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Work now and reap spring dividend; GARDENING: Now is the time for cutting back, replanting, infilling and mulching to be done.

Byline: FRED RUDDIFORD DIY adviser to B&Q in Cardiff

NOW is the time to clear up your garden after the summer and prepare for the year to come.

During autumn and winter you will find your plants are going through a dormant phase, dropping their leaves and in some cases shrinking to ground level.

Don't despair - there is a lot you can do to cheer up a winter garden. Even in the darkest months, something will always bloom bravely through the frost.

And you will find that even when your garden looks at its "quietest", there are always tasks you can do to prepare for the warmer seasons ahead.

Have a tidy up Gardening at this time of the year may seem rather tiresome but it is worth the effort - your work now will really pay off next year. Start by clearing up fallen leaves with a leaf rake, pull out any weeds and cut back existing plants. After a good clear up you will see where you have space for new plants.

Finally, rake over the bare soil and cover it with a layer of protecting and enriching mulch such as manure or garden compost, available from your local B&Q store. Cart away all the debris in a wheelbarrow or use a garden vacuum available from B&Q to tidy up the mess.

Essential cut-backs Cutting back will give the plant space and stimulate new growth.

Think of overall shape when pruning and how the plant will grow next season.

Tie in and train long shoots on climbers and cut back deciduous perennials. Deadheading any still flowering plants regularly really prolongs their flowering season.

Plant for next year This is one of the main planting seasons. Mid-winter and early spring are usually too frosty and in summer most things are growing and flowering so cannot be moved. When planting or transplanting, dig a hole twice the size of the pot or root-ball. Mix the soil you have dug with well-rotted organic matter such as manure or garden compost. Plant in this improved soil and water well until the plant settles in. Only plant out full hardy species that will survive the cold.

This is also the time to plant spring bulbs - once you've bought your favourites make sure you've got a ready supply of compost on hand for your tubs and pots. Plant a variety of flowers, such as daffodils, narcissi, dwarf narcissi, crocuses, tulips or snowdrops near to the house so that you can enjoy the diverse colours and blooms from your window. You will find a wide range of winter flowers and spring bulbs in the gardening department of your local B&Q store - prices start from pounds 1.98.

Go to seed Enjoy your summer-flowering plants in autumn by letting them go to seed. Many look as good as the flowers before them! Try planting Papaver orientale - huge red or pink flowers with black centres, Allium christophii - melon-sized, starry seed heads or Physalis alkekengi - vibrant orange Chinese lanterns.

Apart from all the planting and tidying, the winter garden has more to offer than you might think. Why not collect leaves that have turned bronze, red and yellow and press them. Put out nuts, seeds and kitchen scraps for birds and squirrels who are busy feasting before the long winter. Now is the time to make cider - or buy some to drink by a roaring fire while you roast chestnuts and bake potatoes.

CAPTION(S):

GO FOR IT! The Keukenhof's spring-flowering bulbs would grace your garden, too SIMPLY THE BEST: The Keukenhof Gardens in Holland are known worldwide as the showcase for flowering bulbs
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 10, 2001
Words:609
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