March gardening tips
Spring officially returns this month! March is a month where you feel your spirits lifting and you are spurned into action. Daffodils and crocuses start to appear, and seeds that have been lying in wait start to sprout. Growth seems slow at first and then suddenly everything takes off.
Finish cutting back any dead foliage left on your perennials and ornamental grasses to make way for new growth.
Trim winter-flowering heathers as the flowers disappear, to prevent the plants becoming leggy.
Deadhead daffodils as the flowers finish and let the foliage die back naturally.
Deadhead Hydrangeas before new growth appears. Cut to about one third of last season’s growth.
Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as Gladiolus, Lilies and Ranunculus into beds, borders and containers.
Plant out any forced flower bulbs in the garden, such as hyacinths and daffodils that have finished flowering indoors.
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.
Divide hostas before they come into leaf. Hostas dislike root disturbance: divide only when they have outgrown their space. If the clump is dense and woody, chop into sections with a spade. If the roots are loose they will be relatively easy to pull apart gently.
Divide hellebores and polyanthus-type primulas after flowering.
Hellebore leaf spot can be a problem on old foliage of hellebores. Cutting back the old leaves should control the problem.
Continue to protect new growth on lilies, delphiniums, hostas and any other plants affected, from slugs and snails.
Plant bare root roses, and prune roses to encourage strong new growth.
Spread compost or manure around the base of fruit trees and bushes. This helps suppress weeds as well as retaining moisture.
If you need to move deciduous trees or shrubs, now is the time to do it provided the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.
Finish cutting back shrubs grown for their colourful winter stems such as Cornus and Salix cultivars. Cut them back to their bases.
Don’t stop feeding the birds. It’s tempting to stop once you feel spring is on its way, but this is the time when food stocks for birds are very low and they will really appreciate a bit of help. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water too.
Keep an eye out for weeds. They will start growing as soon as temperatures start rising. Hoe the young weeds as soon as they appear.
Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed)
Feed your lawn in mid-spring (often late March to April), use a proprietary spring or summer lawn fertiliser at the manufacturer’s recommended rates. Feeding the lawn will increase vigour and help prevent weeds and moss from establishing. Apply fertilisers when the soil is moist, or when rain is expected.
If grass loses its vigour and freshness between late spring and late summer (often May to August), repeat the application of spring or summer lawn fertiliser pellets.
IN THE VEGETABLE 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.
Sow beetroot, broad beans, peas, leeks, radish, lettuce, parsnip, onions, carrots, turnips and herbs. Some of these can be planted directly outside. Otherwise start them off in pots and trays undercover.
Early potatoes can be planted in mid to late March as long as the ground is not too waterlogged. They can be planted whether or not they have been chitted beforehand.
If you haven’t started yet, then sow tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicum, aubergine and melons. If the weather is warm then start them off in the greenhouse, otherwise put them in a heated propagator or start off inside.
Jerusalem artichoke tubers can be planted. They are an excellent winter veg.
This is the last chance to plant asparagus crowns before spring. Plant them now for a long-term crop.
IN THE FRUIT GARDEN
Blueberries are very easy to grow and are a delicious snacking fruit. Grow varieties that ripen at different times to give you berries throughout the summer.
Plant strawberry plants and cover with a cloche to encourage earlier fruiting. Buying plants rather than runners will give you a better chance of strawberries this year.
Plant apple trees, cherry trees and other fruit trees now in a sunny, sheltered spot.
IN THE GREENHOUSE
Start sowing your bedding plant seeds now ready to plant out after the last frosts.
For better seed germination in cold weather, try using an electric propagator to help your early sowings along.
Pot on rooted cuttings of tender perennial plants taken last summer.
Move plants from the greenhouse to a cold frame before planting out to give them time to adjust to cooler temperatures.
Ventilate greenhouses and cold frames on warm days.
Sow tomato seeds in a heated greenhouse for early crops.