March into the Garden

David Williams has top tips for what to do in your garden this month

March is one of the most important months in the gardeners’ calendar. Some people even state that it is the true start of the gardening year. Gardens everywhere are starting to come alive with bulbs  and perennials poking their heads up through the soil. Although the weather can be a bit hit or miss this time of year, there is always a lot to be getting on with in the garden. March is one of the busiest months for sowing seeds, especially if you have a greenhouse. But unless you have it heated you will have to be careful as you can still get caught out by frost. Even if the packet states that the seeds can be sown in March, it may be worth holding back until the weather is better. Nature will always catch up with us in the end and also a later sowing can sometimes yield better results rather than an early sowing.

No matter what the weather is doing you can be sowing some hardy annuals directly into the garden.

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, Nasturtions are great examples of these.

All of the above can be sown in the following 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 my particularly favourites are Poppies as they will seed themselves so you never have to sow them again.

There are a lot of chores to do in the vegetable garden this month so hopefully you managed to get your beds dug over during the winter. If you have not done so yet then try to find a dry day and give them a good digging over whilst adding lots of garden compost or well rotted manure, except where you are going to be growing root crops. Now is the best time to plant out your onion sets, plant them out 5-6” apart for good sized onions or if you like them a little smaller you can plant them closer together. Push them into the soil so they are just covered up as this makes it harder for the birds to pull them out of the ground. The potatoes you have chitted are now ready to plant out, some books tell you to plant them out at different times: first earlies in March, second earlies in the beginning of April and main crop at the end of April. I find that if you plant them all out 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 for when you are boiling up those first earlies!

You will have probably given your lawn a mow already at this time of year but it is best to cut on a higher setting and reduce down as the year moves on. Don’t forget the edges as it is surprising how good the garden looks after the grass has been mowed and the edges trimmed even if the borders are full of weeds.

A great  plant that will be worth growing this season is Thompson & Morgan: Fuchsia ‘Berry’. Not only is it a great flowering plant but it also produces up to 300 edible berries per plant. They taste similar to kiwi fruit and can be eaten straight off the bush or they can be made into great jam too.