasant green, this is due to the growth of algae which takes off in the warmth of the spring. A good tip is to drop a string bag full of barley into the water. This will speed up the cleaning process. As the barley breaks down it begins to use up nutrients in the water which helps reduce the amount of algae and blanket weed. Remember to remove the barley after six months.

Start pruning
This is the best time to prune roses. Getting rid of old wood now encourages new growth which is less prone to disease. Cut back blackcurrants to ground level. This has the effect of opening the plant up encouraging new shoots. From this you should get a good crop of fruit the following season.

Feed the birds
Putting out a feeder, including fresh water, will benefit your garden. Birds eat insects and slugs so encouraging them will give you an ally in your battle to keep those crops intact.

Plant potatoes and onions
Towards the end of the month, when the weather is warmer, you can put your 'chitted' potatoes in the ground. Onion sets can be planted too. Make sure you cover the onions with netting and the spuds with a fleece to shield them from remaining frosts.

Start sowing
You can start sowing carrots and parsnips under cloches now. Start salad leaves off under glass. Try your summer cabbages, leeks and Brussels sprouts in a seed bed. Tomatoes can be planted in trays and pots keeping the temperature at around 18 degrees.

Rake the lawn
Use a long-pronged metal rake to get rid of all the dead grass and detritus left from the colder months. Put the waste into your compost bin and then give your lawn a feed with the compost that is ready. This way your lawn should be perfect for those alfresco lunches and BBQ's in later months.