March is the time when spring arrives and you can enjoy getting back into your garden. Andy Taylor looks at what gardening jobs can be done now the days are getting warmer and lighter outside.
It's now a great time to visit your local garden centre, where there should be plenty of new stock to provide inspiration for the summer.
The white carpet of those delicate purveyors of spring tidings, snowdrops, might be fading now. If you lift them, break up the clumps and replant, the show will be even better next year.
Potted hyacinths that have infused the house with scent over the past few weeks can now be moved into the garden. Dead head them first but don't touch the foliage. Plant 3-4 ins deep and give them a drink of liquid feed.
Cut late flowering (July onwards) clemetis to about 12ins off the ground. Buddleias need to be cut back hard as well to a couple of buds. Prune fuchsia, santolina and lavatera so they keep a good shape.
Introduce new compost into pots by scraping out the top 2ins and replacing it with fresh compost.
Mulching, whatever you use, helps to suppress weeds, retains moisture and organic material will improve the soil structure. Use a depth of about 2ins for to work properly. Leave space around woody stems to avoid rotting.
Try drying our and warming the soil preferably with cloches, but fleece and plastic sheeting can also be effective.
Broad beans, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, shallots and early turnips can be sown or planted outside, preferably under cloches. Lettuces, spinach, sprouts and sprouting broccoli can all be sowed in modules Keep them in a well lit positions so that the seedlings grow into stocky healthy plants.
Chillies need 20ºC to germinate so after sowing them in peat free compost keep in a warm environment.
If you are going to grow brassicas, a crop that likes nitrogen and prefers an alkaline soil, you should have applied well rotted manure in the autumn. Now is the time to sweeten the earth with lime, that will also lessen the chances of club root. Perk up overwintering spring cabbage and cauliflower with a top dressing feed. Remove the yellowing leaves of Brussels sprouts.
Fruit will appear on last summer's blueberry stems, so prune by taking out any dead stems and cut back the oldest ones by about a quarter to a flowering bud,
There's still time to prune grape vines until the first buds appear. Remember that fruit will be on new growth, so cut back side shoots and create a structure that will have two bunches per rod.
It's time to start preparing the lawn for a verdant new season. Rake off any leaves and brush in some grit or compost. Any areas that are wet, it might be time to dig up, add lots of grit and organic matter and re-lay. If the weather has been mild it may be time for the first cut of the year, setting the blades high on a dry day and that the cuttings are collected to avoid clogging up the surface.
Divide primroses that have become too densely clumped. Carefully part the individual plants and pot them in the greenhouse or place in the cold frame. Keep watered and the plants should thrive enough to be returned to the garden.
Geraniums and fuchsias that have over wintered can now be re-potted, don't over do the watering and new shoots will soon appear. Also pot up begonias, lilies and summer flowering bulbs such as montbretia and gladiolus.
Remove dead wood from roses, any crossing stems and spindly growth, then prune the remaining stems by between a quarter and a third. Start feeding when they come into growth.
Apply mulch onto flower beds, this can be any kind of compost or manure, to suppress weeds, retain moisture and improve soil structure.
Deadhead daffodils grown in containers or the border as they begin to fade, but leave those in the lawn so that they spread.
Cut back deciduous ornamental grasses, comb through evergreen varieties to remove dead material.
Hopefully broken up from winter frost, rake over seed beds, removing any weeds and stones. This is a very satisfying procedure on a warm dry spring morning to achieve the finest tilth on a firm base, a welcoming home for your seeds. If necessary apply a dusting of fertilizer such as chicken manure or seaweed.
Summer fruiting vegetables from hot climes need all summer to ripen so sow peppers, aubergines, cucumbers now on a window cill or in a propagator. Pot the small plants and place in a cold frame so that they can harden off before planting in a border or grow bag.
Onion and shallot sets should be planted in a well drained sunny spot. Make sure the rows are easy to get a hoe between and weed. Don't push sets into the ground, use a dibber so that the tops are just poking out or else the sets will force themselves out without any help from the birds.
Sow peas in double or triple rows. push the seeds into the soil, rake over and they will be ready to pick in June.
If you are lucky enough to have a peach tree, protect early buds from frost with fleece. You may also need to hand pollinate them if the weather is cold and there aren't many insects around. Spray to prevent leaf curl.
Start digging trenches for runner beans, breaking up the bottom and over the coming weeks filling with organic matter of every description, newspapers soaked in water, so that their roots will find a moist fertile haven to snuggle into.
Remove any bubble wrap insulation from the greenhouse and clean the windows to introduce the maximum amount of light.
Dahlia tubers can now be placed in compost with the crown exposed in a greenhouse or cold frame. Don't water until there's new growth. Cuttings can be taken from new shoots that are an about three inches long, remove with a sharp knife together with a piece of tuber and plant in compost. After a month they should have rooted and can be moved to small pots before planting out in June.
With mild weather, and especially if you have warmed the seed bed with cloches, it is time to start thinking about sowing broad beans, broccoli, parsnips, lettuce and rocket, peas, spinach and leeks. Beetroot (don't forget to soak the seeds), carrots, radish can be also be sown outside but preferably under cloches with cauliflowers that have been raised from seed. Brussels sprouts should be sown indoors together with cabbages, globe artichokes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Wait until new shoots have appeared and then cut hydrangea stems down these new buds and cut out old woody stems on established shrubs. Leave stems longer in the middle to retain a shapely appearance. With Hydrangea arborescens new shoots emanate from the base so this can be pruned hard.
If you buy dahlias from the garden centre it's probably best to harden them off in a cold frame. Plant out in June about 1ft apart in a sunny, fertile spot incorporating plenty of organic matter. Hammer in adjacent stakes so you can use twine to support them. Cut out the tips of the leading stems when the plants are about 12 inches tall to encourage bushy growth.
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