March Seasonal Tips

What a change in the weather last month ! Starting with the coldest for 7 years ( minus 7c ) and ending with the warmest ever ( plus 20.2c ). The recent glimpse of Summer lasting for few hours for a few days, came with overnight frosts on the anniversary of the Beast from the East last year. We’re back to more normal conditions at the start of this month but the garden could do with some rain.

Don’t be in a hurry to sow early season vegetables if the ground is wet and cold. This is the main time for sowing broad beans, brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, parsnips, early peas and turnips; also early potatoes and carrots under cloches. If you have germinated tomatoes and cucumbers in a heated greenhouse, pot them on.

Start tender fuchsias into growth. Plunge the pots into water and allow to drain then prune hard taking out weak shoots. Once new growth starts replace some of the compost and repot.

Sweet peas should be ready to plant out at the end of the month and into April. For exhibition you’ll need to train them singly up canes 2.4m x 30cms (8ft x 12″ins) apart. Tie in the strongest side shoot and remove the others. As the stems grow pinch out all the new side shoots, and all the tendrils and tie in alternate leaves so all the energy goes into the growing stem. Well worth the effort and you’ll get much larger blooms and stems.

Sow seeds of hardy perennials such as lupins, delphiniums and pinks. Now is the best time to divide and replant clumps of snowdrops if necessary and divide overgrown perennials. Tidy up overgrown climbers such as honeysuckle giving it a good trim even down to 2′  or 60cms. Prune established standard and bush roses and give them a feed.

Now is a good time to mulch borders with organic matter but keep it away from the bark of trees and shrubs. Watch out  for slugs and snails on new growth of perennials especially hostas. The cheapest way to remove them is to pick them off after dark by torchlight – far better than using pellets and if you do remember not to use those containing metaldehyde which is toxic to pets and birds and is banned from next year.

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