Whether it's a bleak December or the more mild weather we are becoming used to, you can still spend useful time in the garden. David Coton suggests the jobs that can occupy the shortening days.
Many of us have modest outside spaces but they needn't be unproductive and, as David Hall finds out, containers and planters are a brilliant way of growing vegetables and herbs.
While window boxes and planters are normally full of colourful flowers, they can easily be used to grow edible plants and herbs many of which are just as attractive in both texture and colour.
Regular watering and feeding is necessary and yields might not be so great but digging and weeding are easier as well as pest control.
The produce is also literally on your doorstep, adjacent to the kitchen and ready to put in the pan; beetroot, carrots, peas, potatoes, onions, salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers and chilllies together with many varieties of herbs can all be within picking distance.
Make sure the growing medium has good moisture retention but will not be affected by waterlogging. A soil based compost with loam and organic matter or a proprietary potting compost might be best. Most vegetables prefer a neutral pH.
Position the container in a sunny sheltered position, of course at different times of the year, the container can be moved to suit the conditions.
Your most important task will be watering daily and feeding with a liquid fertilizer about every ten days. Make sure there is access to a butt or tap, especially if you want to install an automatic watering system that will prove its worth when you are on holiday.
As long as the plants are kept moist with good drainage, are regularly fed and there is enough space for good root development, problems should be kept at a minimum and you'll be rewarded with a fine harvest.
With warmer weather and an early Easter, the garden centre is busy at the moment with customers stocking up on summer bedding plants - snapdragons, cornflowers, cosmos, verbena, phlox, petunia, As well as filling planters, hanging baskets and borders with colour that will last all summer, there are always plenty of jobs to do in the garden during April and David Coton has these suggestions.
Every gardener must have noticed a decline in the bee population over recent years. Intensive farming that demands the use of toxic chemicals, climate change and parasite infestation have all been put forward as potential causes, it's a worrying trend but one that we can all help to reverse.
As an excellent alternative to conventional products, Trimetals' storage solutions blend top quality manufacture with contemporary style. Their range has now been extended to include two new maintenance free sheds and Robert Hall has all the details.
Zest 4 Leisure manufactures a large variety of timber garden furniture, fencing and leisure products, David Coton visited their brand new nine acre site near Chester last week to find out more about current development and future plans.