EATHER records seem to be broken monthly, with last month going down as the coldest March for 50 years.

This has had the effect of extending the Spring bedding season, but we should now be grasping the opportunity to tidy and improve the soil condition of our beds and borders that will accommodate the summer bedding plants or vegetables.

If very weedy, an application of a contact weedkiller may be helpful, but the addition of humus in the form of good garden compost or farmyard manure will benefit the plants.

Typically our soil is high in clay, with the exception of the land in the south and south east of the borough, which tends to be sandy.

Clay soils are cold, so slow to warm up, difficult to drain and can be completely unworkable in times of drought.

They are high in mineral content so the addition of fibrous humus can help to make the minerals more accessible for plant roots and also correct the physical problems.

Gypsum also breaks down clay, but I have found you have to apply with compost if you have a severe problem.

Some potatoes planted in early March have been affected by the frosts but replacements for these — and for those of you yet to plant — will need to get be in the ground quite soon if you are to grow a worthwhile crop. I must not forget to mention the containers that are available for cropping potatoes as they are ideal for the small garden and, again, there is still time to plant.

Always plant seed potatoes from the garden centre. These have been grown in remote areas, usually in Scotland or Lincolnshire, and are certified to be clean of disease.

Meanwhile, Spring shrubs are finally starting to show some colour. Old favourites, such as Forsythia x intermedia “Lynwood” or “Weekend” and flowering currents (Ribes sanguineum) are easy plants to grow and very hardy for our region of the country.

They are even easier to look after. After Forsythia has flowered, cut down the new growth to one or two outward facing buds to create a good shape, as Forsythia flowers on new growth.

On older plants, cut out up to one third of old wood right down to the ground and cut out any branches that are crossing over, dead or damaged.

Ribes are pruned in a similar way. Prune straight after flowering to produce a good shape and a third of old wood down to the ground on established plants. Another popular shrub is Pieris. It is an evergreen plant (it keeps its leaves all year round) and has tiny bell-like white flowers, followed by new leaf growth, which is a fiery red or pink, depending on variety.

They enjoy an acid soil and a little shade. If you are not sure if your soil is acidic and you don’t have a soil tester, have a look in your garden, or your neighbour’s garden, to see if plants like Camellias or Rhododendrons thrive in them.

If they do, then Pieris will also. They look great in containers, filled with ericaceous compost, with seasonal bedding.