Your garden in March
March must be one of my favourite months in the
garden. The long winter is drawing to a
close and plants are beginning to grow. The weather has continued to be mild and wet
– there’s certainly no sign of a water shortage! Although the mild weather is a
pleasant break after previous winters, we may find that early flowering fruit
trees will be vulnerable to any late frosts. This could well have serious
consequences for fruit yields later on in the year.
March really is the time to get things moving in the garden. Although there is still a fair risk of frost, many vegetable, annual and perennial seeds can now be sown, whether in-situ in ready-made beds or in seed trays in the greenhouse or cold frame. Growing your own plants from seed is one of the most rewarding tasks a gardener can undertake, and by following some simple steps, can be fairly simple. There’s plenty of help and advice available in the garden centre but none is a substitute for trial and error - just get stuck in and have a go.
There is now a plethora of summer flowering bulbs and corms on the market whether colourful lilies for pots and containers or Gladioli and Crocosmia (Montbretia) for late summer colour in beds and borders. Although not everybody’s cup of tea, Dahlias are a great way to bring late summer borders and pots to life. To get an earlier display, bought tubers can be placed in seed trays with enough compost to supply moisture to the roots. This allows them to throw up shoots giving them a head start before planting out when the risk of frost has passed. It is also the time to be planting onion and garlic sets as well as getting your early potatoes chitting on cool window sill.
First of all, though, make some time for weeding. Getting rid of annual weeds now while they are small, and growing relatively slowly, will save you hours of work later in the season. Another good reason to weed now is that, by April and May, herbaceous plants will have spread considerably, making access to borders difficult. As always, a good mulch of organic matter applied to the soil after weeding, will help keep weeds down and moisture in. Despite the rain, it’s always sensible to prepare for drought.
Another round of pruning can be done this month. Late March is a good time to prune roses, reducing the stems on bush roses by at least a third, making your cuts above a strong growing, outward-facing bud. By the end of the month, snowdrops will be finishing flowering and this is the best time to lift and divide congested clumps. Moving them ‘in the green’ i.e. when the leaves are still on the bulbs, means they will re-establish well and flower next year. Another good idea is to label clumps of bulbs, as there is nothing more frustrating than putting your spade through dormant bulbs in midsummer.
If things warm up, it may be time to start mowing the grass, but be gentle with your first cut, keeping the blades on your mower fairly high. You can lower them after a few cuts but remember, if you want a really tip-top lawn, mow more frequently with the blades higher. If your lawn tends to look a bit yellow and bald after cutting, then you’re cutting too close. After the first cut, it’s a good idea to redefine the edges of your lawn, ideally using a half moon spade to cut well defined edges. This not only looks better but stops grass encroaching into the beds. It’s also a good time to add some spring lawn treatment, to control weeds and moss, and feed the grass.
Plant of the month for March is Ribes sanguineum (flowering currant), a reliable performer in the spring garden, blooming every year without any special care required. The variety 'King Edward VII' makes a compact, upright plant that drips with dark red flowers. Plants can be left unpruned, but for the best performance it’s worth cutting back the branches that have flowered to a strong pair of buds just after they’ve bloomed.
Happy gardening, Will
Click here for list of jobs to do this month