This Month in the Garden – March 2019

This is the time to come out of hibernation and to start being really active in the garden. There is a lot to be done and a good start now will pay off for the rest of the year. Where you start will depend on your gardening priorities. Do  you just want to keep things tidy and ticking along quietly ? Is the ornamental garden your pride and joy with the aim of  colourful all year round interest or do you fancy the Good Life, being as self-sufficient as possible with vegetables and fruit ?   …

Tidiness means paying attention to ornamental  borders and lawns. You may have been able to get quite a bit done on the borders in February  but weeding will certainly need to be done this month. It never really stops. Spring bulbs will be well advanced and perennial plants showing shoots so you shouldn’t be in danger of destroying or damaging the things you want to keep. Check your shrubs to see if they are taking more room than they should and either thin them out by up to a third from the base or, particularly with evergreens, trim them back as needed. Fork over the soil lightly and add  compost and/or fertiliser. Growmore is a good general purpose fertiliser while chicken pellets  which are a form of manure which is readily available in bags  and easy to spread. 

Very often, when I am gardening, I find that one thing leads to another and I end up doing a job that I hadn’t thought of when I started. This can happen when you are tidying up a flower border with perennial plants. You may find that some of the clumps are getting quite big or starting to thin out in the middle. You can multiply your plants cheaply by digging them up, discarding any thin bits in the middle and dividing the rest  by cutting them with a spade or prising them apart with two forks levered back to back. Some bits can go back where they came from while others can be used to fill out the border elsewhere or used in a new bed. Many perennial’s look best when they are set in good sized clumps and repeats of the same plant in a border are an effective part of garden design.

Most people have a lawn of some sort which means that they will need to pay it some attention if they take any pride at all in the appearance of their garden even if they have no real interest in gardening. Keeping the lawn cut is the basic thing  and the way it is done does have a considerable effect on its appearance. Keep the mower in good condition by having it serviced at least every couple of years and ensure the blade is sharp. Fairly frequent mowing is important (at least once a week once grass is growing well) and never cut the grass very short.  A lawn is not a cricket pitch and shaving it will weaken the grass and leave it looking yellow rather than a good green colour. Start in March with a fairly high cut and then maintain a middling setting for the rest of the year until late autumn when you go back to a longer cut. Mow in a different direction each time so that the grass is not always pushed down in one direction. The grass overhanging the edge of the lawn should be cut with long-handled shears every two or three times the lawn is mown and the edge itself sharpened up every couple of months using a spade or, better, a half-moon edging tool. The sharpness of the lawn’s edge makes a big difference. 

Vegetable gardeners will be keen to get going with seed sowing out of doors. Once the soil is fairly dry and friable it should be raked over leaving a fine tilth. Here again, before sowing you can spread Growmore of chicken pellets if you haven’t dug in any garden compost or manure during the winter. Parsnips need to be sown early and you can make a first sowing of carrot, which should be followed up with a couple of successional sowings later on. Onion sets can also be planted now in rows a foot apart (30cm) with four inches (10cm) between each plant. Brassicas and leeks can be sown now and, where possible, start them off under glass in seed trays or pots for planting out later. 

Jeremy Arthern

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