Gardening: Cuttings: Weekend work

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The Independent Online
PROGRESS outside, especially seed-sowing, has been badly held up by rain and cold. If there is a chance, plant early potatoes. In a series of quick dashes, a row at a time, I have put in 'Accent', a good new first early, and 'Epicure', an old first early, raised in 1897, which has a wonderful flavour but is susceptible to blight.

French beans can be started indoors in wooden apple boxes, lined with newspaper, which allow room for growth. They are prone to frost damage and must not go out before late May.

Daffodils can be dead- headed, which will prevent the bulbs from expending unnecessary effort in seed production. 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 the juvenile versions of forest monsters. Keep new trees well watered throughout the summer. Check that peonies, delphiniums and lupins that have made lush growth are well staked before they start flowering. The best support is made by lengths of twiggy hazel pushed in round a clump, then woven together over the clump, like a lobster-pot. The growth soon disguises the support, but it is not an eyesore even when uncovered.

Indoor seedlings are coming on fast. Prick them out as soon as the first pair of proper leaves have developed. The rudbeckia 'Goldilocks' I sowed has come up thicker than mustard and cress; it is difficult to throw surplus seedlings away, but I have enough potential plants to carpet Hyde Park.

As hellebore flowers fade, new leaves push through the old flower stems. This is the time to start feeding with a fertiliser high in potash - at fortnightly intervals until mid-June, not later or growth will become over-soft. Seed of choice varieties must be sown as soon as it is ripe.