As I was writing this, the bright sun was beaming through my window. This prompted me to checkout the weather forecast for early March. No sign of snow, high winds or torrential rain. One thing that can still expect is frost. This weather we have had to date is bringing is bringing our gardens back to life sooner than anticipated.
Mother Nature always gives us the opportunity to rebuild and replant and at times do something completely different. It is now that time of year that we are able to do something different in our gardens before the growing spurt really kicks in. It’s always worth trawling the garden centre for bargains to get started. Have you thought about registering with growers to receive their seasonal brochures? Local garden centres and nurseries in most cases, now offer the facility to get garden updates via email.
Already I have seen a handful of people mowing their lawns. At this time of year, some grass may die back as the lawn starts to grow, creating bald unsightly areas.
If conditions are mild and dry as they are at this time of year, you can scarify the lawn now to remove moss or thatch. Use an electric or powered scarifier or simply a rake. If you have a huge moss problem then it is worth considering contacting a lawn treatment company who’s solution to moss this time of year is to put liquid iron down.
Grass roots need oxygen so if you didn’t have a chance before now to aerate the lawn do so now – a garden fork will do the job or you may have a powered or electric aerator you can use if the ground is not too soft and wet. Aeration when done properly allows air, rain and nutrients to penetrate downwards, it also improves bacterial activity and helps reduce thatch. It also improves the drainage, increases water holding, thereby stimulating the rooting and root depth that will give you a tolerant lawn to the effects of any drought condition we may experience later. Aeration will also help combat moss invasion. Judging by the amount of moss I have seen on my travels, many people will be experiencing a big problem with moss, which is only determined by the size of their lawn.
If you are considering using a feed to spread on your lawn, I would advise waiting to ensure that the weather is not to wet, cold or freezing, because you’ll only be wasting your money. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to cut your lawn, and when you do, start with a high cut and then gradually lower for subsequent cuts. Already I have seen lawns that would be at home on a golf course. But I have to say, they were full of moss and weeds.
It still surprises me how many people think that there is nothing to do at this time of year in our gardens. Well, here’s a wakeup call for everyone with some timely reminders of those jobs for the coming month of March.
Depending on where you are and the type of soil you have, you may have to include the Improvement of the drainage of heavy soils by working in lots of organic matter and where and if necessary, include the use of coarse gravel.
Prior to mulching don’t forget to clear those weed riddled beds unless you plan on cultivating them.
Lighter soils can be mulched now, but heavier soils are best left until when the soil is that bit warmer.
Mulching with a deep layer of organic matter will help to condition the soil, suppress weed growth, insulate plant roots from temperature fluctuations, and importantly, conserve soil moisture during the summer.
I generally use rotted stable manure for regular beds and borders. For borders that have overwhelmingly things like hydrangeas, camellias rhoddadendiums use ericaceous compost for the best results.
Don’t forget to check whether your containers need watering. If you have pots that are sheltered by eaves they can easily miss out on any rainfall. Always check the compost at a hand’s depth to see if it feels dry. Aim to keep pots moist, not wet.
Something else that I have found people forget or neglect is that pots and tubs benefit from topping up with fresh John Innes compost. Remove a top layer old compost of up to a third if possible.
With the spring in sight, you can start to top dress beds and borders with a balanced fertiliser such as Growmore or blood, fish and bone, to feed perennials as they start back into growth.
Cutting back and pruning
Now’s the time to attend to the ornamental grasses and other perennials that you left for winter interest.
Carry on or continue to deadhead your winter pansies and other winter bedding. It’s a fact that Pansies will carry on into the spring and even to early summer, if attended to frequently, although some may get a bit straggly, it brings life into your garden where there appears to be none.
At the end of the month prune back the stems of pot-grown over wintered fuchsias and place in a well-lit, warm place to encourage new growth.
There is still time to divide clumps of herbaceous perennials that you want to propagate, and those that have become too large for their allotted space, and those that are flowering poorly or indeed have lost their shape. This is also the time to divide any Snowdrops to.
You will most likely find that Dahlia tubers stored over winter (or bought this year) may have started sprouting. You will need to place them in a light, warm place to sprout before planting. They will need moisture. I would suggest using a spray-bottle of water to apply a mist that will stop them drying out.
Lily bulbs to can now be planted in pots, for flowers this summer. After growing on indoors or in a cool greenhouse, they can be moved onto the patio when in flower, so that you can enjoy the blooms.
Bulbs coming up in the rock garden or in containers may benefit from overhead protection from any rain or snow. A sheet of glass or Perspex placed on piles of bricks will do the job.
Hardy annuals can be sown in pots or modules to provide colour.
Summer-flowering Dutch iris bulbs can be forced and used as cut flowers.
Place gladioli corms in seed trays or boxes and place in a light, warm (around 10ºC/50ºF) spot to encourage them to sprout before planting. This will ensure an earlier display.
One of our favourites, Sweet peas can be sown under cloches, in a cold frame, or in a cool room in the house. Any sweet peas that were sown earlier in the autumn can now be potted.
If you have a vegetable patch, as long as the ground isn’t too wet and soggy, early sowings can be made by warming up the soil prior to sowing using cloches or environfleece which will help to ensure good seed germination results.
As soon as soil conditions are suitable sowings of artichoke, beetroot, broad bean, British sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, lettuce, parsley and spinach. Sowings of aubergine and cucumber, along with other tender vegetables, can now be made in a heated greenhouse.
Shallot sets can be planted this month, spacing at 15cm (6″) intervals in rows 30cm (12″) apart, and once conditions have warmed up, generally towards the end of March, onion sets may also be planted.
I am pleased to report, that we are now under way in the garden. Well that’s it for now, I hope you have enjoyed and found this edition of the gardening section interesting and helpful. I look forward to talking to you next month where I shall be bringing topical, popular and hopefully different items to you. Until then take care and cheerio.