Resist temptation to just fork over soil in battle to halt thriving weeds

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For the gardener with the larger area under cultivation there is work to be done everywhere.

The rockery, shrubbery, vegetable plot and the greenhouse – and one of the biggest jobs is weeding. Having just had surely one of the mildest winters on record with little severe frost, weeds have not been cut back as in a normal winter and now, with warmth and showers, they are thriving.

Some people will be tempted to just either fork over the soil or go in with a hoe; all very well in the height of summer when really high temperatures and dry weather will kill many weeds lying on the surface, but in the spring the sun is not that strong and showers of rain give them the conditions to get reestablished.

There is no better way of getting rid of weeds properly than loosening the soil with a fork and picking them up or, for the less able person, using a hand fork down on one’s hands and knees.

With spring-flowering shrubs ending their welcome colour, pruning certain ones are also on the ‘to-do’ list. Those that come into this category include forsythia, ribes (flowering currant), spirea arguta and the two viburnums, the deciduous v.bodnantense and v.tinus, the evergreen type.

None of these should be cut back in the autumn as this removes the shoots that are going to provide the flowers in the spring. Herbaceous border plants are actively growing, throwing up a lot of new shoots and the taller varieties will benefit from support to protect them from wind damage.

Pea sticks (thin but sturdy branches) inserted among them is one method, three or four bamboo canes inserted around a plant and the stems confined with twine is another, but only acceptable if the finished job is neatly done with the tying not done tightly.

Really effective for the tall-growing types are plant supports in lightweight galvanised tubing, coated green to blend with the foliage, coming in a variety of shapes.

There are hoops where stems are contained within a ring on legs and a type with a hook and eye which can be linked around a plant, perfect for lighting stems clear of lawns and paths.