March heralds the arrival of Spring, bringing with it fresh new shoots in the garden, noticeably longer days and hints of warmer weather. Traditionally a busy time of year for many gardeners, March is the time to start sowing seeds, preparing seed beds and getting the garden into shape for the growth spurts it encounters in April and May.
Quick gardening task checklist for March
- Keep an eye out for, and remove, slugs feasting on new shoots
- Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes
- Plant summer flowering bulbs
- Divide and plant overgrown clumps of perennials
- Give containers a top dressing with fresh compost
- If need be mow the lawn on a dry day
- Keep on top of the weeds before they take a hold of your garden
- Give the greenhouse a good airing on warm days (don’t forget to shut doors and vents at night as temperatures are still chilly)
- Cut back the colourful stems of dogwood (cornus) in preparation for this years colourful Winter display
- Nights are still chilly, so make sure vulnerable plants remain protected
1. It’s time to start sowing and planting
For both flowers and vegetables, now is the time to start sowing whatever you want your garden to be full of this summer.
Hardy annuals are an inexpensive way of bringing masses of colour to your garden. If you live in a mild area you can get away with sowing directly outside, in colder parts give your seeds a head start in the greenhouse before planting out next month.
March is also an ideal time for planting herbaceous perennials and summer flowering bulbs, but make sure the soil offers good drainage to prevent bulbs rotting in water logged soil. Dig in plenty of organic matter to improve drainage as necessary.
When planning your sowing and planting think about how to achieve a continuous display that takes you right through from late Spring to the end of Autumn. Checking flowering times when you choose your seeds and plants will ensure long lasting colourful displays that can also be used for cut flowers.
2. Keep on top of general garden maintenance tasks
Deadhead winter flowering pansies to prolong their display, and remove faded daffodil flowers, but allow foliage to die back naturally.
Tackling weeds now will pay dividends later on in the year. Clear weeds before mulching your garden, paying special attention to couch grass that has infested herbaceous perennials. Deal with this by lifting the plant and removing the roots of the weeds before replanting along with a bit of compost.
Regularly check containers to make sure they don’t dry out. Water just enough to keep soil moist so that the roots of the plant don’t sit in cold water logged soil. If need be add a top dressing of fresh John Innes compost.
For perennials that are starting to grow, get supports in early enough to give them the help they need early on. This also helps give the plant an attractive structure without unsightly supports being visible when added later on in the growth cycle.
In milder areas you might want to consider removing protective coverings such as fleece and straw to avoid damage to new shoots. If there is still a risk of frost, keep these in place.
3. Be vigilant with garden pests
Slugs and snails like nothing more than feasting on the new growth of favourites such as lilies, hostas and delphiniums. Step up your protection from these notorious pests to protect your summer displays.
Keep cutting back leaves suffering from leaf spot on hellebores to maintain displays.
Remove early infestations of aphids, caterpillars and fly pests that can increase rapidly during mild spells.
Look out for signs of blight on box and holly trees.
Check for damage or cankers on deciduous trees, as well as bracket fungus which could be a sigh of poor tree health. Call in a tree surgeon for a professional opinion if needed.
4. Give your trees and shrubs a boost
Your trees and shrubs are ready to spring into life, so now is the time to give them a boost to provide them with the support they need for healthy and productive year.
Strong winds will have loosened tree ties and stakes. Replace, tighten or slacken ties as required and firm in newly planted trees if they’ve been lifted by strong winds. Wall shrubs and climbers will also need checking and tying in to their supports to offer protection from strong winds.
Remove weeds from the base of young trees, and give all trees, shrubs, hedges and climbers a good feed and mulch after pruning. They’ll need this extra energy for new growth after being cut back or damaged during the Winter.
5. Look after your lawn
You can start laying new turf so long as your soil is not too wet or frozen. Avoid compacting the soil by working from planks laid over the surface, and don’t walk on freshly laid turf for several weeks to allow new roots to establish.
Give established lawns a light mow with raised blades, if the weather is warm and the grass is showing signs of growth.
Resow bare patches of lawn with grass seed at the end of March in milder areas.
You can also give you lawn a helping hand by applying a high nitrogen spring/summer lawn fertiliser. This will promote good, strong growth that will help lawns recover after winter.
Keep your edges looking nice and tidy with a quick smarten up using half-moon turf iron to achieve a nice clean edge.
6. Treat garden structures
Garden fences, sheds and log stores can all be treated with wood preservatives and stains during dry spells. Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated space using appropriate products. Creosote, for example, is no longer legal.
March is also a great time for hard landscaping projects such as paving, creating new beds, decking and lawn areas, providing sufficient time for spring planting to help plants establish and provide summer displays.
Remove dirt and algae from walls, paving and patios, as this can be extremely slippery as you work around the garden. Pressure washers are an effective and fast way of removing these layers of dirt.
Should you need a hand with garden landscaping and general maintenance, Thames Valley Landscapes can help. Call us on 01628 629 720 for creative ways to make the most of your garden space all year round.