March Gardening Tips from our Head of Horticulture

Matthew Peck pictured in Gates Garden Centre

A month of great beginnings – Matt’s March Notebook

Well at last! The mornings are bright and it’s still light when I head home after a day’s work. March is a month of great beginnings, as more and more plants push their way into the world from their sleepy dormancy, and our imaginings and plans for new planting come to life.

March is when we sow seeds, and start to plant and pot bulbs and plants, as the ground temperatures rise. With the longer days spring really shows us it’s here, snowdrops have finished, and my sarcacocca’s scent has disappeared, the scent of my daphne is at its strongest, osmanthus x ‘Burkwoodii’ is budding, and I can’t wait for its perfume to travel around the garden on a sunny spring morning, viburnum are just waiting to show off, cercis is about to break bud, and magnolias are budding. So many magnificent displays of colour and scent are yet to come.

Stihl RMA 235 Cordless Lawn Mower in use
Woman's Hand Reaching for Cherry Blossom
Miracle Gro Peat Free Premium Bulb Fibre in use with bulbs

It’s the month when we give our lawns a first cut with the lawnmower and start to consider lawn care. Give the lawn its first cut on a dry day, set the mower blades to the higher height, and each subsequent time you cut the lawn, set it one lower, until you reach the desired height to keep the lawn through the season. It’s a good time to edge the lawn and get things neat and tidy before the grass starts its vigorous summer growth. If you’re laying turf, it is good to complete the job towards the end of the month.

Prune winter flowering dog wood (cornus), cutting back the stems hard, the stems will re-generate by summer and give wonderful colour next winter. Prune back, shape and tidy any winter flowering jasmine (jasmine nudiflorum), hydrangeas can now be pruned back leaving a third of the plant – cut back to a new bud, and you’ll promote new growth and flowering for the summer season. Divide herbaceous clumps to fill gaps and move around plants that maybe didn’t quite look right where we positioned them last year.

It’s time to get sowing vegetable plants and hardy annuals. Sow tomatoes, peppers, chillis, aubergines, sweet peas, and annuals you use for summer borders and containers, in cold and frost-free greenhouses, cold frames or on windowsills.

Start planting dahlias, begonias, gladioli, lilies and other summer flowering bulbs or perennials. Start these in pots in frost free cold greenhouses, and don’t water very often for the first few weeks, then gradually harden off and plant into your borders or containers in April.

Prepare vegetable beds, by mulching with manure or home garden compost, make sure you start getting on top of weeds now, and then you can cover the soil with polythene, keeping the soil warm, ready for when you do start planting.

Ericaceous acid soil loving plants, need to be fed with a good ericaceous liquid feed every week if in pots now and slow-release feeds can be used around borders, top dress pots with an ericaceous soil, this will help promote long flowering and healthy root structure.

Key Plants this month:

  • Wild primrose (primula vulgaris)
  • Cowslip (primula veris)
  • Primroses
  • Forsythia
  • Snowy Mespilus or juneberry (amelanchier lamarckii)
  • Wallflower (Erysimum)
  • β€˜Candidissimum (viburnum farreri)
  • Coronilla Glauca (citronifolia)
  • Star Magnolia (magnolia stellata)

Jobs to be getting on with in March:

  • Tidy the garden, clean up beds and borders and any other organising jobs that you haven’t found time to do so far.
  • Clean algae and moss from paths and patios, with a jet washer or using aids like Patio Magic or Algon.
  • If you haven’t had a chance, then prune back your roses bushes by 30% to the nearest bud to keep a good shape and plenty of new flowering wood.
  • Give your lawn its first cut on a dry day and raise the cutting setting to higher than usual for now.
  • Prune finished winter flowering such as jasmine nudiflorumn, and trim to keep a good shape.
  • Get on top of weeds in pots, beds and borders now before they get hold and become a bigger pest.
  • Mulching beds after tidying and weeding them, with a garden compost or manure, can help supress weeds in early spring.
  • Stock up ready with seed compost, multi-purpose peat free composts and horticultural grit, for when planting and potting on.
  • Plant and pot up summer flowering plants such as dahlias and lilies in a frost-free cold greenhouse or cloche.
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