Do start off dahlia cuttings: If you want to take cuttings it's time to get your tubers sprouting! Start them off as soon as you receive them by placing them in large pots or deep trays with a generous helping of a general purpose compost. Partly fill your container to half cover the tuber and water (without allowing the water inside the tuber). When the shoots are around 8cm use a sharp knife to cut them away from the crown just above where they join the tuber. Trim off any growth under the top pair of leaves, dip in hormone rooting powder then pot up using John Innes No.2. As the stems develop, pinch out any growth from the middle of the cutting to help create a bushy plant. Harden off before planting out around May. Do keep an eye out for slugs and snails that will feast on your young plants.
- Do care for your soil: Healthy soil is the key to all good growing so take some time to enrich yours before the spring gets started. Dig in plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure or leaf mould and, if your soil tends to be heavy, add some sharp sand or grit.
- Don't cut back perennials: It's still too early to cut back the old growth from perennial plants. Leave the old growth to protect the new emerging shoots until early spring.
- Do move shrubs: If you have any shrubs in the wrong place, now is the time to move them while they're still dormant.
- Do deal with pests: Look out for any pests that have been hibernating and destroy them before they have a change to breed and cause havoc.
- Don't use old compost: Old compost is a favourite hiding place for vine weevil larvae that destroy plants by munching on their roots. Clean post with jays fluid to ensure there are no germs left behind and fill with fresh compost.
- Do remove weeds: Emerging weeds can be pulled up as they start to appear to prevent them from sowing seeds and becoming an invasive problem over the summer months.
Peter Nyssen 31st January 2018