Time for the great tidy-up

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WITH all preparations hopefully completed for a colourful spring show, the main tasks in the garden now are the big clear-up and tidy-up.

With grass cutting over for another year, the machine should not be just locked away in the shed or garage and forgotten about until the spring. All types – electric, petrol, ‘pusher’ – are best cleaned of debris, which is bound to be adhering to all parts of the machine, using a stiff brush, then the blades wiped over with an oily rag.

Now is also the time to get blades sharpened if the cut has not been satisfactory, and a service, especially petrol machines. Leaving work like this to the spring may result in a delay in getting done when firms are busiest.

Ideally, tools should be wiped clean of soil after use throughout the year to keep them in good condition and now that many are no longer needed, a wipe over with an oily rag is also best for them.

Dahlias have had an extended season with all the mild weather but now the first hard frost has reduced them to withered, unsightly specimens, lift the plants carefully with a fork, at the same time ensuring you don’t damage the fleshy tubers.

Cut the stems back to about six inches and place the tubers upside down on a bench in the greenhouse or shed for a couple of weeks. This will allow all moisture to drain from the stems and the tubers to dry out. Then they can be stored in dry compost or sand in a frost-free place over the winter.

Any fuchsia cuttings taken earlier should be showing new growth and will have to be kept growing over the winter months as they are not cut back and stored at this time. Mature plants are well worth saving and storing for next year.

Left outside, all but the very hardy types will be killed off in the winter. If only a few plants, these can be potted up and kept on a windowsill indoors, after having cut them back quite hard. For a large number, a greenhouse with a soil border makes an ideal winter home and no heating is needed. Dig out a trench, lay the plants on their side along the bottom and fill in. They will be quite happy this way over the next few months protected from the worst of winter.