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Exquisite . . . Autumn brings beautiful colours to Parkside Gardens. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

This April will be like no other we have ever known, and gardening will be a productive home activity for all ages.

Let’s get our gardens producing like never before here in North Otago.

The main ingredients you will need are weed-free dirt, added assistant, self-raising mix, and seeds/seedlings. That’s it for raising seeds in fruit trays (the large white type that arrive at supermarkets) as well as the small see-through type with holes bottom and top, egg cartons, ice cream container bottoms (hole punched for drainage).

Half-fill the ice cream containers with dirt then a layer of seed raising mix to plant and cover seeds in. Leave in a well-lit spot for germination, which at this time of the year is around a fortnight. Water only lightly if dry on top until small seedlings make an appearance.

Leave until leaves are fully shaped then prick out and pot up into punnets or small pots before stems stretch from the mix towards the light.

Potting up, I use a mix of compost and potting mix for seedlings to make roots in. When seedlings have filled each small punnet compartment, vegetables and annual flowers will be ready to plant in the garden. Perennials will need to be potted into pots to grow on. An over-abundance of seedlings or vegetables is great to share.

Thank goodness autumn is such a beautiful time, a lovely distraction which has to be good for the soul. However, when those brilliant leaves fall we need to deal to them so rakes will be on the go now.

Thick carpets of leaves on gardens may do more harm than good because they can create a rain shield, making a garden even drier.

A thin layer is fine, but rake piles off and use on the compost or dispose of, but keep some back to make leaf mulch. If gardens need humus, leaf mulch is an answer.

To make leaf mulch, place a plastic rubbish bag inside an empty rubbish container. Fill the bag with leaves (running over them with a lawn mower first will speed things up), compact them firmly, shaking the container from time to time to remove air from sides. Take full bag from rubbish container and tie closed, leaving a hole to insert a hose. Poke holes all over the bag for worms to find a way in. Soak leaves with inserted hose then leave in an open area on bare ground for six months before using.

If it smells like the forest floor after rain, it is ready to add to gardens.

Feed rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias with fertiliser mixed especially for them and water to boost them for spring flowering.

Lily bulbs will become available this month and can be planted from now until June.

In the vegetable garden, it’s time to dig up and divide rhubarb crowns, mixing in heaps of compost before replanting.

This is a good time for sowing winter vegetables. Fill the top of a shallow pot with spring onions and pull them as they’re needed. Harvest pumpkins and corn this month. Remember not to remove the stalk from the pumpkin as this stops it from rotting.

People are still harvesting apples, quince and late peaches plus gathering walnuts during April. Easter egg group gatherings will not be as they have been in the past. Still, children should be able to hunt around the garden at home so will not miss out on the Easter bunny.