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Spring cleaning

By garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin. It's March and now is a great time to be out and about in your garden on a sunny day giving it a good spring clean and setting the scene for a great summer outdoors.

If the long range weather forecasters are right we are in for a great summer so now's a good time to start planning.

Your priority is to get out and tidy up all the dead and decaying material from last year. Most perennials were cut back early this winter by the frosts so you may already have done some clearance but there will still be some old twigs and debris left from the winter storms to clear away. Remember tidying borders like this helps prevent plant diseases in the garden.

The question I get most asked at this time of year is what to do with Narcissus and other bulbous plants once they have finished flowering. Well the only thing you should do is to remove the flower heads to stop them going to seed. Leave the leaves to enable the plant to put all it's energy back into the bulb for next year. Give them a little fertiliser at this point - especially if the flowers were disappointing this year. If you don't like the look of all those leaves dying off then try planting some late Spring plants such as Peonies or some ferns such as Dryopteris felix-mas to take over from the plants once they have finished.

If you've still got some pruning to do then now is the time to complete the work. It's not too late to prune shrubs and trees. I usually leave some plants until now before cutting back. Lavenders are pruned in August but I also prune again around now to keep the plant looking compact and shrubby right down to the ground. Begin to prune early flowering shrubs such as Forsthyia as soon as they have finished flowering.

And don't forget about your pond. Now is a great time to give it a good clean. Get rid of some of the old plants, splitting them and re-planting in fresh soil. Remove the pump and give it a good overhaul, fit a new filter and make sure every thing's working OK. If you've got fish, try not to disturb them too much if they are still in a winter state, but a healthy pond will make for healthy fish.

And finally don't forget about the lawn. You should lightly scarify the lawn to help remove moss and come April add the first fertiliser to stimulate good, strong growth.

This time of year isn't all about cleaning and tidying. You'll have noticed plants coming to life already and a few days of sunshine can make all the difference. You can make those first visits to the garden centres and nurseries to start stocking new borders, or replace tired old plants. And all the new furniture and pots will be coming out right now in time for the official launch of the gardening season so when you finished all the chores go out and treat yourself!

By Andrew Fisher Tomlin

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