March Gardening Tips

March Gardening Tips

March, Week One

This is a busy time in the garden. The weather is becoming springlike and the evenings are brighter. All the jobs you put off since Christmas need to be tackled. Deciduous shrubs and trees are bursting into growth along with the weeds and the lawn.

1. Time-saving tip: Eliminate grass corners.Curve the edges to remove awkward bits of lawn which are difficult to cut. Plant up or hard surface where the turf is lifted.

2.Money-saving tip: This is a good time to apply a mulch of composted bark. A two inch (5 cm) deep layer spread on the surface, before the soil dries out, will deter weeds.Spreading newspapers between the soil and the mulch will slow down the rate the bark decomposes. It should last for an extra two years.

3.As soon as possible start cutting the grass. If it has not been cut since last autumn it will be long and tufted and hard work.Choose a dry day, cut it to three inches and remove the cuttings. The same day, or soon after, cut it again to half its height. Don't put it out of your mind. It will be easier to cut when short in about 10 days.

4.It's useful to make early outdoor sowings of salad vegetables such as scallions (spring onions), lettuce, radish and rocket. Providing the soil is not wet and sticky, cultivate and rake over the surface. Cover the area with clear polythene for a week before sowing. This will warm the soil up and get the seed off to a good start. Next week we will start sowing.

5. This is the best time to move snowdrops. It is called “moving in the green”. Once the flowers have faded dig up the plants. Take care not to damage the bulb or the foliage. Tease out the clumps and transplant straight away at the same depth. Water to settle the soil around the roots.

6.Cut back Buddleia davidii, the butterfly bush, to within six inches of the older wood. Plants which have been neglected for years may be cut to waist height. They will be rejuvenated, probably flowering this summer.

7.If you have recently bought a camellia with flower buds you may, for your enjoyment, keep it in the conservatory or porch until after it has flowered. Don't allow the compost to dry out.

8.Keep an eye on your favourite hostas which will be starting into growth. Slugs and snails love them, removing the shoots before the leaves can open.Use beer or citrus skins on a daily basis to trap enemy number 1.

March, Week two

There is no shortage of jobs that need to be started.These should keep you busy but try to find time for a stroll in the garden to admire the results of your past labours.

1. Time Saving Tip: Sow carrots thinly in rows to avoid spending time (and getting a sore back) removing surplus seedlings. The smell of the crushed foliage attracts the carrot fly pest.

2. Money Saving Tip: Allow crocus growing in the lawn to produce seed before cutting that area of grass. They will quickly multiply.

3. St.Patrick's Day or the Ides of March, two days won't make any difference but now is the time to prune your bush roses. Cut out the old branches as close to ground level as possible. Remove thin shoots. Cut the younger growths back to 6-8 inches above an outward pointing bud. Remove the prunings.

4. The showy winter shrubs with their coloured bark are starting to leaf up. Cut all the stems of Cornus alba, red dogwood and Cornus stolonifera Flaviramea, yellow stemmed dogwood, to within a few inches of the ground. The new stems will be a much brighter colour for next winter.

5. Fruit trees and bushes will benefit from a high potash feed. Potato manure fertilizer at a handful to each plant in the area of the roots will guarantee better fruit. A liquid feed of tomato fertilizer on the strawberries will work wonders)

6. Don't be tempted to use freshly cut willow or poplar branches for pea or bean supports. They root like weeds. It is embarrassing to end up with a garden full of pussy willow!

7. Edge the lawn and repair any bald or damaged areas. Loosen the soil and sow grass seed. Protect the patch with clear polythene or cling film. Hold it in place with pegs until the seed has germinated.

March, Week Three

Hopefully grass cutting is well under control. About now you may give one cut leaving the clippings on the grass. They will soon disappear putting some nutrients back into the soil.

1. Time Saving Tip: When the soil is wet or heavy rain is expected don't use the hoe to weed. It tends to pull small weeds out by the root. If they are not lifted they will reroot. You will be guilty of transplanting weeds!

