Love your lawn

Do we, don't we? Just when you think it's time to get the mower out in the fine spring weather, the heavens open and everything has to be put back inside again.

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Spring can be unpredictable - frosty or mild - but if the weather starts to improve, soil temperatures rise and the grass soon grows. If it's a poor spring, hardly anything seems to happen at all, so be prepared to implement your lawn care plans any time soon - but be flexible.

David Hedges-Gower, a regular on BBC radio, RHS lecturer and National Trust advisor, author of Modern Lawn Care, explains that all the mistakes we make with our lawns come from one problem.

"We view the lawn as just an outdoor living carpet; we forget that it is made up of plants with the same needs as the flowers, shrubs, vegetables and trees in the rest of the garden.

"So, with a housekeeping mindset, we cut it mercilessly as soon as it begins to grow in the spring to get that smooth green carpet effect; and we only think about what we can see, that green surface. We forget about the thatch layer and the soil underneath and the nourishment the grass needs for strong, healthy growth."

If you treat your lawn the same you do a cherished shrub, you'll make a huge difference, he advises, and it takes less time than you spend putting right all the problems caused by neglect.

"Just like that shrub, your lawn needs to be pruned - that's scarification, removing a good portion of the dead matter that forms the thatch layer. This lets light and air embrace the grass plants."

You'll need to look after your soil, aerating it to let the oxygen through, letting it breathe and helping vital microbes and good bacteria to thrive. The lawn will also need feeding four times a year, with food suited to each season.

David offers the following tips to tackle the core lawn jobs you can start doing in March, as soon as the weather is dry enough.

MOWING: Don't forget to mow and get into a routine, but make sure to mow at a sensible height, lowering gradually as you mow more frequently. Remember to maintain that sharp blade.

AERATION: If the weather is suitable, hollow-tine aerate your lawn when conditions allow and before the onset of dry weather.

SCARIFICATION: As the ground temperature begins to rise, this is a great time to prune your grasses and remove thatch and moss.

FEEDING: If scarifying, apply a good balanced feed afterwards, which will allow new grasses to flourish once all the moss and debris has gone.

MOSS: If you are doing renovation or maintenance scarification, apply moss treatment and remember to do this after scarification, not before, as you achieve better success.

DISEASE: Continue to be vigilant - changing weather means changing disease patterns. Thankfully, as weather improves, grasses get stronger so there will be less chance of disease occurring.

DEBRIS: Keep material, twigs, leaves, furniture, off your lawn as much as possible.

REPAIRS: Start or continue minor repairs to lawn edges, bare areas etc

SEEDING: If the temperature is rising, begin to sow seed, to take advantage of early spring sunshine. If it's in the ground it will have a chance.

TOP DRESSING: Should you wish to apply any dressing material, do so now.

WEEDS: Weeds will start to germinate as it gets warmer and you can apply selective herbicides now if you want to use them. Stick to improving your grass health and you may not need to.

Modern Lawn Care, priced £17.99, is available from www.davidhedges-gower.com/modern-lawn-care-the-book

BEST OF THE BUNCH - Primulas

These spring favourites in a variety of forms and a rainbow of colours have been deemed the Horticultural Trades Association's (HTA) 'Plant of the Moment' for March. They flower their hearts out for weeks on end, both in containers and in beds and borders, self-seed freely and come back year after year. New varieties are continually being bred, offering outstanding garden performance, larger flowers and better resistance to inclement weather. Although single-coloured flowers are always popular, also look out for bicolours, double and rosebud types, plus wonderfully scented new varieties too. Good choices include the Japanese candelabra primula (P. japonica) and orange Bulley's candelabra primula (P. bulleyana). There are many varieties - polyanthus and primrose are from the same genus. They survive best in partial shade and soil enriched in humus.

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT - Celery

This can be a tricky crop to grow, but has become easier over the years thanks to self-blanching varieties which make cultivation easier, cutting out time-consuming jobs such as digging trenches and earthing up. Sow seed indoors in spring and plant out in May in a block, which will help the plants blanch each other. It's best grown in a vegetable patch and prefers an open site with moisture-retaining fertile soil, so add plenty of organic matter before planting and rake in a general fertiliser. Harden the plants off and plant out after all danger of frost has passed, giving them plenty of water during the growing season. In dry summers, celery is prone to bolting, so don't let the plants go short of water. Good varieties include 'Golden Self-Blanching' and 'Victoria'.

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK

Make sure pots and seed trays in the greenhouse do not dry out.

Cut off dead flower spikes from summer-flowering heathers and prune young tree heathers.

Prune plum trees once they have started growing.

Make the first outdoor sowings of culinary and salad herbs.

Deadhead daffodils as they fade.

Apply a spring fertiliser to established lawns once they are actively growing and cut grass when it is about 8cm (3in) high.

Lift and divide herbaceous perennials, allowing them to colonise any bare areas of ground.

Encourage autumn-sown broad beans with a dressing of superphosphate stirred into the soil along the rows.

Feed figs growing under glass with a dressing of bonemeal, along with a mulch of compost over the root run.

Sow a row of spinach beet for a summer crop. It should be ready in July.