Well, at times February didn’t turn out much better than January weather-wise, but March has started with a hint of Spring (here in Devon, at least). 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.
Although we have experienced some very cold weather conditions over the past weeks, early sowings can be made by warming the soil prior to sowing using cloches or envirofleece 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 window-sill.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.
As the pruning of established trees and bushes should have been carried out by now, it is a fairly quite 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.
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 snowdrops. 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.
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. Provided soil conditions are not too cold and wet, early sowings of hardy annuals can be made outdoors. Suitable plants for sowing where they will flower include the following popular items – anchusa, calendula, clarkia, larkspur and nigella.
Remember not to let the trays of seedlings become affected by damping off and to aid this it is suggested watering with Cheshunt Compound.
Sweet Peas can be planted 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 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.
Towards the end of the month, provided the ground is not too wet, is an ideal time to start preparing areas for sowing in April. Perennial weeds should be controlled by digging out the roots or using a weedkiller containing Glyphosate. The site should be dug to a depth of 23cm (9”) which should be followed by raking to obtain a level surface. On established lawns the first cut of the season can be made, not too short, just removing the leaf tips. Where moss is a problem on the lawn Moss Killers can be applied at this time. Our Rapid Green Lawn Seed is the modern answer for creating hard wearing, ornamental or lawns in shaded areas, and reviving worn areas! Replace lawn edges that may have worn away or crumbled by using a sharp half-moon edging tool.
Flower beds can be prepared so that they are ready for sowing hardy annuals during late March through into April. A general fertiliser should be sprinkled around trees and shrubs, and along hedges, then give a generous mulch of well-rotted compost. Around the base of roses, fruit trees and shrubs a mulch of garden compost can be spread.
Houseplants and ferns can be potted on into slightly larger pots. 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.
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.
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.
Should algae appear which turns pond water green it is best to see if the oxygenating plants in the pond begin to do their job by starving the algae of food. As milder spells arrive fish can be given some food. Now is the time to remove pond heaters so that they can be cleaned and put away until next winter. Plant debris should be cleared away from around the pond and use a net to scoop out leaves that may have fallen into the water.