This time of year always seems to be a tightrope walk between the sheer joy of plants bursting into life, and the sheer panic of wondering how I am going to stay on top of the gardens and my allotment.
I have, however, learnt that working with nature rather than against nature, is the route to improved peace of mind and a less sore back.
Firstly: pick your battles. You may not get on top of every weed emerging but getting stuck into the pernicious perennials such as bindweed, ground elder and the dreaded mare’s tail mean that you are tackling the thugs. Give ‘em an inch and they will take a pub lunch.
Secondly: by packing out the borders with perennials that you DO want and are good ground cover plants (such as Geraniums, Alchemilla mollis, Epimedium and low-growing ornamental grasses), you will reduce the chance of weed seeds falling onto fertile ground.
Thirdly: weed and water little and often. The hoe is my favoured tool of weed control. Watering cans are my preferred way of watering. This is quite time consuming but very economical: it is also strangely relaxing after hours in front of a laptop. Plants will be crying out for water now as they start coming into their own. A smattering of rainfall goes nowhere if the soil is dry so be generous.
Fourthly: put to good use all those peelings, apple cores and tea bags that have rotted down in your compost heap. Spread them around the base of new plants in order to keep the weeds down and the moisture in. I keep my compost heap on top of 60 centimetre timber verticals to reduce the chance of pests getting to it.
Lastly, think about filling the bare or dull corners of your garden with a walk on the wild side. A handful of bee attracting wild flower seeds on a patch that has been cleared of perennial weeds can give an extraordinary amount of pleasure, not to mention succour to the wildlife. Check the weather forecasts for ground frosts to make sure that the seedlings will not be wiped out. Cover them a horticultural fleece if you need to.
Essential jobs to do this month for the gardener with the busy life include:
Pruning those plants that have been affected by cold winds and the winter such as Acers or Choisyas. Cut back the stems to the healthy growth.
Cutting back to 10 centimetres from the ground those tender plants that are shrub-like in habit but are actually herbaceous plants. These include Caryopteris, Fuchsia and Penstemon.
Putting in plant supports where needed and canes to mark where vulnerable plants are emerging: by doing this they will not be overlooked when watering and weeding.
Lowering the blade of your lawn mower as the grass becomes more lush and more able to take a finer cut.
Feeding your lawn with a nitrogen rich fertiliser - preferably an organic one.
Tying in roses and other climbing plants. Be as brutal as you like when cutting back Clematis montana after it has flowered (short of hacking it down to the ground!).
Adding compost or manure to the base of shrub and standard roses.
Dividing and replanting herbaceous plants that have flowered including Brunnera, Pulmonaria and Primula.
Daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs can be lifted and divided too.
If ever you think that everyone else has got their garden in order and are disappointed that your borders do not look like those in the magazines, then remember that it was years of trial and error that got Britain’s prized gardens to where they are now. And the small matter of a couple of dozen gardeners at the owner’s disposal.
With that in mind, you are probably doing better than you imagine!