Daphne Ledward, Garden Planner, Gardener, Author and Broadcaster

Tips for late Winter and Early Spring

Plant some early potatoes, like 'Rocket' or 'Swift' in a bucket, potato barrel or black polythene bag. Place in a sunny, sheltered spot outdoors for an extra early crop of home-grown potatoes.

Pot up small dahlia tubers in large plant pots in a cold frame or under fleece. You will get established plants for planting out in a border or vegetable patch at the end of May.

Spray roses with a fungicide against early mildew and black spot. This is particularly important if these diseases were a problem last year.

If you have a greenhouse, you can start planting up your summer hanging baskets.   This will ensure they have established before hanging out in late May or early June. You can use plug plants if available.

Buy a compost bin if you have not already got one.  Home-made compost is a valuable soil conditioner.

Dead head daffodil bulbs as the flowers fade. Do not dead head snowdrops as they will increase by seeding. Split overcrowded snowdrop clumps and replant immediately in groups of about 6.

Treat mossy lawns with a mosskiller. Do not treat weeds for another month. Feed with a summer lawn fertiliser at the end of March. Feed permanently planted tubs with a slow release feed like Osmacote or Vitax Q4.

Sow tomato seeds indoors.

Prune early flowering shrubs like flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) and forsythia by removing very old branches at ground level as the flowers fade.

Sow early peas ('Feltham First') and broad beans ('The Sutton). If birds are a problem, sow in small pots and plant out when well established.

Treat paving with a patio cleaner or Armillatox to remove algae, which can make paths and other hard surfaces dangerously slippery. Decking cleaners are available to do the same job on wooden surfaces, but wet wood, even when clean, can be slippery when wet, so tread carefully on decking and wooden walkways during wet weather.

Late winter and early spring are good times to clean greenhouse and cold frame glass and disinfect all surfaces. Jeyes Fluid or Armillatox can be used for this job. Make sure the solution does not drip on the leaves of any plants or they may be damaged.

Rather than disconnect your pond pump for the winter, it is better to leave it running, but check regularly to make sure the filter does not become blocked. If the pressure starts to reduce, turn off the pump and clean the filter thoroughly.

Winter, providing it is not freezing, is the best time to plant roses, trees, shrubs and hardy herbaceous plants as it gives the roots a chance to establish while the soil is uniformly damp. It is particularly important to plant bare root specimens at this time, while they are dormant, but container grown ones will also benefit.

If your lawn is covered with frost or snow, try not to walk on it, as this can encourage the formation of fusarium disease (snow mould). This shows as dead patches in the turf, which can spread to infect large areas, particularly if the turf is fine, or over-fed with nitrogen-rich (summer) fertilisers.

Apples and pears can be winter pruned and shaped providing no frost is forecast. Confine the pruning of mature trees to thinning out overcrowded wood and removing dead, diseased and crossing branches. Do not prune plums, cherries, peaches and other members of the plum family at this time of year as silver leaf disease may infect the wounds.

Check winter pansies for pansy aphids. These are found at the base of the stems and will destroy pansy and viola plants if not treated in time. Spray with an insecticide, making sure all parts of the plant and the surface of the compost or soil are covered.

Black spot was particularly bad last season, so spray roses early with a fungicide as soon as the new buds appear, and 3-4 weeks throughout the spring and summer thereafter.

Look for dormant snails. These can often be found in clusters round the edges of pots, on lawn edgings, and stuck to walls covered with climbing plants. Remove immediately and destroy.

Keep on top of weeds during mild spells when they may germinate. Seedling weeds are easily controlled with a sharp Dutch hoe, and quick action now will save a lot of harder work as the year progresses.