This Month in the Garden – March 2018

March is the month to get going again in the garden; the time for real gardening; to be growing things again. This can mean both sowing and planting. If you are starting plants from seed many things will do best by starting them off under glass, in a greenhouse or cold frame or on a window sill and may be in a heated propagator …

For the vegetable garden this is a good time to start tomatoes and brassicas. Tomatoes will need some heat to get them started while brassicas can be sown into a small seed tray without heat. If you haven’t got a propagator you can use an airing cupboard warmed by a hot water tank, covering the seed tray with cling film or a plastic bag. For flowers, both perennials and annuals, some will need heat and others not so follow instructions on the packet. If you grow tomatoes in an earth bed in the greenhouse it is a good idea to grow some french marigolds with them as they are a deterrent against white fly. If you sow more than you need for the tomatoes ( I alternate marigolds with tomatoes) you can plant them in a flower bed where they make a good splash of colour. While thinking about seeds, a good tip is to keep your seeds in date order of sowing in a small filing cabinett or  a shoe box ,with dividers indicating the month when the seeds should be shown. Keep this in a cool place.

It is too early to buy annual bedding plants but March is a good time for perennials, herbaceous plants and shrubs, including roses. Buy them direct from a nursery ( many offer mail order) or a garden centre but plants from a nursery will probably not be in containers and will be cheaper. Plant them with garden compost or propriety composts where you want them to grow. Find out how big they will be when fully grown and allow spacing accordingly. Most herbaceous plants are best grown in clumps of three or more ( odd numbers are best) rather than dotted around singly while shrubs will often be grown singly.

Pruning fruit trees and bushes should ideally have been done by now but this is the best time for roses. Modern bush roses and vigorous climbing roses can be pruned fairly hard  but aim for a good shape to the bush and don’t be too enthusiastic. The once popular fad of using a hedge trimmer for a broad brush approach has largely been abandoned for the traditional more selective method.

Depending on the weather, the grass may be  growing well by now and lawns will need cutting. There may well be quite a bit of debris from twigs and small branches blown down during the winter so clear the grass with a wire rake before cutting. Keep the cutter fairly high for the first few cuts. If you haven’t already trimmed the lawn edges with long handled shears and a half-moon edging tool you will find this makes a huge difference to the look of the garden. I am just grieving for the loss of my edging tool which I fear may have got mixed up with the tools of  a group of people with whom I was doing some collective garden maintenance at the end of last  year.

Ponds are lovely things to have but they do need quite a bit of attention and now is the time for some pond work. Even if the pond was netted during leaf fall in the autumn it is likely that there will be some leaves in the pond by now and they should be cleared out to stop them decomposing in the water and helping to build up sludge in the pond. There may also be dead foliage on the pond plants that  needs cutting down. You will probably have some oxygenating plants in the pond and this is a good time to thin them out if they are taking too much room. Watch out for blanket weed too which will grow as the water warms up. Some people take a pump out for the winter and, if so, this can be put back now. If you haven’t kept the pump going during the winter check it out now, including the electrical connections so that you are ready to go again.

Jeremy Arthern

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