March Gardening 2013

The days are drawing out and as the sun gets stronger the soil is warming up and is still retaining the winter moisture. The temperature difference between day and night is the more pronounced than at any other time of the year and frosts can occur throughout the month. Open green house vents on warm days to slow down the growth of plants inside, if they grow to quickly they can become very soft and be damaged if night time temperatures fall below freezing.

Beware as even periods of warm weather can suddenly change and it is better to wait to plant more tender plants than be caught out by a sharp cold snap.

Protect new growth of Hydrangea, Pieris and Acer palmatum varieties if frost forecast, their soft young growth is particularly susceptible to damage as they start to grow.

Shrubs such as Hydrangea paniculata, summer flowering Spiraea and Buddleja flower on shoots that grow this season so a hard prune now will mean that flowers are held at a height where they can be seen and more will be produced.

Perennials can be split and replanted after raking in a general fertiliser. Keep a watch out for slugs and snails if the weather is mild.

Erect supports for peas and beans and cover the ground where they are to be planted to help warm it up.

Bearded Irises give a brilliant display of flowers in a spectacular array of colours in June. Now is the time to remove dead leaves and cut away any diseased parts from the rhizomes before feeding with a general fertiliser.

Start to plant summer bulbs such as the beautifully scented Acidanthera and Gladioli.

Lawns can now be repaired and feeding can also take place. Moss can be dealt with by using specialised moss-killers but remember that the reason moss grows is because the soil is either waterlogged or compacted so a better long term remedy is to improve the drainage or aerate your lawn.

Dahlia tubers that have been stored over winter can be sprayed with tepid water to encourage the production of young shoots, which can be taken as cuttings. The tubers really should not be planted out until the end of April, as the young shoots are susceptible to late frosts.

It is an ideal time to lift and split Snowdrops.

Pinks are an excellent small border plant, which can be planted now; their scented flowers are ideal for cutting for a small vase and by picking them more flowers are produced.

Sweet peas can now be planted out either on canes and tied in or allowed to scrabble through wigwams of stocks, like pinks the more you pick the more are produced.

Seed sowing should be in full flow but you may be too late with some plants that need a cold spell to break any dormancy. Sowing directly into outdoor seedbeds must be undertaken late in the month to avoid sowing into soil that is too wet or cold.

Plants to enjoy this month include the Camellias in an amazing kaleidoscope of colours and flower shapes. Grown on a North or West wall or sheltered site they do not get damaged by late frosts and give a superb display against the shiny dark green leaves. Ornamental Quinces known as Chaenomeles will be flowering along with Hamamelis with their curious shaped spidery flowers. The star shaped flowers of Magnolia stellata and the drooping panicles of the ornamental currants are real spring specialties and can add a splash of colour to any garden.

Spring is here and let’s hope that the worst is now behind us.