* Sow annuals such as lobelia and snapdragon. Use a pot for this initial sowing rather than a seed tray. Firm down the compost in the pot gently and scatter the seed as thinly and evenly as you can over the surface. Water it in using a fine rose on the watering can. Both lobelia and snapdragon need light to germinate, so cover the seed very thinly after sowing. I use vermiculite rather than compost for this. There is less danger of the seeds being smothered. Both these flowers take two or three weeks to germinate.
* Continue to clean through flower beds. The relatively mild, wet winter has favoured bully boys such as creeping buttercup. This is not a weed that you can shift with a casual tweak while you are on your way to do something else. It needs a fork under it. Its roots make formidable anchors.
When you have weeded, mulch with compost, leafmould, mushroom compost or well rotted manure.
* Plant onions, but not before you have spent some virtuous hours in making a comfortable bed for them. An onion set is not man enough to heave great clods of earth on its shoulders. Knock back any lumps of soil with the back of a rake, then rake over the surface and plant the sets roughly 15cms apart. The rows should be about 30cms apart. You do not necessarily have to include onions in the normal rotation of vegetable crops. They can be grown in the same place for several years.
Prettiest are red-skinned onions such as 'Red Baron' or, if you can find it, the Italian variety 'Sanguigna di Milano'. Most reliable is 'Sturon', not a heart throb but reliable. It was highly commended in the Royal Horticultural Society's trials and produces rounded, pale straw coloured onions. They keep well and seem less prone to bolt than some other varieties.
* Tim Haigh and Rupert Pendered are the new owners of the late Rosemary Verey's famous garden, Barnsley House in Gloucestershire, which they run as a country house hotel. This year they are offering special once-a-month tours of the garden with lunch thrown in (£49). The first is planned for 16 April and booking is essential. If you want the garden but not the lunch, it's open to visitors on 17 and 29 May (11-5 Admission £5).
For more information and to book for 16 April call 012854 740000, or check out the website at www.barnsleyhouse.comReuse content