March jobs and tips for your garden

Sowing flower seed should be at its height now, plus it is also the start of the main sowing season for vegetables outdoors. Early flowering bulbs will require some attention this month. As long as weather conditions allow preparation for lawns can begin. Gardens could very well need a general tidy up at this time and keep a look out for any weeds that are beginning to appear. Spring usually arrives by mid-March and the frequent sunny days provide the opportunity for an increasing range of gardening tasks. It's time to get busy preparing seed beds, sowing seed, cutting back winter shrubs and generally tidying up around the garden.

 

General:

• Keep an eye out for slugs as the weather warms; they favour soft new growth. Use nematodes for an

effective organic control.

 

• Top dress containers with fresh compost.

 

• Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed).

 

• Houseplants and ferns can be potted on into slightly larger pots.

 

• Winter digging may not have been completed by gardeners who have heavy soil due to the amount of rain

which fell during autumn and beginning of winter, therefore, as conditions begin to slowly improve any

opportunity available may have to be taken so that any outstanding preparations can be finished.

 

• Clean paths, paving, patios and steps with a pressure washer or chemical cleaner. Also cloches and

frames can be washed, inside and out, with soapy water removing any build-up of dirt. By doing this now

will let full light pass through glass or plastic.

 

• Re-surface paths before plants grow and smother them.

 

• If not already done, make sure garden tools and mowers are checked over ready for the coming season.

 

• If peanuts are put out, remember, it is best to put them in mesh feeders to avoid young birds choking on

any large pieces. It might be a good idea for any bird boxes that may have been put away in sheds for

safekeeping during the winter to be checked over for any damage prior to fixing on a suitable tree or wall.

However, before doing so make sure cats will not be able to get near them by climbing any fences or

branches that may be close by.

 

• Get rid of slimy patches on the patio and paving by scrubbing with a broom or blasting with a pressure

washer.

 

• If you don't already know what type of soil you have, invest in a soil testing kit to help you choose the right

plants for your garden.

 

• Top up raised beds with compost and good quality topsoil.

 

• Begin weeding as the weather warms - weeds are more easily controlled if removed young.

 

• Buy fresh compost from your local garden centre and store it in a cool dry place in preparation for the

season ahead. Check your compost bins to see if there is any compost ready to use.

 

• Check containers to ensure the soil hasn't dried out.

 

• Top-dress containers by removing the top 2.5cm (1") of soil and replacing it with fresh compost.

 

• Now is a great time to build a compost bin before the growing season gets underway.

 

• Water butts are a worthwhile investment for the season ahead. Position them under a downpipe to make

the most of rainfall.

 

• It is worth giving your watering cans a scrub to prevent fungal diseases.

 

• Move plants from the greenhouse to a cold frame before planting out to give them time to adjust to cooler

temperatures.

 

• Plant native hedges to encourage wildlife.

 

• Remove any netting left over your pond from the autumn/winter.

 

Vegetables:

• As long as the ground isn’t too wet and soggy early sowings can be made by warming up the soil prior to

sowing using cloches or environ fleece which will help to ensure good seed germination results. As soon

as soil conditions are suitable sowings of artichoke, beetroot, broad bean, Brussels sprouts, cabbage,

cauliflower, carrot, lettuce, parsley and spinach. Sowings of aubergine and cucumber, along with other

tender vegetables, can now be made in a heated greenhouse.

 

• Shallot sets can be planted this month, spacing at 15cm (6″) intervals in rows 30cm (12″) apart, and once

conditions have warmed up, generally towards the end of March, onion sets may also be planted.

 

• To ensure a regular supply of parsley later in the year sow the seed in pots. To encourage strong growth

of chives it is best to divide the clumps.

 

• Early varieties of tomatoes will develop well on plants when grown under glass in a heated greenhouse.

For quick germination it is best to sow the seed in a heated propagator or you could use a windowsill. It is

best to sow outdoor varieties later in the month and the plants are potted on as they grow, ready for

planting out in early June.

 

• Seed potatoes should be set out in trays which are placed in a bright but cool, frost-free situation so that

the shoots will form. Plantings of early varieties can be made during March, however, main crop varieties

are best planted in April.

