Although I have all ready started some early spring work in the garden, this month really is the start of the busy time as the days get longer and warmer.

Plants are beginning to grow out of their winter dormancy with fruit trees in full bloom along with spring bulbs and many ornamental trees and shrubs.

As we look back on the 160 years of the Horticultural Society I am reminded that the basic principals of gardening have not changed at all, the differences may be found in the advances made of our understanding of plant nutrition, pest and disease control plus the development of plant breeding. Although we have these advancements there is no substitute for the basic principals of observation of plants and responding to their needs by planting, spraying, pruning, feeding and harvesting on time.

Garden tools have become more mechanised so we now have power tools for just about every job in the garden. However, I find that there is no substitute for the spade, fork, hoe and hand pruners. Lawn mowers have gone from the push mower that I grew up with to a range of power mowers and ride-ons, not to mention robot lawn mowers! I'm not sure that the lawns are any better for these new machines!

The weather has been a little milder than the average this winter and along with some good rain we're entering a spring that promises a good start to the growing season. The usual spring work of ground preparation ready for planting and seed sowing should be well under way in the vegetable garden.

Weeding around existing plants before weeds are too big is needed before they smother the plants.

Seeds may be sown indoors of tomatoes, peppers, chillies and other warmer loving plants so that they are ready for planting out once the danger of frosts has past.

Citrus will benefit from their first fertiliser application along with a mulch around the drip line.

Fruit tree winter sprays should be finished before they start to flower and the next sprays should not start until flowering has finished (or it can be done in the evening when there are no bees flying).

Winter flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned as soon as flowering has finished.

Lawns will be starting to grow faster and will need to be mown weekly. Fertiliser and weed control applied to the lawn this month will give the grass a good start.

The retailers and garden centres will be full of new stock of plants (hopefully we can access them!) so there will be the largest range of plants to choose from giving us a choice of plants which will be at their best condition.

I usually like to buy plants well ahead of time before planting them so that they can harden off to my garden conditions, I believe this helps them to get established in my garden.

Good gardening, Michael Coulter

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