March in the Garden

With David Williams

March is one of the most important months in the gardener’s calendar; some folk even say it’s the true start of the gardening year. Gardens are starting to come alive, bulbs are bursting into bloom and perennials start to poke their heads up through the soil.

 March is also one of the best times of the season to get sowing for either the vegetable or flower garden. But do pay attention to the weather! If the seed packet states: sow in March, it does not necessarily mean that weather conditions are right. Nature will always catch up with us and a later sowing can sometimes yield better results than an early sowing. If you are fortunate enough to own a heated greenhouse, you can sow away to your hearts content.

 Hardy annuals are great to sow in March; this is a cheap way to add colour to your garden without breaking the bank candytuft, calendula, poppy, godetia, and nasturtiums for example. These can all be sown in the same way; simply dig over a small area of soil adding a little fertilizer, (I recommend blood, fish and bone) make small drills about 3cm (1”) deep and about 12cm (6”) between rows. Sow thinly and then cover with soil, water well, keep moist and they should be poking their heads out of the soil in a couple of weeks. Hardy annuals are a great way to fill in gaps in the herbaceous border and what I particularly like about poppies is they will seed themselves so you never have to sow them again.

 In the vegetable garden there is so much to do- especially finishing off that digging that you never got around to in the winter. There is still time to get some onion sets and shallots in, but remember to cut the wispy tops off as the birds like to get hold of them and pull them out of the ground. The spuds you have chitted are now good to plant out. Some books tell you to plant your spuds out at different times, first earlies in March, second earlies in the beginning of April and main crop in latter April. I find that if you plant them all at the same time you get a better harvest although you still need to harvest them at different times. I also like to plant a few first earlies in pots and place them in the greenhouse to get an early crop. Don’t forget to have a pot of mint growing with them!

During this month there is a lot to be sown; carrots, beetroot, parsnips and cabbage for starters. Something that I always get asked is, “What should I grow in my veg garden?” well the simple answer is, whatever you like to grow, there is no point growing cabbage if you cannot stand the stuff. The same goes for the quantity, if you like a few new potatoes there is no point growing a whole row, just grow a few in pots.

Let’s not leave out the lawn. It will just be starting to grow again so weather permitting, you should get your mower out and give it a cut. It’s also a good time to straighten up the edges using a half moon but if you are after a perfect straight edge, use some string and canes to keep it straight.