Country & Garden: Weekend Work

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The Independent Culture
I HAVE been hurtling through the garden in the good weather this week, leaving behind me a trail of empty seed packets and plant pots, prunings and piles of weeds. Seeds are germinating fast now, and there are rows of lettuce and radish, carrots and beetroot, coriander, chervil and broccoli, all zooming away.

Direct sown annual flowers are always a bit chancy - there are so many creatures determined to wreck the seedlings - but I have scattered poppy seed ("Shirley Single Mixed" Mr Fothergill 79p) among the iris and godetia to fill in among the dying species tulips on the bank. I have not grown godetia before. This is a strain called "Blue Magic" (Mr Fothergill pounds 1.05), cup-shaped flowers that grow a foot and a half high in mauveish-blue.

Seedlings of annual flowers sown outside like this need to be thinned before plants begin to crowd each other. Currently I am more worried about getting the seeds to germinate.

May is a good month for taking cuttings, particularly of fuchsia. Occasionally you will find a new shoot with three leaves of the same size. These provide the best material for cuttings. Nip off these shoots and push them gently into trays of light, sandy compost where they will root quite quickly.

Newly planted fruit trees should not be allowed to fruit in their first season. Gently pick off any fruitlets that have set after the blossom falls. The same principle applies to new strawberry plants, which should have all flowers taken off in their first year. I always cheat and leave some.

Hanging baskets can be filled with tender bedding plants and kept inside a greenhouse or conservatory until the end of the month. By then all threat of frost should have gone and plants will be well-established.