In the garden:
Prune summer-flowering clematis before new shoots appear. Most new clematis should be cut back hard in their first spring. Find a strong pair of leaf buds about a foot above the ground and cut back to just above these. With established plants you can cut back all stems to the lowest pair of healthy buds at about the same height.
You can also prune winter-flowering jasmine, viburnum and cornus. Whenever you prune cut out dead, untidy and diseased stems. Most winter-flowering shrubs should be cut back to a couple of inches short of old growth.
You can also cut back Virginia creepers, ivy and other climbers.
It’s a good time to move deciduous shrubs and trees as long as the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged.
You can create more snowdrop plants if you lift and divide green plants now.
Fruit and vegetables:
It’s rhubarb time! Look for a moist spot with good drainage and with sun if possible. Dig in organic matter before planting to keep your plant going for years to come. Crowns should be planted with the top of the crown about an inch below the soil surface. If the soil is very heavy or wet, set the crown at soil level. Remember to allow plenty of room for these large plants to grow and spread and if you want to try container planting use something large.
You can start forcing established rhubarb plants for an early crop. Cover the crown with straw and a pot on top of that. You can buy special forcing pots or use a bucket. The stems should be ready to eat about eight weeks after you start forcing. If you can, give rhubarb plants a year to recover after forcing.
Potatoes in containers can certainly be started now. Keep in the greenhouse if you can, or protect with fleece or other coverings while there’s still a chance of frost.
Perennial vegetables (asparagus and artichokes for example) can be mulched with manure or compost to feed and protect them.
You can prepare your seed trays for sowing. Fill them with appropriate, good quality compost and allow them to warm in the greenhouse or in the house.
Outdoor seed beds can also be prepared. Get all the weeds out and dig in organic matter. Covering the beds will keep them warm and dry and give you a head start on the growing season.
Autumn-cropping raspberries can be pruned. They can be cut right back to ground level.
If you see early blossom on fruit trees – especially apricots, peach and nectarine – give it some protection. Use fleece overnight.
Put mulch around your fruit trees.
You can start planting seeds now, but don’t get carried away, planting early can get you a head start but these plants will have more work to do. It doesn’t hurt to wait for warmer weather and the natural cycle of growth.
It’s a great time to install a water butt. Attach it to a down pipe and, if you have a big garden, run pipes into another butt. Rain water is a great and environmentally friendly way to water your garden.
Set up a composter. You’ll reap the rewards of good composting for years to come. It’s worth its weight in gold to the gardener.