Yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you – the days are getting longer and once the clocks change, we know we’re heading into summer. Both gardeners and plants are keen to get going, but the temperature of the ground is critical and must be right to ensure success. March is said to arrive roaring like a lion and leave like a lamb, so patience is a virtue this month, as we wait for the spring lamb to appear. Don’t panic if the weather continues to be bad, as plants will catch up – eventually.
Temperatures are warmer nearer the coast than they are 10 miles inland, so adjust what you do for where you are, and the weather you’re experiencing. One reliable indicator that the soil is ready is the hawthorn bush. Once you see the bright green foliage emerging, then it’s time to don your wellies and get cracking outside.
February’s frosts caused havoc in my garden and I think I’ve lost a few plants that I thought were hardy. It was so severe that it forced some of my winter flowering violas out of their tubs. Frosts can still be a hazard in March, so keep vulnerable plants protected at night if frost is forecast. March winds are also notorious for their ferocity so check that exposed plants are well supported.
Now is the time for a thorough spring clean; weed and dig over your borders incorporating as much organic matter as you can – those chilly winds will really help to dry out the soil. Mulch bare soil once you have done the work and remove moss and weeds from paths, terraces and driveways. They may be boring tasks but if you don’t get on top of the garden now (especially the weeds!) it will be a nightmare for the rest of the season.
Clean and repair your garden tools, book the lawn mower in for a service (if it hasn’t had one already) and check garden furniture for any rot. When it is warm enough, treat sheds, fences and trellis with wood preservative; brushes and rollers are fine for most things; however, a sprayer is well worth buying for tricky projects such as woven panels!
Plant dahlia tubers in pots under cover. If you only have one or two, plant them individually into a three-litre pot, so they can grow on happily until the frosts are finished and they can be planted in the garden. If you have lots, lay them out in a shallow tray, packed in tight, and cover the tubers with moist compost. They’ll start to sprout in a few weeks and you can then take cuttings.
Later in the month, start a regime of deadheading spring bulbs (e.g narcissi, muscari and tulips) as the flowers finish. Leave the foliage to die back naturally to feed the bulb for next spring.
Things to do in the garden for March
- Broad beans
- Early peas
- Brussels sprouts
- Onion sets
- Early potatoes
Sow under cover
Plant bare rooted fruit trees and bushes.
- Spinach beet
- Bring bags of compost into the greenhouse or cold frame, to warm up for a week or two before you start sowing.
- Start forcing potatoes
- Invest in a water butt to catch the spring rain in preparation for drier months ahead.
- Start mulching bare soil.
- Put plant supports in place before the new growth really needs them
- Re-seed bare patches on the lawn
- Prune young hedges – before birds start to nest
- Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as lilies, gladioli, freesias, crocosmia etc.
- Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials
- Top dress containers with fresh compost
Transplant narcissus and daffodil bulbs grown in pots, into the garden while the green growth is still strong. You’ll then be able to get a good idea of how they’ll look next spring when they flower again. JC Gowerton
Here’s a recipe for a delicious but simple side dish, to go with your Sunday roast, buttered leeks. This is one of the best ways to cook leeks – slowly and gently in their own juice
To serve 4, you’ll need: roughly 1kg of washed and trimmed leeks, 25g of butter and some thyme sprigs.
The day before you want to serve this dish, cut the leeks from top to root and wash thoroughly under cold running water. Thinly slice them on the diagonal and put into plastic bags and chill until ready to cook.
Put a pan over a medium heat, add the butter and let it melt over the base of the pan. Add the leeks and plenty of seasoning and stir to coat in the butter. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan and cook the leeks gently for about 15 minutes, stirring half way through until they are tender. Serve with extra butter and a sprinkling of thyme leaves.