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French, scarlet runner and butter beans can be sown now in most areas. Scarlet runners do best when sown in double rows 20cm apart, with 15cm between plants. Growing to a height of 2m to 3m, the plants need a firm framework of wood or steel piping to withstand strong winds.
Dwarf beans should be sown in rows 40cm to 60cm apart, with the seeds 8cm apart in the rows.
Like beans, sweet corn can be started under cloches. Seed germination is usually rapid and the young plants will grow quickly but should not outgrow the cloches before the weather is warm enough for the shelter to be removed.
Kohl rabi is closely related to turnips and tolerates hotter, drier conditions than white turnips. Celeriac, or turnip-rooted celery, is worth growing for its bulbous roots, which usually are cooked but can also be used in salads. Seed tends to be slow to germinate and sowing in seed trays and planting out when all danger of frost has passed is recommended.
Lettuce, radish, mustard, cress, peas, runner beans, parsnips and carrots can be sown now. White and golden turnip seed can go in, too, but sow a small number now and a few more once the plants are well above ground. Leeks and Brussels sprouts can be sown now, as can broccoli and savoy cabbage.
Onions for pickling can be sown. Sow seed to about twice the depth of the seed. Make the ground quite firm or the onions will not produce proper bulbs.
Roses respond well to a top-dressing of commercial rose fertiliser or a layer of rotted manure spread around them. Disbudding may be necessary on vigorous varieties to prevent overcrowding, while shoots crossing over and damaging one another should be pruned.
Dahlias may still be lifted and separated, even if shoots are already above the surface. Divide clumps and if a good shoot is detached from the tuber, don’t throw it out but put it in sandy soil to root.
Hedges can be an attractive garden feature. To train young plants into a hedge, trim them at least three times a year. The first year’s cut should be severe, to produce plenty of basal growth. Keep the base clear of weeds and grass, or the plants will be inclined to open up.
Begonias are one of the more easily grown greenhouse flowers. Tubers that have started to regrow will require repotting if they have already filled smaller pots with roots. Do not water for a day or two after repotting.
Potted freesias that have finished flowering can be given less water and left to gradually dry off and put away for the summer to rest in a warm place.
Cyclamens are one of the most popular plants for indoors. Plants that flowered last winter and during the spring will now be declining rapidly. Withhold water gradually until the foliage ripens off.
Pots stored in a shady part of the garden can keep the soil moist enough to keep the corms in good order until late summer.
Strawberries will start to flower in most districts this month. Hand weeding is the safest method around strawberry plants, which have feeding roots close to the soil surface. A mulch of compost around the plants will provide valuable nutrients. Straw or pine needles laid over the compost will help protect the plants from fungus diseases.
Any strawberry plants with yellow-edged, colour streaked or crinkled leaves have probably contracted a virus disease caused by sap-suckling aphids. Remove infected plants and destroy them.