Kitchen Garden at West Dean Gardens West Sussex

Looking Good - April

What a well behaved spring we're enjoying; cool temperatures with some sunny days bursting through allowing enough time to get on with seasonal work - unlike warm springs where watering becomes the name of the game. Our volunteers from home and abroad are having a positive effect as additional pairs of hands help in getting through the endless spring chores. Hoorah for volunteers! Early April sees the kitchen garden primed for action. Where are all the veg you might think as you're faced with bare soil? Look more closely and you will see that the parsley, potatoes, shallots and onions are already planted as are early crops such as lettuce, carrots, beetroot, peas and broad beans under cloches on the south facing wall. The soft fruit is primed with manure and paths of straw, the top fruit is fed and so is the box hedging. Nearby there is a frame full of the most delicious salad crops and a frame full of vegetable modules - next time you blink the place will be vegetable city!

We are awash with different hues of yellow; daffodils are nodding furiously throughout the gardens mostly in grassy swards but also in garden beds. It's an arresting sight and will soon segue into other colourful displays as the vibrant bedding plants take over properly. Fritillaries alongside cowslips and primroses will soon be starting to flower their socks offin the wild flower sward in the walled fruit garden beneath the apple trees which are flowering too - it's a floristic extravaganza!

Border News: April will see Anne, the border queen, using hazel pea sticks to create artistic cages to contain the unruly members of the flower beds such as aconites, clematis, asters and alstromeria. These are creative structures in themselves and do their job well by keeping their subjects more or less upright. By now the borders have been fed and lightly forked over ready for the new season but some dividing of perennials is required this month. Additional work for Anne will be tying in rambler roses and viticella clematis on the pergola and in the walled garden as they start to spring into action. You will also find Anne in the cutting garden sowing and planting - April's a big month in the horticultural calendar, particularly for Anne.

The woodies - Will and Stu and gardener Jack - are teaming up to tame the shrubs throughout the gardens. Consulting with each other they are making judicious cuts to keep the plants in tiptop condition - it's a big garden so there are a lot of plants to check. Mulch has been applied on garden beds throughout early spring using our own chips to suppress weed growth. Following on from this, Jack will have the task of controlling the unruly herbaceous that want to take over the world, while Will and Stu dig up the rose border in preparation for a replant in twelve months' time allowing us time to control existing rampant unwanted plant growth.