March is a month in which the weather offers contrasts, false starts and occasional ferocity, but the flowering of early bulbs and the green haze forming on shrubs and hedges are a sure sign that Spring is almost upon us and that the real work of gardening and growing can soon begin in earnest.
This is a good time to plant new roses in the borders or against an arch or structure – dig a hole twice the width of the root system and the depth of a spade and include a generous amount of well rotted compost or manure to get the plant off to a really good start. Tidy up existing roses, removing dead or diseased stems and tie in any stray shoots to hold them close to the arch.
Cut back hedges now, before birds start to nest - Hedges planted now will establish well and make good growth in their first season.
Prune winter flowering shrubs after the blooms have faded and cut back the stems of dogwoods and willows hard to ensure bright stem colour for next winter.
Pinch out sweet pea seedlings to create sturdy plants ready to plant out when the temperature rises – seeds sown now will still create a fragrant show this summer. Sort through your seed collection and order something new – the warmth of the greenhouse is an ideal place to seek shelter from March winds.
Winter aconites and snowdrops both transplant best ‘in the green' so now is the time to divide any congested clumps to promote good flowering next year.
Keep off the grass during frosty weather, but your lawn will benefit from raking, feeding and weed treatment if the weather is fine – a first cut with the mower blades set high will invigorate the grass and transform the look of your garden!
Divide large clumps of hostas before their leaves start to grow. Dig the clump up, then use a spade to slice your clump into several sections, replanting them at their original level. Get your plant supports in before your perennials start to grow, this way your supports will be covered before your plants are performing at full tilt.
If you want to enjoy the tender stems of forced Rhubarb cover it now, but don’t be tempted to force for too long as you may weaken the plant.
Peas sown into lengths of guttering ready to slide them into position in the garden later this month will give an early crop and are ideal for succession sowing – consider what plant support you are going to use for your peas and beans this year –a purpose built pea or bean frame can be used year after year.
Freshly dug new potatoes are one of the greatest joys of a kitchen garden – plant some of your earlies out at the end of the month- a potato planter placed in a sheltered and sunny spot can help encourage an early crop.
Until 1752 March 25th marked the first day of the year, and whilst our calendars now tell otherwise, it is still March that heralds the beginning of the ‘Gardening Year’ for many of us - Happy New Year, and Happy Gardening!