March Gardening Jobs
Well we have had an unexpected start to March. After Spring seemed to be rapidly unfolding; winter had one more surprise up its sleeve; covering the land with a layer of white. Apart from the obvious inconvenience and lack of gardening achievable it was tremendous fun! I expect a lot of us managed to get out for a spot of toboganning! It is such a rarity these days that the beginning of March really should be treasured.
Then followed the sudden over night big thaw. Take stock of what plants survived. Some tender loving care may be needed to restore some plants to their former glory. The snow flattens the emerging blooms but plants are resilient and should spring back. Remove any material that has succumbed to the cold snap.
Time for a satisfying Spring clean in the garden. Rake up fallen leaves to prevent fungal spores spreading and cut back the last of the herbaceous perennial old stems such as Hylotelephium spectabile (formerly called Sedum spectabile).
And dead head old seed heads such as hydrangeas.
They have done a great job over winter protecting the stems and providing fabulous architectural shapes when covered in frost but the big buds are back and beginning to bloom so cut off the dead heads, back to a pair of fat healthy buds.
Finally cut back any Miscanthus grasses you have been hanging on to. They do provide wonderful winter interest but it is important to cut back the grasses before all the new growth reappears.
Plant summer flowering bulbs e.g. gladioli, crocosmia, lilies.
Plant out any forced flower bulbs; hyacinths, daffodils.
Lift and divide over grown perennials clumps and snowdrop bulbs.
Plant bare root roses. This is a cost effective way to buy roses and you will often find there are more varieties of bare root roses available than potted. A good way to increase your collection.
Enrich soil before commencing planting this season by adding organic matter eg. leafmould, garden compost or well-rotted manure; boosting nutrient content of the soil, improving its structure and helping to retain moisture. Apply a slow-release fertilizer such a blood, fish and bone to soil or chicken manure pellets.
Now is the perfect time to tackle annual and perennial weeds. As borders will be fairly clear you can truly see the structure of your garden and where problem areas lie. Great opportunity for digging up the roots of perennial weeds before they take hold; just take care to avoid all the spring bulbs and seedlings making an appearance now.
Many trees and shrubs can be pruned this month once they have finished flowering: Jasminum nudiflorum (winter flowering Jasmine), Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle), Cotinus (smoke tree/bush), Eucalyptus, hardy Fuchsia, Hebe, Hypericum, Mahonia, Perovskia, Sambucus nigra (hard prune to encourage good foliage), Vinca and if not already pruned then buddleja.
Coppice Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow) to ensure vivid winter stems next year.
Absolute last chance to prune apple and pear trees whilst they are dormant. The cold snap has helped prolong dormancy a little so get cracking!
Sow annuals indoors: dahlia 'Bishop's Children is a good choice and will produce flowers this year and tubers to lift, marigolds (it is the year of the marigold so I am sowing a lot of varieties), zinnia, pansies, asters, verbena and tomatoes.
Many hardy annuals can be direct sown such as poppies, cosmos, cornflowers, calendula, antirrhinum and wildflower mixes.
Start watering indoor plants more regularly, they will also benefit now from a feed. Just be aware that most houseplants suffer from problems with over watering rather than under watering.
Clivia miniata, Natal lily flower now and are a really impressive indoor plant. They benefit from a period of cold from November to February - mine certainly got that in the greenhouse and now has returned inside to flower beautifully bang on cue! Just be extremely cautious if you have cats as, like with many lilies, they are toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure if ingested. I have our Clivia on a high shelf, out of harms way.
Finish pruning roses. You can really rejuvenate a plant with a good prune as this stimulates new growth. Cut out all dead, diseased or cross stems as these rub and will cause damage. With sharp secateurs cut approximately 5mm above, slanting away from a strong outward facing bud so rainwater runs straight off the stem.
I always think of pruning as sculpting as you are orchestrating the plant to grow in the direction you want. Rather than a paint brush the artist is armed with secateurs. The art of pruning. Creating a good solid shape and the new stems should produce lots of wonderful flowers.
Check overwintered dahlia tubers. Remove any material that has rotted. By mid to end of March they will be ready to pot on. Find a suitable sized pot with plenty of space for shoots to develop and cover the tuber in multi-purpose compost. Again store in a frost-free area such as a garage or greenhouse until the tubers are ready to plant outside early June in their final summer sanctuary.
Check overwintering pelargoniums. Cut out any dead material. Pot up in fresh compost and water.
Ensure birds have access to water and food. Crack surface of frozen bird baths if necessary.
Check under pots and around pots for slugs and snails. The new generation will be emerging soon.
Tidy up the greenhouse. Wash pots. Service and sharpen tools. Mend any broken garden structures. Restock plant food. Be prepared!
Hellebores are still going strong. They truly are a fabulous hardy evergreen perennial plant to have in the garden. Great value for money as they flower for such a long period of time exactly when you need a bit of colour in your life to survive winter.
They are ideal for dappled shade and under planting or if you really want those intricate flower heads to be showed off to their full glory and you have the space then plant on a shady terraced garden or raised bed so you looking up towards their droopy heads.
They love rich soil so keep their flowers blooming for as long as possible with a good feed of fish, blood and bone and mulch with organic matter or bark if not already done so.
Here are some of the fabulous Hellebores I have come across on my gardening travels this year.
The days are finally getting longer and with that extra light and warmth every day brings new blooms and treasures uncovered from the soil. Enjoy all the new discoveries nature has to offer.
All photos taken by Debi Holland ©