The towns of East Lothian are starting to look very spring-like with fantastic displays of crocus and blossom appearing everywhere. We’re lucky to have enjoyed a relatively mild winter (although a couple of frosty mornings recently may have helped to kill off any lingering pests) and most of us are finding that our gardens are a good two to three weeks ahead of this time last year. But March can be a fickle month when it comes to weather so be careful with any slightly tender plants!

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A gardener’s thoughts can’t help but turn to the coming months with all this spring activity around us, and what better way to start than by sowing your first selection of seeds. Vegetables such as broad beans, peas and tomatoes, as well as bedding plants and sweet peas can be started indoors on a windowsill, or in a heated greenhouse. Remember it’s important to use clean sowing trays, and seed compost gives the best formula for newly germinated seedlings. There is also a good selection of summer flowering bulbs available now – dahlias and gladioli can be started off in pots in a frost free place for a head start.

In established borders one of the best ways of improving the soil is to mulch the surface with a thick layer of organic matter, which will also help to keep down weeds later in the season. If you are digging over any beds or planting new areas work in a general purpose fertiliser like fish, blood and bone or pelleted chicken manure. Finish cutting back dead foliage from perennials and if you haven’t done so already, give your roses their final prune. We’d recommend you also start thinking about slug control. The little blighters just love to nibble on the fresh new growth of your precious herbaceous plants!

The Merryhatton potting shed is now up and running and we have been busy planting up ready-made containers for a lovely spring display and in preparation for Mother’s Day on 30 March.

As the season goes on there is more and more choice available and we particularly like alpines for early season colour.

Do remember that we’re always happy to answer your gardening queries. One of our customers this month was looking for plants for a community garden that was going to be used by nursery- aged youngsters. We were happy to recommend Zephirine Drouhin – a vigorous climbing rose with highly fragrant dark pink blooms that flowers over a long period in summer and autumn. It’s also thornless so ideal for gardens with young children.

If the weather continues to be mild we may have to give our lawns their first cut. Grass will grow if the temperature remains above 5°C. The first cut should be at a high setting, then follow up with a rake and a lawn feed.

For a job that’s considerably less onerous and you’ll be really glad you did come the summer, why not take some strawberry plants into the greenhouse in pots for an early treat? They will be in fruit four to six weeks ahead of outdoor plants, so you could be enjoying your own strawberries and cream while watching Wimbledon this year!