AT some stage this month even the most reluctant gardeners will be out trying to get things looking shipshape and if yours has suffered from a winter of neglect.

I think that the best place to start is on the borders. Cut down any dead stalks from the herbaceous plants, remove any weeds and fork the soil over lightly, maybe adding some well rotted garden compost or mushroom compost at the same time. This will give the borders a much improved look and stimulate the soil at the same time, but never use mushroom compost around acid loving plants, like Rhododendrons, as it has high lime content.

There are lots of summer flowering bulbs on offer in Garden Centres now including Gladioli, which I think are best used in borders by planting them in groups of five of the same variety, so that you get a better impact from the flowers and they are easier to support. They also make great cut flowers and to that end I prefer to plant them in rows in part of the vegetable plot, putting in a few corms every fortnight between March and the end of May in order to get a succession of blooms.

Not many people seem to realise that you can plant Begonia tubers directly where they are to flower in the border, as long as the soil is decently drained. Just pop them in about 10cm (4in) deep with the hollow side up, rather than leaving the top third sticking up out of the compost, as you would when starting them off in pots.

Dormant Dahlia tubers can also be planted outdoors at the same depth, as there will be little risk of frost by the time any shoots emerge from the soil.

A great way to fill gaps in the border cheaply is by sowing hardy annual bedding plants in well prepared soil. There are lots to choose from but among the keenest to grow well are Night Scented and Virginia Stocks, giving you a rich bonus of lovely perfume.