Gardening tips for the month of March

  • Longer sunnier days usually arrive by mid-March and we have more opportunities to get into the garden and perform some much-needed tasks. March is the time when growth begins, and soils warm up ready for planting out.

Keep greenhouses well ventilated on sunny days. Tomatoes seeds can be started off now under glass. Other tender crops such as sweet peppers, cucumber, aubergine, chilli can be started off in a propagator and grown in the greenhouse over summer. Sow half hardy annual seeds for planting out in June. Start winter brassicas like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts for planting out in late spring. Feed seedlings once 4-6weeks old with a general liquid fertilizer. Keep an eye out for greenfly, whitefly and red spider mite. If found spray with a greenhouse insecticide.

Pots and Containers
If you want some colour in your pots, plant with winter pansies, primroses, cyclamen, heather or container roses. Trailing variegated ivies can also be added.

Beds and Borders
Prune any evergreen shrubs that may have suffered frost damage and prune any winter flowering shrubs that have finished flowering. The beginning of the month is the last chance to hard prune plants grown for their winter flowering stems such as Dogwood (Cornus) and Willow (Salix). Buddleia(Butterfly Bush), and Sambucus(Elder) can also be hard prunes removing some old stems by cutting back to ground level. Cut back Forsythia if it has become leggy. The beginning of the month is also the last chance to transplant trees and shrubs with care. Herbaceous plants can be lifted and divided. It is also the last chance to plant bare root shrubs and trees. Water in recently planted trees and shrubs. Now is the time to begin feeding plants with a general fertilizer such as growmore. Roses can also be fed with a rose fertilizer. Continue to plant summer flowering bulbs. Check stakes in herbaceous borders. Beds can be mulched with a layer of organic compost or bark to a dept of 3-6 inches to supress weeds.

This is the last chance to plant bare root hedging. Check all hedging for dead and deceased growth and remove, cutting back to healthy wood. Remove any mis-placed growth. Hedges can be lightly trimmed before the nesting season starts. A light spring feed of fertilizer such as chicken pellets or bone meal is beneficial.

You can continue to plant summer flowering bulbs. Once all frost has passed dahlia bulbs gladioli and lilies can be planted in beds or containers. If you didn’t plant tulips or daffodils last fall, sprouted bulbs can be planted now in pots or in the ground. Mix some compost and bulb food with your garden soil. A good rule of thumb is to plant the bulb to a depth of three times the height of the bulb and water in. Keep an eye on watering so they don’t dry out.

Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Garden
Spread well-rotted compost or manure over vegetable beds and dig over.
Now is the time to plant root crops such as beetroots, carrots, parsnips, and turnips, weather permitting and so long as the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. You can protect with cloches. Lettuce and radish seeds can be sown into the garden under cloches. Peas, spinach, leeks and spring onions can be planted out. Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts can be planted in trays in mid-March for planting out four weeks later. Planting can be staggered to keep a steady supply. Early varieties of broad beans can be sown. Onions, shallots and garlic can be planted out into well prepared beds. Cover seedling with fleece in severe frosts and protect from slugs and snails.
Prepare raised drills and sow early potatoes. Remove a few of the sprouts from chitted potatoes to reduce number of potatoes on each plant and produce a good size produce more quickly.
Rhubarb can be covered for forcing.

The start of the month is the last chance to prune apple trees and fruit bushes such as blackcurrants, gooseberries blueberries and raspberries. Redcurrants are pruned in early summer, but any dead or deceased growth can be pruned now.
Sow basil seeds on a warm windowsill for planting out when all danger of frost has passed.
Seeds for perennial herbs can be sown now undercover.
Herbs such as parsley, thyme, sage and rosemary can be planted.

Lawn Care
Tidy border edges with a half-moon edging iron. Treat lawns for moss using Sulphate of Iron and rake out dead moss with a spring tine rake. If conditions allow (ground should be neither waterlogged nor frozen) grass can be given a very light cut. If lawn is a large area, a scarifyer can be hired for scarifying the lawn or otherwise the job can be done with a fork. Apply a springtime fertilizer and grass seed to bare patches.
If creating a new lawn, now is a good time to prepare the soil for seeding in April by digging over area, breaking up clods and levelling. Remove any large stones and debris. Add a good general fertilizer and rake to a fine tilth.

Although late Autumn is generally the best time to plant trees due to soil being warm and a guaranteed supply of water,container grown trees can be planted once the ground is neither waterlogged nor frozen. Soak pots for 30 mins prior to planting. Dig a large enough hole to allow roots to be spread out. Fork over bottom and sides of hole to break up and loosen soil. Add some organic compost such as well rotted manure and mix in with soil. Mix some with soil that has been removed. Remove tree from pot and gently tease out and trim the roots if it is pot bound. Place tree in hole so that the nursery planting level is level with soil surface. Insert a stake below the crown of the tree on the side of the prevailing wind. Back fill the hole placing soil all around the roots to eliminate any air pockets and firm in with heel of foot. Be careful not to compact soil. Water in and tie to stake. Be sure to water regularly throughout the first couple of years.

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