THE cold, wet days of February may not invite you to venture into the garden but at least the mornings and evenings are getting a bit lighter and some flowers are beginning to show themselves.

Snowdrops, crocus, early flowering narcissus as well as some varieties of viburnum and hamamelis should all be out now.

This is a good time of year to think about fruit, either planting it or pruning.

If you are a regular visitor to Grappenhall Heys you may be surprised to see some rather drastic pruning of our apple trees.

Moderate pruning of apple trees in winter helps to stimulate growth for the next season’s fruit and to maintain an open, well-balanced structure as well as the removal of dead and diseased wood.

The trees at the Walled Garden were becoming too tall to maintain properly, not just pruning but also thinning out and picking the fruit.

A bumper harvest may sound like a good thing but it can put a strain on the tree and results in a lot of waste.

Hard pruning will stimulate branch growth at the expense of fruit but this should balance itself out in years to come.

We have also been having a sort out in the fruit cage removing some old, unproductive gooseberries, replacing them with new ones, and giving the blackcurrants a good prune.

Warrington Guardian:

If a bush needs rejuvenating, cut out a greater proportion of the old wood, retaining only those branches from which strong, young shoots have developed.

If few shoots have developed cut down the whole plant to just above ground level, as we have done.

This year’s crop will be sacrificed but most bushes should rejuvenate if fed and mulched.

We have also planted some new summer-fruiting raspberry canes to complement our autumn varieties.

All varieties of soft fruit should still be available in bare root form for planting now, as long as the ground isn’t frozen.

This is also the time of year when I remind you to order your seed potatoes for chitting as well as garlic, shallots and onion sets to be planted when ground conditions allow (we all know what last year was like).

Dig your vegetable plots, incorporating plenty of manure or home-made compost and mulch rhubarb with the same.

For an early, tender crop of rhubarb cover the emerging buds with a container that excludes light.

You can use fancy forcing pots as we have done but a bucket will do!

The plants will produce tender, pink stems in a few weeks especially if kept warm with a layer of straw or manure.