 

• During March and April celery seed can be sown into pots then placed in the greenhouse so you will have

plants ready for planting out during May and June.

 

• If you've grown green manures over the winter, now is the time to dig them in whilst their stems are still

soft.

 

• Sow early Broad beans (The Sutton, De Monica) and early peas (Twinkle, Avola) in seed trays of

compost, just pushing the seeds into the compost, to transplant later. If you use Row planters filled with

multipurpose or seed compost and space sow then the young plants can be carefully transferred from the

Row planters to a prepared shallow trench in the veg garden.

 

• If the soil is workable, dig in a 5cm (or more) layer of compost, well-rotted manure or green waste into

your beds to prepare for the growing season ahead.

 

• Prepare vegetable seed beds by removing all weeds and forking in plenty of compost. Cover prepared soil

with sheets of black plastic to keep it drier and warmer in preparation for planting.

 

• Begin chitting (sprouting) seed potatoes on delivery.

 

• Towards the end of the month plant your chitted early potatoes outside in the ground. If you don't have

enough space for growing potatoes on your plot, why not try potato growing kits for your patio.

 

• Plant asparagus beds from crowns. Weed and mulch existing asparagus beds. Asparagus has shallow

roots so weed by hand to prevent damage. Dig trench about 20 - 25cm deep and 30cm wide, and add

liberal amount of well-rotted compost to the base of the trench mixed with 85g/ sqm. of blood, fish and

bone, or bonemeal. Carefully place the crowns 45cm apart in the trench, spreading the roots out, and

cover with some sieved soil and ensure the emerging buds are just below soil level.

 

• Start to direct sow vegetable seeds such as carrots, radishes and lettuce in greenhouse borders or under

cloches.

 

Fruit:

• Flowers on fruit trees should be protected on frosty nights but during the day it is ideal for the covers to be

removed so insects can get to the blooms.

 

• As the pruning of established trees and bushes should have been carried out by now, it is a fairly quiet

time for fruit, but you can still make late plantings of soft fruit such as gooseberry, raspberry and

strawberry.

 

• To encourage long, tender stalks of rhubarb it is ideal to cover the crowns with old buckets which will

exclude any light.

 

• Plant apple trees, cherry trees and other fruit trees now in a sunny, sheltered spot.

 

• Cut autumn-fruiting raspberry canes to the ground to stimulate new canes, which will fruit in the autumn.

Cut the tips of summer-fruiting raspberry canes that have grown beyond the top of their supports; cut just

above a bud.

 

• Feed Blueberry plants with ericaceous plant fertiliser.

 

• Protect the blossoms of apricots, peaches and nectarines from frost with a screen or some horticultural

fleece. These stone fruit trees can also be planted now.

 

• Mulch fruit trees with well-rotted manure or garden compost taking care not to mound mulch up around

the trunk.

 

• Mulch rhubarb with a thick layer of well-rotted manure to keep it healthy and reduce moisture loss through

the soil. Take care not to cover the crown. You can also plant fresh rhubarb crowns now.

 

• Covering your strawberries with a cloche will encourage earlier fruiting.

 

Flowers and Bulbs:

• Flower beds can be prepared so that they are ready for sowing hardy annuals during late March through

into April.

 

• This is the time that early flowering bulbs should be dead-headed leaving the foliage to die back naturally.

 

• Begonia tubers should be planted, the concave side being uppermost in the pot, in moist compost which

only just covers the top. They should be kept in a bright, warm situation and watered when the compost

dries out. Once the shoots are 5cm-7.5cm (2″-3″) long they should be potted up individually.

 

• Dahlia tubers can also be planted in trays of compost which will encourage shoots to appear.

 

• Lilies could be planted into available spaces you may have in borders, or they can be put into pots.

 

• Overcrowded clumps of perennials can be lifted and divided, or new ones can be planted.

 

• If you have light soils this job may, of course, have been done but with heavy clay soils it might be worth

waiting until conditions are warmer and drier in the spring.

