Spring is almost here! The days are getting longer, the ground is getting warmer, daffodils are beginning to flower and the Blackthorn is bursting with buds in the hedgerow. March is a month of new beginnings in nature and a time to welcome back some familiar faces in the garden. Spring is my favourite time of year; the gardening season has begun and there are plenty of things to keep us busy outside. Here are my top ten gardening jobs for this month.
1. Now is an ideal time to plant herbaceous perennials. Garden centres will take stock of a huge range rightnow, so make sure you choose the appropriate plant for the location. Lift and divide established perennial plants now to improve their vigour and create new plants for your garden.
2. Dahlia tubers can be planted in pots under cover. A large 2 or 3 litre sized pot is ideal for getting them going, pottedup with a good, moist multi-purpose compost. Place them in a bright, frost free location and they will begin to sprout in two to three weeks. Avoid over-watering, as this will cause the tubers to rot. They can then be planted out into the garden once the danger of frost has passed (late May).
3. For the cut flower border, Ranunculus and Anemones can be planted into borders now that the soil has warmed up. Ensure that the corms are soaked overnight in room temperature water for at least 10-12 hours before planting. Both will flower in around three months, rewarding you with beautiful blooms for your home.
4. Sweet pea seedlings that have been sown earlier in the year will be putting on a growth spurt. Young plants will become stronger by pinching out the tips, whichencourages side shoots and avoids plants becoming weakand leggy. It is still not too late to sow sweet peas under cover – choose a heavily scented old-fashioned variety such as ‘Noel Sutton’, ‘Prince Edward of York’ and ‘Lord Nelson’.
5. Hydrangeas will require some attention during March. Remove the dead flowerheads in early spring, cutting back the stem to the first strong, healthy pair of buds down from the faded bloom. Hydrangeas flower on new growth, so avoid cutting into ‘old wood’, as this can reduce flowering for the next couple of summers.
6. As the soil warms up, slugs will begin their annual banquet on fresh new growth. Nematodes are a simple, organic method of keeping them at bay – they are available online and they are more effective than any chemical treatment (which should be avoided at all costs!). Continue to remove any decaying foliage or leaf litter from borders, as this will give slugs an ideal place to hide out.
7. Prepare and reseed any bare patches on your lawn that may have appeared during winter – rake off any leaves and add a layer of lawn compost before sowing. It is a good idea to net and protect larger patches once seeds have been scattered, as pigeons are particularly partial to them! If the weather is dry enough, you may be able to cut your lawn; make sure the blade of your lawnmoweris not too low and cut long grass with a strimmer before mowing.
8. Seed potatoes should be set out in trays or egg boxes in a bright but cool, frost-free location so that shoots will form.This process is called ‘chitting’ where you start the growing process prior to planting. Once you then plant the potatoes out in the soil you’ve already given them a head start. In an ideal world, this also means that you will get an earlier harvest, and a slightly better crop as well. Plantings of early varieties can be made during March; however, main crop varieties are best planted in April.
9. Fill your house with flowers – plucking blooms from the garden or hedgerow is irresistible during Spring. Bud vases filled with Primroses scattered across a dining table, create the most magical Sunday lunch setting; vessels of Daffodils and Grape Hyacinths fill the home with bright contrasting colour and large vases filled with architectural branches of blossom, create impact in any entrance hall. The season should be enjoyed both inside and out.
10. Enjoy spring… March is a busy time of year in the garden and, before you know it, summer has arrived. Make time to take in the beauty of the season – visit a garden, take a bracing walk, or simply sit in your garden and listen to the birdsong.