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Next month there will be a FREE packet of 'Red & Green Salad Bowl Mixed' lettuce on the front of your May edition of Kitchen Garden. This colourful mixture produces crisp leaves and is ideal for use as a 'cut-and-come-again' crop. Sown in succession, it will brighten your salads through the summer months.

Help kids swap crisps for carrots

Rebecca Pow shows you how

We take a look at a year in the life of tangy blackcurrants, with Bob Sherman

We take a look at a year in the life of tangy blackcurrants, with Bob Sherman

Bristol fashion

Meet allotmenteers who are benefiting from their council's forward-thinking approach

Grow your best-ever parsnips

Andrew Tokely tells you how to spread the harvesting season from July onwards, by using parsnips as sweet mini-roots

Win with lettuce

Top tips on growing show-stopping lettuce and spring onions chen

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Over the years I have moved towards sowing more and more vegetable seed into modules rather than straight into the soil but when it comes to parsnips, beetroot, leeks, carrots and many salad crops, direct sowing still seems the best option. So, come the spring, time has to be found for preparing seedbeds. The aim is to improve germination and early growth by sowing into a top layer of well-worked soil - a fine tilth is the favoured expression - and the finer the seed the finer the end product should be. This is where the garden (rH Wolf Miller rake (aka soil or -in its largest form, landscaping rake) comes in. Just to make it clear, this is the type of rake set with a row of short metal teeth at right angles to a long shaft. Not of course to be confused with the lawn rake, with its flat fan of sprung

metal tines or the plastic or rubbery leaf rake, all of which have their uses but are next to useless for working the soil. The garden rake has other functions - clearing up general flotsam and jetsam and as the aggressor in the 'tread-on-rake, smack-in-face comedy routine' - but it is for preparing those seed beds that you'll usually pull it from the peg.

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