Now‘s the time to repot or ‘top dress‘ houseplants, just before they start into growth and it‘s a good idea to give them a spring clean too. Check all of your plants annually, not all will need repotting as they can last for 2-3 years but being heavily congested with roots will cause most houseplant problems. Soaking the root-ball for half an hour makes removal easier, though you may need to slide an old kitchen knife between the pot and the root-ball to ease it out before transplanting into pots one or two sizes larger.
Terracotta pots should be soaked overnight and re-used plastic pots should be washed with a little detergent and rinsed thoroughly. Put a layer of broken terracotta pot fragments, polystyrene pieces or bottle corks in the base to help drainage, tease out some of the roots from the root-ball then re-fill around it with compost firming each layer with your fingers as you go. Don‘t pack the compost too hard or the roots won‘t be able to grow into the new compost or plant them too deeply and leave a gap between the rim of the pot and compost for watering and top-dress with gravel or crushed glass or other ornamental mulches to conserve moisture. Water thoroughly, allow plants to recover for a few days then put them on display. If your plants don‘t need re-potting, top dress by carefully removing the top 11/2 -2″ of compost with an old culinary fork and replace with new compost mixed with slow release fertiliser.
Use a make-up brush to dust hairy leaves and wipe glossy leaves with a soft damp cloth, making sure you supporting them underneath so they are not damaged. Don‘t wipe new leaves for the same reason. Wiping is not always practical imagine cleaning a large ‘Weeping Fig‘! It is easier to put them out for a wash in the spring rains when the weather gets warmer or wash them in the shower with a soft jet of tepid water then your plants will be in tip top condition for the new growing season.
Outdoors, slugs and snails are now on the prowl, get on top of the problem now to control numbers through the season. Try biological control nematodes, they are very effective, station ‘slug pubs‘ around the garden made from margarine tubs buried so the rim is a half inch above the soil so other slug predator‘s like ground beetles are not accidentally drowned then fill the container with stout or ale. Check them regularly and empty as required! Try slug hunting in the evening and pick them off the plants; lie sacking, roof tiles, upturned grapefruit or lettuce leaves on the ground then removing from their hiding places! Encourage natural predators like hedgehogs and song thrushes or try copper tape round the rim of a pot. Make ‘collars‘ cut from plastic drinks bottles and put it around your seedlings. Finally, try grit, or Aluminium sulphate pellets that are effective against young slugs. There are enough slugs to try all of these methods!