GARDENING: This will be Easter gardening with a difference

According to tradition this coming long weekend should be the first real chance of the year to venture into our gardens. This involves a buzzing of mowers, planting of early potatoes, digging and hoeing.

There`s always a chance of overdoing things and ending up with a stiff back and aching muscles at the end of it, but there`s also a positive feeling that you`ve laid a marker that sets the tone for the rest of the season.

Undoubtedly, this Easter is going to be different. No visit to the garden

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centre to buy plants or compost, and no unnecessary movement beyond your home. We could be forgiven for thinking the Sword of Damocles was dangling overhead but let`s not. Let us enjoy the freedom of our gardens large and small, make a good start to the season and accentuate the positives!

We sent the main seed order in after Christmas blissfully unaware of

what was destined to reach our shores. It comprised the usual reliable

vegetable and flower varieties that almost guarantee a successful season, but we keep the option open of adding extra plants in plug form sourced from the garden centre or via mail order. Bags of compost were also on the shopping list, just enough to support germination and the first potting stage for vegetables and ornamentals. Plenty penstemon and garden pinks propagated

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last year. Everything seemed hunky dory at the time but oh for a crystal ball!

This current situation is bad for local retail outlets that were stocked up with such an array of flowering plants for spring and summer displays. The waste and financial consequences do not bear thinking about. So, what choices remain for gardeners who had totally relied on local buying of jumbo plugs or young potted plants in April and May? The option of mail order remains, reference the enticing offers I`m receiving daily

highlighting a diversity of plant types for sale. Newspapers and magazines are currently doing the same. The downside to this is that the overwhelming demand for plants is causing a backlog in deliveries. Be prepared to wait. Vegetable specialist D.T.Brown has emailed to say they`ve experienced a ten-fold increase in demand across the board over the past fortnight. This and changing circumstances at their base have created a backlog. In response they`ve completely reorganised their operation, warehouse space, staff and technology. A new 24 - hour despatch service is almost up to speed!

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