2. Money Saving Tip: Dissolve washing soda crystals in hot water and brush over paths and patios to remove green algae. It is cheaper than chemicals off the garden centre shelf.

3. A new lawn may be sown anytime in the next 8 weeks. Cultivate and level the ground, removing debris and stones. If there is time allow a crop of weeds to germinate.Spray them with a contact weedkiller or rake them off immediately before sowing the grass seed. The lawn will get a head start before more weeds germinate.

4. Herbaceous plants are starting to grow and this is a good time to take an “Irish man's cutting”. Pulling pieces of rooted stem off the side of the clump works with Michaelmas daisy, Golden rod and Day lily. Pot them up or plant out in the flower bed.

5. Weeds are manic at the moment. Perennials such as bindweed,goutweed, nettles, buttercup and thistles are growing strongly. Control them by digging out and burning the roots. Glyphosate weed killer will eventually kill most weeds but it may take more than one application. Spray on a dry, calm day taking all the recommended safety precautions.

6. Winter flowering heathers are looking a bit sad with the dead flower heads becoming tatty. Clip them over with hedge clippers removing most of the old flower stalks. This encourages new growths from low on the branches, keeping the heathers compact. If they are not removed, eventually the plants become straggly and bare along the stems.

7. Planting onion sets is fraught with problems. Don't “screw” them into hard soil. If the soil is loose they may be pushed in leaving half of the bulb exposed.Birds have a habit of pulling them out as fast as you push them back in. Try covering each onion with a small mound of sand. This will keep them in place until they root into the soil. The sand is then removed.

8. Clematis tangutica, commonly known as the orange peel clematis will be throwing new shoots from the base. The old growth from last year should be cut away to tidy the plant ready for this year's bloom.

March, Week Four

There is good news and,naturally,there is bad news.Easter is at the end of this week.British Summer Time starts so there is an extra hour of daylight in the evening and the children are off school for Easter holidays.You can decide which is the good news!

1. Time Saving Tip: Remove a circle of grass from the base of trees in the lawn and mulch with chopped bark. It will take less time to cut round the trees. There will be less collision damage to the tree trunk.

2. Money Saving Tip:Leather jackets are grubs which eat the roots of grass resulting in a patchy and yellow lawn. If there are birds, especially starlings, on your lawn every morning it is a sign of this pest. The easiest way to get rid of them is to lay black polythene on the lawn in the evening and remove it early next morning. The grubs will have come to the surface where the birds can see and dispose of them.

3. Last week I promised to tell you how to sow grass seed.Sow it at a rate of 45 grams (1.5 ozs) to the square metre. Rake it into the soil surface using short strokes to prevent moving the seed. If the soil is loose roll the surface after sowing. An application of lime is useful if the soil is acid. A general purpose granular fertilizer at 60 grams (2 ozs) per square metre, raked in before or at the same time as seeding, will get the seed growing strongly.

4. Sweet pea loves a deep, rich soil which allows its roots to go deep in search of water and nutrients. Dig a 3 ft deep trench where the sweet peas will be planted. Separate and dump the sub soil. Fill the bottom of the trench with old wet newspapers and rotted farmyard manure to retain moisture. Back fill the trench with layers of topsoil and compost. Allow to settle ready for planting at the end of April when the plants have been hardened off.

5. Japanese acers, Acer palmatum varieties, suffer from wind scorch and frost.The new foliage and shoots are already showing and protection should be given by forming a wigwam frame with a temporary cover of horticultural fleece.

6. Shrubs such as camellia, bay, rhododendron and holly which are grown in containers as specimen plants will enjoy a feed. Carefully remove the top inch of compost without disturbing the surface roots. Replace with fresh compost and a slow release fertilizer. Water well.

7. Prune forsythia and flowering currant (ribes) which have finished flowering. These shrubs flower on the previous year's growth so cut off all of the branches which flowered.

8. Ponds are coming to life and water plants are starting to grow. Check the submersible pump and clean the filters. Thin out the oxygenating plants.

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