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  • Sue

March in the Garden

I will feel like the Mad March Hare this month ..... so much to little time.....

Well this has been a challenging year so far. There are still things on my January list which have not been done.

The problem is, once the weather turns things will move forward very quickly and I will be head first into stuff that needs taking care of in March with some January and February tasks either half finished or abandoned. I just have to remember that it is not the end of the world if that happens and things are left undone. Nature has a wonderful habit of filling in the spaces.

So, with that in mind, this is the sort of thing to be getting on with this month.

March is the last chance for moving around bare rooted shrubs and trees. Be aware that if you do plant something this month and it turns out to be a hot dry spring, then you need to water the new plant well, mulch and then water regularly until it is established. The roots will not yet have had much time to anchor themselves into the soil and grow enough new roots to take up water and nutrients easily.

It is time to start spring pruning. Prune spring flowering shrubs once they have finished flowering. The growth they put on for the rest of this year will be where the flowers come from next year - so if you were to prune them in the autumn you would cut off the flowering stems which would produce the blossom you are hoping for next spring.

A flowering currant - prune it back hard after flowering or it could become unmanageable

Move spring flowering bulbs once they have finished flowering but while the leaves are still green. You can then plant them where you can see gaps in your border which need filling without the risk of digging up existing spring flowering bulbs that are dormant. Some bulbs, such as snowdrops, must be divided and transplanted "in the green" as they resent being moved while dormant. You can also scatter bone meal, or a similar slow release fertiliser, around your bulbs after they have flowered. This will help them bulk up for next year. Remember not to cut back the leaves of bulbs until they have gone brown.

Start your seed sowing in earnest - but be careful which seeds you sow and when - follow the instructions on the packet. It is always a bit better to slow slightly too late than too early. If you sow seeds too early then light levels may not be strong enough and the seedlings go leggy. Or you end up with battalions of seedlings that you cannot plant out yet because it is too early in the year.

March is a good time to divide and move perennials and buy and transplant young plants from nurseries. Roots establish more quickly in warmer soil (and soil that is not waterlogged). It is time to prune perennial grasses and refresh the grasses which do not lose their leaves in winter. I find combing through these with the head of an old rake works well and helps you avoid getting grass cuts on your hands. Make sure you do not damage or cut off the emerging grass shoots. It is also an excellent time to divide and transplant grasses.

There is lots to do in the edible garden - where there are plenty of things you can be planting or sowing now. Try onions and shallots, herb seeds such as coriander, dill, parsley. You can also sow the following vegetables in open ground: carrots, beetroot, parsnips, chard, kale, salad leaves, spinach, peas...and more. Start to prepare the ground for the things you can plant out once the risk of frost is past. Towards the end of the month you can sow pumpkin, courgette, summer squash seeds under cover, ready to plant out once the risk of frost has passed.

Get mulching

Then there is the inevitable weeding, feeding and mulching, so that you clean the ground and lock in valuable moisture before the weather warms up. If you have a compost heap then now is a really good time to use all the compost which is ready to go. At this time of year it is best applied as a mulch as it feeds the soil during an active growing period, suppresses weeds, retains moisture which has built up over the winter and frees up your compost bin for all of the material you will be adding to it over the coming year.

The race is on......

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