This month is the prime time for seed-sowing, whether you’re after gorgeous flowers, juicy fruit or mouth-watering veg.
It’s also a great time to plant shrubs when the ground is workable and moist, give your flower beds a good mulch with compost to stop the weeds coming up and consider what you’re going to do with your lawn this year.
What to do with your flowers
- Try to fit in some spring walks to admire the array of brightly coloured daffodils, crocuses, primulas, Magnolia stellata, flowering quince and brilliant yellow forsythia, which will be at their peak.
- Divide clumps of snowdrops once the flowers have finished but before the leaves have died down.
- Sow wildflowers and hardy annuals including pot marigolds, cornflowers, clarkia, nasturtium, sunflowers and nigella outside in well-prepared, well-drained soil, which has been forked over, weeded and had stones removed. Add plenty compost and grit to heavy soil. Mark out areas with dry sand then sprinkle different varieties of seed over each patch in shallow drills, raking it in. When seedlings appear, thin them out and leave them to grow where they are.
What to prune
- Prune rose bushes back by a third to a half, cutting them back to a healthy bud, to encourage fresh new growth. If buds haven’t yet appeared, you’ll have to guess. Modern rose bushes need pruning in spring because all the flowers grow at the end of the stems. If you leave them, the flowers will simply appear high up on the bush, not all over it.
- Other plants which need pruning in March include buddleia, the coloured stems of dogwood and willow, and ornamental elders. Cut back any perennials if you left their stems on for winter interest, to make way for new shoots.
- Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries down to ground level when new shoots emerge from the soil, and prune standard apple and pear trees before the buds start into growth.
What to do with your lawn
- Remove moss and thatch from your lawn using a spring-tine rake before doing the first mow. Brush out worm casts, to spread them before mowing and root out rosette weeds such as dandelion before mowing.
- Aerate the lawn to improve drainage by driving a fork into the ground all over the lawn. For large areas you can hire mechanical aerators. After spiking the grass, brush sharp sand into the holes to aid drainage and reduce compaction.
- When the grass starts to grow, set your mower blades high, lowering them gradually through spring.
- If you have bare patches, either replace them with fresh turf or sow the area with appropriate lawn seed. If you are repairing lawn edges, cut out a square of turf and turn it around so the lawn edge is straight and strong. Then sow seed in the worn patch which you’ve turned around.
What plants to take cuttings from
- Take cuttings from border perennials including delphiniums and lupins, and from dahlias to increase your stock. In the greenhouse, cut off lengths of new shoots of fuchsias with three to four pairs of leaves. Trim the stem with a sharp knife and pull off the lowest leaves which would otherwise be buried by compost. Fill a pot with potting compost, make a hole with a dibber or pencil and insert each cutting, firming the compost around well, making sure there are no air pockets.
- For lupins and delphiniums, use new shoots coming up from the base of the plant and cut them from just below soil level. Plant the cuttings in pots filled with John Innes No 2 compost. Place the pot in a clear plastic bag and you should have roots in a few weeks.
- If you don’t have any dahlias, buy dry tubers from garden centres and place them in pots of damp potting compost in the greenhouse – or on a bright windowsill - covering them so just the dry stem at the top is poking slightly above the surface. Once shoots emerge from the tubers, reaching around 8cm, cut them off attached to a small piece of the original tuber and trim the cut to remove any torn sections of tuber. Place the cuttings individually in pots of compost mixed with sharp sand, in good light indoors.
What to do with your vegetable patch
- Sow rocket, lettuce, radish, spring onions, leeks, broad beans, parsnips, beetroot, kohl rabi and early carrots and peas in well-prepared soil.
- Sow catch crops such as radishes, spring onion, spinach and chard in areas of the vegetable plot which are earmarked for later tender crops such as tomatoes, courgettes or dwarf beans. You should have harvested the quick-growing catch crops before your later crops are planted out in May or June.
- At the end of the month, plant out early potatoes which you started chitting in January, but if you live in a cold area wait until April to plant them out.
- Plant rhubarb, pot-grown fruit trees and bushes and strawberry plants.
- Indoors, sow greenhouse tomatoes, chillies, aubergines, cucumbers, melons, peppers and tomatoes.
How’s your garden looking? Tell us about it in the comments box below.