March is the month where spring finally arrives. Sunny and longer days bring a whole range of gardening tasks that can be completed this month. Flowers such as daffodils and crocuses burst into flower, thus bringing colour and fragrance into gardens. Temperatures in March are also on the rise with temperatures reaching 15ºC. However, the nights do tend to still be on the chilly side, so don’t put tender plants outdoors just yet.
Essential checklist for March
- Plant summer-flowering bulbs
- Prune and feed roses
- Sow hardy annuals outdoors (weather permitting)
- Start to sow your vegetables in prepared beds outdoors
- Sow your herbs
- Plant potatoes (earlies)
- Cut back perennials and grasses that were left over winter
- Prune gooseberries
Plant summer-flowering bulbs
Summer bulbs such as tulips, dahlias, lilies and gladioli can now be planted. When picking your bulbs ensure that bulbs feel firm to the touch and don’t have any signs of mold. The bulbs can be planted where you want them to flower. Bulbs hate to be wet so need good drainage. Therefore, put a handful of grit at the bottom of the planting hole.
Prune and feed roses
Now is the time to cut back any rose bushes and hedges. Pruning roses should remove all crossing, damaged and dead wood. The main stems should be pruned to an outward-facing bud around 15-20cm from ground level. Any climbing plants should have their side-shoots cut back to 3 or 4 buds. After the pruning, it is advisable to feed the roses with a specialist rose food such as Westland Naturally Rich Rose Food.
Sow hardy annuals outdoors (weather permitting)
Once the weather has become milder, hardy annuals such as Love-in-a-mist can be sown. Remove any weeds and stones from the sowing area and rake until the soil is fine. It is a good idea to sow the seeds in short straight lines to help you distinguish between seedlings and weeds. If the soil is dry, water before sowing.
Cut back perennials and grasses that were left over winter
If there are any perennials that were not cut back in the winter, now is the time to do it. This is to make way for the green shoots. Cut back to ground level but be careful not to damage the new growth. The dead foliage can be added to your compost heap. Any overgrown clumps of perennials can be divided. Perennials will also need dividing once a plant becomes woody or dies back at the centre. To divide the plant, dig it up and split it up into several pieces. After pruning and dividing, then it’s time to feed established plants with an all-round plant food. After feeding, mulch your borders with homemade compost. Always apply mulch over moist soil, ideally after it has rained.
Sow your vegetables in prepared beds outdoors
After the long wait, it is finally time to get going with sowing seeds. Lettuce, salad leaves, radish, turnips, beetroots, salad onions and broad beans can all be sown. Start by sowing in any soil that you previously warmed with cloches or fleece. Water before sowing as this will prevent tiny seeds being washed away. Ideally you should try to sow short rows every 10 to 14 days – this will ensure you have a succession of vegetables rather than a huge crop ready all at the same time.
Sow your herbs
If you want to grow some herbs, March is the time to start sowing the seeds. Hardy herbs such as parsley, chervil and chives are good ones to start with. Herbs can either be sown in the ground or in small pots. Parsley is known for being tricky to germinate. However, the following method is very reliable:
- Fill a small shallow pot or tray with Gro-Sure Perlite. Water and allow to drain then sprinkle parsley seeds over the surface and cover with a thin layer of perlite. Keep covered with cling film in a warm place. The seeds should germinate within two weeks.
Plant potatoes (earlies)
Towards the end of the month early potatoes, such as ‘Accent’ and ‘Red Duke of York’ can be planted. The potatoes can be grown in the ground by digging a 12cm (5 inches) deep trench with some Farmyard Manure forked in. Plant the tubers about 30cm (12 inches) apart with 45cm (18 inches) between rows and cover with soil. Potatoes can also be grown in raised beds or even large containers if you don’t have a lot of space. They need a minimum depth and width of 30cm (12 inches). Half fill the bed/container with Multi-Purpose Compost, then plant the potatoes and cover leaving some space at the top.
Pruning gooseberries is important to keep your plant in shape and help avoid problems with mildew by allowing air to circulate more easily. Side-shoots should be cut back to a bud about 8cm (3 inches) from their base. Prune the tips of the branches back to within 3 or 4 buds of the new growth. After pruning, feed and mulch your plants and they will be ready for the summer.
Grass will start to grow more and therefore it will need a light trim (remove one-third of the height) probably once a week. If you didn’t remove moss and dead grass (thatch) in the autumn, they will need removing now with a spring-tine rake. New turf can be put down in March. Before the turf is laid, it is advisable to apply a good general feed such as Growmore, around 4-5 days before laying the turf. If there is no rain, water in well.