March gardening tips
Bulbs, flowers and containers
Protect new spring shoots from slugs (a generous application of slug killer around hostas (even if they are not showing) now will help in the uneven battle on the horizon!).
Plant summer flowering bulbs. Add some compost to the soil, a sprinkling of bonemeal and plant them slightly deeper than they were in the pot.
If you forgot to do the spring bulb thing in the autumn, we have the perfect cheat for you. Fill gaps in borders, containers and rockeries with our Blue Peter ‘here’s one I did earlier’ version - ie top quality ready to go pot-grown bulbs. Ideal for keeping the colour going until the end of May, and glorious when combined with primroses, pansies, violas and polyanthi (to be totally correct with a Latin plural...).
Cut down perennials that have been left standing over winter, including grasses even if they are still looking good. Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials and split polyanthus plants once they have finished flowering.
And on the subject of perennials that will need support in the summer, get ahead of the game so your lovely poppies, peonies, delphiniums etc will grow through supports, rather than being trussed up conspicuously with canes and string come the moment of near collapse. Hazel or birch twigs are great for the natural look, canes and pea netting are practical and unobtrusive and purpose made green plastic covered supports are easy and convenient - choices, choices!
Looking ahead to summer - buy young plants now for your hanging baskets and containers and pot them up so the moment the last frost is over, you can plant away with teenage plants rather than tiddlers.
Galvanise your begonia, dahlia and canna tubers into action by placing stored tubers in moist multi-purpose compost. Keep them at around 18 degrees and remember, begonia tubers go hollow side uppermost.
Gladioli; the corms of those spectacularly beautiful spears of colour can be planted from mid March. Plant at fortnightly intervals for a succession of blooms throughout the summer in a well drained, sunny position. Work in some compost and bonemeal and plant 4” deep in heavy soils (with a handful of grit at the bottom of the hole), 6” deep in lighter ones.
Sow hardy annuals such as calendula, cornflowers and annual poppies in drifts – clashing colours just don’t matter in a garden, but remember to plant taller plants behind shorter ones.
Sow sweet peas outdoors (soak the seeds overnight to improve germination) and plant out those raised under cover. Autumn sown plants (if you were that efficient) can go out in April, spring sown ones in May. Prepare the soil where they are to be planted by digging a trench and adding a layer of well-rotted manure or garden compost in the bottom. The dear colleague and Horticultural Expert points out, quite rightly, that this should have been done in the autumn (rather like sticking all those photos in albums), but now is better than never!
Split perennials such as Michaelmas daisies and leucanthemums. Just pull them apart, replant the outer portions and jettison the hard middle bits. Remarkably, they respond very well to such brutal bullying and will prove rejuvenated and reinvigorated!
Brighten up your pots and containers with tete-a-tete, pansies, violas, primroses, cyclamen and spring heathers. A stunning combination is tete-a-tete surrounded by pink and yellow primroses and variegated ivy - or try pansies densely packed for a striking display of colour. Plant flowering spring bulbs and primroses in empty gaps....a bit of a cheat, but who cares!
Remove the top layer of soil from pot-grown shrubs and replace with fresh potting compost that contains a slow-release fertiliser.
If the weather really does turn dry, remember pots and containers will need watering, especially if they are near a wall and in a sheltered position.