OAK before the Ash, then we will only get a splash, according to folk law.

The spring this year so far has been disappointing. Rain at times has been heavy and persistent, with only short breaks.

The weather forecast from the Met Office since December has been heavy rain with showers in between.

But every dark cloud they say has a silver lining, as spring flowering bulbs trees and shrubs have been exceptional. Daffodils in their magnificence are having a long life. Likewise, Magnolias and Camellias which are often damaged by frost seem to have enjoyed the wet but mild conditions. This has proved that flowering trees and shrubs, which have been somewhat looked down in recent years, are worth planting and are indeed the jewels in the crown.

Our gardener of the month is Bill Beardsworth, who has his nursery on Whitehall Road just off the M62 junction 26.

The nursery has the slogan ‘Buy direct from the growers’. There are rows of trees and shrubs in their thousands in the acres of fields that bear testament to that. Bill tells me in his down to earth, laid back relaxed manner, that shows I am speaking to a true son of the soil that he started his working life at Greystone in Menston, where there were greenhouses and cold frames, producing cut flowers. He kept it pristine.

After this he began working at Eastells Nursery which had a florist shop in Shipley, still in operation. After this his paths lead him to Longwood Nurseries, Bingley. “I learned a lot there from the owner Mr Moody,” said Bill. “He could get bad tempered if it wasn’t done right.” (A bit like the man who taught me, Mr Stewart).

There were Stove greenhouses (greenhouses that sunk into the ground to maintain a higher temperature) where tomatoes were grown. Bill then tried his hand at garden maintenance but didn’t like it so packed that in. It was then that his old boss, Mr Moody, came and told Bill he was retiring and suggested that Bill bought all his stock of plants on the nursery.

“I explained that I was strapped for cash, and didn’t have enough money, Mr Moody then asked me ‘Well how much have you got?’ I replied £240. Mr Moody said he would take that, much to my surprise, as it was worth far more than that.”

Bill went on to tell me he was 19 years of age in 1974 when he bought the stock. But from those small acorns Bill came to the present site in Whitehall Road 10 years later in1984. And the trade nowadays? “The trade is tough but I still enjoy it,” says Bill. “There is more paper work than ever, we now have to have passports for our plants, We get four visits per year from the man from DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) and we don’t stock Ash trees any more due to Ash dieback disease.” (I certainly won’t miss them, Ash seedlings were the bane of my gardener’s life, it was a constant war against seedlings sprouting up all over the place).

Today Beardsworth nurseries have everything you need for the garden, but it’s a nursery - so no fancy furniture, clothing or trinkets.

Don’t let mild weather tempt you to drop your guard - spring frost can still strike. If frost is forecast the whole frame should be covered up with fleece or old carpet if it’s expected to be severe, as in the hard frost we had throughout April 2021.The hardening off process should be applied for all plants - bedding plants in particular.

Sweet Peas should be stopped (a small bit taken off the top) when a few inches in length. This encourages the plants to bush out. Potatoes can still be planted. Sowings of vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and spinach can be made in the greenhouse. Climbing French beans, such as Crimson Lake can be sown in small pots of John Innes compost, 2in (5cm) deep in late April. French beans should have the same soil preparation as above for leeks.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Peter writes about his long gardening career in his bookPeter writes about his long gardening career in his book (Image: Peter Fawcett)

I pot using John Innes potting compost rather than a multi-purpose, so I can be sure of its contents I mix my own. It’s a rewarding tasks that anyone can accomplish. The main ingredient is loam: clean fertile soil, taken from a turf stack, made of turves placed upside down and left for 12 months. Moles are industrious creatures that help in this. They somehow riddle the soil perfectly and leave it for us gardeners to collect. Excellent for making John Innes potting compost:

* Number One: So we get seven parts loam; two parts of river sand, obtained from a nursery and three parts of horticultural peat, or three parts of leaf mould can be used instead - the mould from under the leaf litter that’s of the constituency of tea leaves. These parts are measured by a bushel box, a box that measures 22in x 10 x10in. Then add to each bushel add four ounces of John Innes Base fertiliser (0.113 kilograms) and three-quarters-of-an-ounce of Calcium Carbonate (chalk) (0.0213kiograms0.

* For making John Innes potting compost Number two the amounts are doubled. Seeds can be sown and cuttings taken and placed in a propagator or on a heat mat with a bottom heat of around 18C (65F). The seeds and cuttings can be given a covering of milky white polythene (I use cut up pedal bin liner bags) this keeps the atmosphere inside turgid. Shake excess water off the polythene every day to prevent damping off. Sowing of lettuces, tomatoes, salads and cauliflowers can be done in the greenhouse.