My garden in March
Spring is here and I like to think that ‘the madde Marche Hare’, as one 16th century writer put it, is hiding somewhere around the corner, just itching to get all frisky. The days are longer, shrubs and plants are beginning to flower, everything is fresh and there’s a lovely feeling that renewal is in the air, enough to get the sap rising in us all.
True to legend hares really do get all crazy in March, the start of their mating season, which actually carries on for months. I’ve always loved the hare-brained old creature at the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland, an old favourite for my daughter in the Disney version. But the hare I would most have liked to meet was a pet belonging to my late mother-in-law in the 1920s. She had a lolloping Belgian hare that had the run of the house and it would sit by the front door every evening when her father was due home from work. On half-day Saturdays he somehow knew he needed to be on duty early and there he’d be at lunchtime, waiting for a toffee as a reward. It would get stuck to his front teeth and he’d slowly and contentedly lick it off. Such bliss, although possibly not the healthiest of diets
Anyway, where was I? Wondering if I’ll find a hare peeking into my greenhouse, I think.
Hiding In the greenhouse
With the help of the March Hare it is time to sow tomatoes, which can be potted on once they have a pair of leaves. Sow lettuce successional for continuous crops.
Sow summer bedding plants and continue to grow on plug plants that you’ve bought. Towards the end of March you should be able to plant up containers and hanging baskets to get them established before putting them out in May.
Propagate Dahlias from tubers. Get the tubers started into growth and then divide them with a sharp knife once they have sprouted and pot them on.
Begonia tubers can also be potted up now.
It’s a good time to prune Fuchsias by cutting back to one or two buds on each shoot, re-potting if necessary. You may find that vine weevil larvae have set up home in the pots. They too like the Spring so, if this has happened and there are enough roots left on the plant, remove all the soil from around the plant and pot up in fresh soil.
Cut back Pelgoniums and use cuttings for new plants.
If you’ve not yet tidied the garden from the autumn and winter now is the time to give everything a general tidy up. Cut back grasses and perennials left for winter interest. Prepare seedbeds and fork in manure.
If you have grown green manure over winter this is the perfect time to dig it into the ground.
We are also now getting into the season where the slugs and snails will eat all your favourite plants. I’m sure slugs and snails must have some use in the food chain, presumably to feed frogs and birds, but they are the bane of my life, especially when we get wet weather. There are many different ways to try and protect your plants aside from using pellets or slug clear. Try putting down eggshells or coffee grounds which really does help and is more ‘natural’ .Another tip is to apply a coco shell mulch. If you’re protecting pots then a band of Vaseline around the top of the pot helps.
In mild areas it is possible to sow hardy annuals such as Sweet Peas outside now where you want them to flower.
Allow foliage of daffodils to die back naturally as all the goodness from the leaves goes back into the bulbs for next year. Do deadhead daffodils once they have flowered though.
Now is the time to put in plant supports around taller perennial plants so that they are in place as the plants grow.
Topdress containers with fresh compost. This means removing the top 50mm of soil and replacing it with fresh compost.
If you’re lucky and have the room, plant continuous crops of plants for cut flowers throughout the summer.
If you suffer from rabbits and possibly deer then put guards around newly planted trees. Who knows, the March Hare may be around as well. You can try distracting him with a toffee.
In warmer areas Evergreens can now be moved to new positions. In colder areas wait until April.
Pot up summer flowering bulbs for fabulous colour. I always have pots of Lilies that I set into flowerbeds for extra colour. Gladioli’s can be planted now.
Any forced bulbs that have been inside should be planted in the garden now.
It is time to start feeding the fish again. Our pond always looks as if it is boiling with the water spurting around as little amphibians start thrashing about. It’s as though someone has switched something on to start the mating season for the Mad March Frogs.
Divide marginal and bog plants.
Pruning & Propagating
Cut back summer flowering plants that grow on this year’s wood such as Hydrangea, Perovskia and Buddleia.
Prune spring flowering shrubs once they have flowered. Mahonias will appreciate the top rosette of leaves being cut out to encourage branching.
Finish pruning roses and give them a special rose fertiliser.
Before the perennials really take off lift and divide them if they are over crowded. That way you can also get new plants. Divide Hellebores and Polyanthus after flowering. Pot on rooted perennials taken last year.
Layering is another way to get new plants. Try Clematis, Philadelphus, Forsythia and Lonicera.
This is the real start of the mowing season. As I’ve mentioned before between November and end of February you may have to do the occasional mow on high. Now the grass will really start to grow. Do your first few mows on high. Then lower the height of the blades. I never recommend cutting on the lowest blade height because you risk scalping the lawn. The shorter the blades of grass the shorter the roots are. Ideally you want the roots to be as long as possible so that they search for water deep into the soil. Should we have a drought your lawn will survive better. Also apply a spring/summer lawn feed high in Nitrogen.
It is too early to sow lawn seed but you can prepare the ground by digging it over or rotavating. Level and leave the soil to settle until April when the ground should start to be warm enough to sow seed.
Sow spinach every couple of weeks to get successional cropping. It takes about 40 days from sowing to being able to crop spinach.
Forced Rhubarb should be ready now if you started to force it in December and January.
Cover strawberries with a cloche or bring them under cover for earlier crops.
Plant Shallots, Onion Sets and early Potatoes.
Sow carrots into the ground and cover with a cloche to protect the seedlings.
Continue planting fruit trees and Raspberry canes. If you grow Blueberries give them an Ericaceous feed now. I’ve two blueberry plants in pots and we get the most amazing crop later in the season. I so enjoy walking into the garden and picking fresh blueberries.
Plants for colour in March
There are so many plants coming into flower now. Even though it’s been very cold looking around Kew Gardens the other week there was so much life and freshness there.
For me a definite sign that spring is here is seeing the yellow flowers of Forsythia. It is such an easy shrub to grow and should have a place in most gardens.
Euphorbia robbia will light a shady corner planted with fens or contrast well with Aubrietia or Muscari latifolium.
Hellebores x hybrida are now flowering away and look great under planted beneath a flowering Cherry. Try Prunus Pendula Rosea. The Prunus will look good with crocuses and white Narcissus under planted as well.
Daffodils will be flowering their heads off everywhere.
Magnolias will be coming into flower if you don’t have a lot of space try Magnolia stellata planted with small Rhododendrons and Primula Wanda.
My favourite Daphne Odora Aureomarginata will be giving off the most wonderful scent now. This is a must for a front garden or drive.
Ah, the waft of perfume in the air. That’s spring for you. No wonder hares breed like rabbits at this time of year.