 

• After flowering but whilst still in leaf it is a good idea to lift and divide snowdrop bulbs. The clumps should

carefully be teased apart and then the bulbs replanted at same depth as they were before.

 

• It is an ideal time for roses to be pruned, and also remember that any damaged, dead or diseased stems

should be removed. Stems should be cut back to an outward facing bud by about a half on bush varieties.

Remember to wear gardening gloves to protect from thorns.

 

• Seed sowing is at its height now as most of the summer bedding plants can be sown.

 

• Half-hardy annuals such as ageratum, impatiens (busy Lizzie), cosmea, gazania, petunia, lobelia and

marigold can be sown in the heated greenhouse or indoors.

 

• Suitable plants for sowing where they will flower include the following popular items: anchusa, calendula,

clarkia, larkspur and nigella.

 

• Sweet Pea Plants are happy to be situated in sunny borders remembering to tie stems onto supports

which will encourage quicker climbing and flowering.

 

• Fuchsias, whether bush or trailing, in their pots that may have been kept over the winter will more than

likely have lost their leaves, and these should be cleared away just in case pests such as whitefly are

present. If conditions have been severe the main stems may have died back and it will be difficult to see

whether they have survived, however, this should become apparent by keeping the compost slightly moist

along with conditions beginning to warm up, then any dead stems should be pruned back. When they

begin to grow strongly, watering can be increased along with weekly feeds being started, and, they could

also be potted up.

 

• If the soil is workable, dig in a 5cm (or more) layer of compost or well-rotted manure into your beds to

prepare for the growing season ahead. You can also work in a general purpose fertiliser such as pelleted

chicken manure or fish, blood and bone.

 

• Plant bare root Roses.

 

• Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as Gladiolus, Lilies and Ranunculus into beds, borders and

containers.

 

• Plant snowdrops in the green to brighten up your winter garden next year.

 

• Now is an ideal time to plant herbaceous perennials. Lift and divide established perennial plants now to

improve their vigour and create new plants for your garden.

 

• Roses should be fed with a special rose feed or a balanced fertiliser as they come into growth.

 

• Sow your flower seeds now so they are ready for planting out in June.

 

• Hardy annuals can be sown directly into the soil. Alternatively sow them in pots or module trays for

planting out later in the spring.

 

• If any of your garden plants will need supporting this year, put the supports in now so the plants grow up

through them. Adding supports afterwards is difficult and often looks unattractive.

 

• Plant out any forced flower bulbs in the garden, such as hyacinths and daffodils which have finished

flowering indoors.

 

• Cut out the top rosette of leaves from Mahonia shrubs after they have flowered to encourage branching.

 

• Clematis once their flowers have finished and summer-flowering Clematis before they start into active

growth - find out how using our clematis pruning guide.

 

• Finish cutting back any dead foliage left on your perennials and ornamental grasses to make way for new

growth.

 

• Prune overwintered fuchsias back to one or two buds on each shoot.

 

• Prune Winter Flowering Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) after flowering to encourage new growth for next

year's blooms. Cut back the previous years growth to 5cm from the old wood.

 

• Trim winter-flowering heathers as the flowers disappear, to prevent the plants becoming leggy.

 

• Continue to deadhead faded flowers from your winter pansies to stop them setting seed. This will

encourage flushes of new flowers throughout the spring.

 

• Deadhead daffodils as the flowers finish and let the foliage die back naturally.

 

• Cut off the old leaves of Hellebores to remove any foliar diseases and make the spring flowers more

visible.

 

•Dead-head Hydrangeas before new growth appears. Cut to about one third of last season's growth.

 

Trees and Shrubs:

• A general fertiliser should be sprinkled around trees and shrubs, and along hedges.

 

• If you need to move deciduous trees or shrubs, now is the time to do it provided the soil is not frozen or

waterlogged.

 

• Feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a slow-release fertiliser by lightly forking it into the soil surface.

 

• Hardwood cuttings taken last year may need planting or potting on now.

 

• Finish cutting back shrubs grown for their colourful winter stems such as Cornus and Salix cultivars. Cut

them back to their bases.

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