GINA PARKINSON welcomes the first blossom of the season but warns against getting carried away with seed planting just yet.

AS THE month progresses, the weather is getting warmer. Last weekend we enjoyed the sort of beautifully sunny days that draw gardeners outside to get stuck in with the growing pile of jobs.

While out in the sun it is tempting to think about starting off seeds in the vegetable patch, but it still too early for most to survive. Monday morning’s frost was a chilly reminder that spring has only just begun.

Some ornamental plant seeds can be sown indoors during March if the temptation is too hard to resist.

I have Echinacea, sweet peas and dahlias waiting in their packets and plan to get them started this weekend. I usually grow dahlias from dry tubers and have a few fattening up in pots of compost, but this year I am also going to try some from seed. ‘Bishop’s Children’ is the one chosen and they come in glorious array of rich colour above dark leaves, the single flowers perfect for attracting pollinating insects.

The first of our blossom trees has opened with lovely white flowers emerging from red buds. The blooms are single with quivering stamen topped with yellowish orange pollen and held on bare twiggy stems and branches which will be eventually covered in foliage and later in the summer red fruit.

It may be a cherry plum. Last year was our first full year here and it was all a little overwhelming; much in the garden, including this tree, remained unidentified. This year I will try to be in more control and plan get a grip of what we have here using photographs and notes.

Open gardens

THE open gardens season begins this month with charities such as the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) and British Red Cross recruiting volunteers to open their gardens to raise funds.

This year the NGS celebrates 85 years of its scheme, which includes four of the 1927 founding gardens in our region. St Nicholas in Richmond, Ripley Castle near Harrogate, The Walled Garden at Scampston and Burton Agnus in Driffield will all be open to visitors during the next few months.

Last year, the NGS in Yorkshire raised £131,000 for charities such as Macmillan, Help the Hospices and Marie Curie. Copies of the Yorkshire County Booklet for full descriptions of all 122 gardens and opening times are available free from Libraries, Tourist Information Centres, Garden Centres and Nurseries across the county or by sending an A5 (C5) s.a.e. to Felicity Bowring, Press Officer, Lawkland Hall, Austwick, Lancaster, LA2 8AT for a free copy by post.

British Red Cross starts its season in in April with Lower Heugh Cottage Garden near Skipton, a one-acre Japanese garden with Zen and Karesasui areas, and a new Emperor garden created in 2011. This is followed by Swinton Castle later in the month. More details about these gardens and other open for the charity can be found by visiting

If you are opening your garden for a charity or other cause and would like details included in this column, please send a brief description of the garden together with the date and opening times, how to get there and who the money is being raised for at least two weeks before the event by email to or by post to Open Gardens, Features Desk, The Press, 76 to 86 Walmgate, York, YO1 9YN.

Weekend catch-up

THERE was the sound of mowing in our neighbourhood last week as mowers were brought out into the sunshine for the first cut of the year. I followed suit and cut ours, keeping the cutting blade quite high and just trimming off the top of the lawn growth.

In the vegetable garden

PREPARATION is the key word for March taking us away from sowing too early and instead concentrating on making the beds ready well in advance of the plants that will eventually fill them.

We are moving everything around this year, so the new potato bed has been weeded and dug over; the netted cabbages and broccoli have been joined by a long cloche warming the soil ready for the first sowings of lettuce, beetroot, spinach and chard. The partial shade will stop the salad from bolting too quickly.

Pea sticks are in place in a sunnier bed. We didn’t do well with peas last year, because the hot dry weeks in spring baked our sandy soil rock hard and the small plants struggled to grow.

Hopefully, we will have more rain this spring and the compost that has been piled on over the winter should help towards better growth. We are learning that sandy soil needs to be composted all the time in order to keep it nutritious; previous owners of this garden must have added tons of the stuff over the years.

Gardening TV and radio


8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. A postbag edition with Bob Flowerdew, Bunny Guinness and Christine Walkden, plus a guide to propagation. The gardening weather forecast is at 2.40pm.


8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty Don advises on seed sowing for flowers later in the year, Joe Swift looks at landscaping materials and Carol Klein helps with a viewer’s gardening dilemma.

Saturday, March 24

7am, BBC Radio York, Julia Booth holds her weekly plant surgery.