AT least the weather kept dry and warm over the bank holiday weekend – well at least through the day, but boy wasn’t it cold at night!

I’m not sure we had frost, but it was close. Despite the cold nights, I’m still in the process of hardening off several of my seedlings – both flowers and vegetables – which have been germinated under cover. It is a way of acclimatising them for growing outdoors.

When hardening off they still need a little protection – put them in a sheltered part of the garden, especially protected from winds, which can still be biting cold. In fact you will have more damage to your young plants from the cold winds than a late frost, as I learned myself over the weekend.

I placed my tomato seedlings in what I thought would be a safe place to harden off but when I went to inspect them I found the leaves had crisped up thanks to the cold wind. I’ve placed them in a more sheltered location and fortunately they are recovering.

Some of the supermarkets are now selling a range of summer seasonal bedding plants which look as if they’d come straight out of a protected or heated nursery. These would be better placed in a sheltered part of the garden to allow them to properly harden off.

Despite the cold nights and cold winds, when the sun has shone during the day it has been quite warm and, following a shower or two, the garden is actively growing away. It is nice to see more plants with leaves and flowers. I’ve noticed one or two gardens which have laburnum trees in full bloom, something we seem to see less of these days – it seems to be a tree which rarely gets planted, which may be due the large seed pods it produces... and which are poisonous. Many years ago, when I was learning my craft, one of my jobs was to go up ladders and cut away the laburnum seed pods, particularly to trees in public parks. As you can imagine it was quite a time-consuming task, which may be why we fewer of them nowadays – it’s much easier to remove the tree and the risk.

While we may now see summer bedding plants for sale, I’m still enjoying what the spring bedding displays have to offer, and although the spring bulbs may have gone over at least the primulas, polyanthus and pansies are providing a wonderful display, and still will for a few weeks to come.

Planting out summer bedding is a task to be done in the first two weeks of June but it is time to start making up the summer hanging baskets as they need a few weeks to establish before being put into position.

Talking of colourful trees, as you can see from my photograph my apple trees are in full bloom. I don’t expect the blooms to be around too long as they are being visited by many pollinating insects again thanks to the warm days and it should be a good year for fruit in general given the mild spring weather and busy insect activity.

Talking of which, garden pests are also busy, particularly aphids which attack the new growth of many plants causing the stems and leaves to take on a mutated appearance. Keep on top of aphids as they can multiply quickly and also give birth to live young in addition to laying eggs. Aphids are one of the easier pests to control, but you need to do it earlier rather than later. The gardener still has several control methods open to them, both natural and artificial chemicals that can be applied as a contact or systemic spray. One kills the aphid on contact, while the other enters the plant sap and kills the aphid as it feeds. It’s not a good idea, though, to use systemic chemicals on plants you also intend to eat!