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.
Plant Climbing Roses
This is a good time to plant any bare root roses, as March signals the ends of the bare root season. Roses look stunning growing within any area of the garden. To plant roses to grow up a structure or an arch - dig a hole twice the width of the root system and the depth of a spade. Include a generous amount of well rotted compost or manure to get the plant off to a really good start.
Tidy up existing roses by removing dead or diseased stems. Use climbing wire, twine or twist ties to tie any stray shoots to the structure or arch.
Plant Hedges & Prune Shrubs
By planting hedges now, they will establish and make good growth in their first season. Newly planted hedges require pruning for their first couple of years after planting. Pruning of any hedging should be carried out around now, before birds start to nest. After this, maintenance trimming can be continued, usually once a year for informal hedges and twice a year for formal hedges.
Cut back the stems of Dogwoods and Willows hard to ensure bright stem colour for next winter. You can prune shrubs at any time of year if it’s necessary - for example, to remove broken branches or diseased wood, or to remove growth that is obstructing a walkway. However on an in-leaf shrub it’s harder to see what needs to be cut.
March is a good time to prune shrubs as they have lost their leaves and become dormant. Without the leaves you can easily see the branching structure of the shrub and can spot where to prune.
Sow Sweet Peas
For best results sow in late October/November or at the beginning of March as temperatures and light levels are optimum. Seeds sown now will still create a fragrant show this Summer.
To pinch sweet pea plants, wait until they are 10 cm to 20.5 cm high. Take the growing tip between your forefinger and thumbnail and snip the growing tip off. This encourages bushy growth and sturdy plants ready to plant out when the temperature rises.
Maintain Your Lawn
Keep off your lawn in frosty weather - it will benefit from raking, feeding and weed treatment if the weather is fine – start with with the mower blades set on their highest setting, and only decrease the height when the season is well underway. This will invigorate the grass and transform the look of your garden!
Divide Congested Clumps
Hosta are a perennial favorite among gardeners. Their lush foliage and easy care make them ideal for a low maintenance garden.
Before their leaves start to grow, divide large clumps of hostas. 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. Aconites and Snowdrops are a welcome sign that Spring is almost here. Bold and weather-proof, they catch what little sun there is and light up the darkest of corners.
Winter Aconites and Snowdrops both transplant best ‘in the green' so now is the time to divide any congested clumps into either doorstep planters or plant them around to naturalise the landscape with drifts of them next year. Dot them amongst sleeping border perennials as well as under trees in the long grass.
Fruit & Vegetables To SowTry to avoid digging in wet weather, but if gardening on wet soil, work from a plank of wood or an EasyPath, to avoid treading on the bed and compacting the soil.
Rhubarb and Chicory can be forced in late winter by covering with a forcing jar or bucket, or by placing potted plants in the dark, to produce earlier, paler, sweeter growth, but don't be tempted to force for too long as you may weaken the plant. They can be ready to harvest as early as March, several weeks before plants left to grow normally.
Peas & Beans
Peas can be sown now into lengths of guttering or root trainers, ready to transplant into position in the garden later this month - this will give an early crop and are ideal for succession sowing.
If there’s one crop that sums up the pleasure of growing your own, is the humble bean. Most beans are very quick growing and, once they get going, you can expect week after week of tender, delicious tasting pods.
Consider what plant support you are going to use for your peas and beans this year – Using a purpose built pea or bean frame with jute netting is the easiest way to make the right support for the peas and climbing beans to grow their way up and can be used year after year. They are a great way to add height to a kitchen garden and make an attractive feature.
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 patio planter placed in a sheltered and sunny spot can help encourage an early crop.
Problems To Look Out For
Weeds can be controlled whenever they are troublesome, which is usually in the Spring and Summer months. It is a good idea to put weed barriers in place in late winter or early spring, as they work better as a preventative. Keep on top off weed control with hand-weeding with a fork or a SpeedWeed.
Since 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 Gardening Season!