Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Garden: Weekend Work

PROGRESS OUTSIDE, especially where seed sowing is concerned, has been badly held up by rain and cold. We had the worst snow of the winter last week, so much I could scarcely get out of the valley. It is not what seedlings need.

If there is a chance, plant early potatoes. In a series of quick dashes, a row at a time, I have got in "Accent", a good, waxy first early, and "Kestrel", a second early, good for roasting, usually ready for lifting in July. Unfortunately, blight is a problem in our patch of country, so I do not grow later maturing maincrop potatoes. French beans can be started off in boxes indoors. Wooden apple boxes lined with newspaper allow plenty of room for growth. They must not go out before late May as they are prone to frost damage.

DAFFODILS CAN be dead-headed, which prevents the bulbs from wasting energy on producing seeds. Camellias need picking over, too, as they are reluctant to shed their withered flowers.

LATE APRIL and May are the best times to plant new conifers and other evergreens. Check on the eventual size of fast-growing conifers. Those sold as dwarfs may be juvenile versions of forest monsters. Keep new trees well watered throughout the summer.

CHECK THAT peonies, delphiniums and lupins which have made lush growth are well staked before flowering. The best support is made by lengths of twiggy hazel pushed in round a clump (five or seven depending on the size of the clump) and then woven together over the clump, like a lobster- pot. The plants' growth soon disguises the support, but it is not an eyesore even when uncovered.

INDOOR SEEDLINGS are coming on. Prick them out as soon as the first pair of proper leaves have developed. The Coreopsis grandiflora "Early Sunrise" I sowed has come up thicker than mustard-and-cress. It is very hard to throw surplus seedlings away, but there are enough potential plants here to carpet Hyde Park. It gives golden, semi-double daisy flowers on plants about 18ins tall.

AS HELLEBORE flowers fade, new leaves are pushing through the old flower stems. This is the time to start feeding with a fertilizer high in potash. Feed fortnightly until mid-June, not later, or growth will become over-soft. Seed of choice varieties must be sown as soon as it is ripe.