March in the Garden
It feels like Spring has been a very long time coming but she’s finally here, and March in the garden marks the true start of the gardener’s year. The splashes of colour I mentioned in February’s post are still around (despite the recent snow) and are multiplying fast! Alas, I have to confess I didn’t get around to any seed sowing in February so I need to get cracking now.
Seeds to sow now
At the beginning of March, Flora and I sowed our tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peas, honeywort, cornflowers, and dill. These are all indoor sown, for bringing on inside the house on the window ledges before planting out at the end of May, when all the frosts are over. And as of today, they are all sprouting happily. I always think of March as the month when all our inside window ledges fulfil their true destiny – although I’m not sure my husband would agree with me.
There’s nothing like the flavour of home-grown tomatoes and cucumbers – sweet and crunchy, once you’ve tried them you’ll always grow them. And that’s true of sweet peas too, their fragrance is heavenly, and the more you pick, the more they grow. Cornflowers are a must for any posy, and dill is so versatile – you can use it in cooking or floral arrangements. This is my first time growing honeywort, so I have no expectations – I’ll have to report back later in the year! Unfortunately, I haven’t sown my broad beans outside yet, but I’m going to plead the recent inclement weather, and vow to do this before Easter instead.
Other seeds that we need to sow before the beginning of April are: stocks, sunflowers, lavender, cosmos, astrantia, petunias, malope, and cobea. With the exception of the perennial astrantia, (which I’m hoping will brighten up a shady corner), and the biennial stocks, all the others are annual flowers, meaning they need to be re-sown afresh each year. It might seem a bit of a faff but when I look at my garden in full bloom each summer it’s all worth it. And the majority of these flowers can’t be bought in the shops – at least I’ve never seen cosmos, petunias, malope, or cobea for sale anyway. There’s something so very satisfying about picking your own flowers (the feeling of YASS, I GREW THAT, never goes away!)
Planting anemones and dahlias
This time last year I was planting anemone corms outside and dahlia tubers in pots for the greenhouse. I’m not doing that again this year because I want to wait and see what’s survived the winter and what needs replacing first. You need to soak the anemone corms overnight to soften them, and then you can plant them directly outside where you want them to grow. I didn’t do this the first year and nothing came up, so lesson learned.
Despite what I’ve just said about no more dahlias, I will probably weaken and buy a Bishop of Canterbury tuber to plant up – I mean, just look at that gorgeous colour? How could anyone resist? (Tubers look a little like potatoes, they’re a kind of bulb but in a class of their own). When it gets here, I’ll plant up the tuber into a 2-litre pot, let it start sprouting, but wait until the end of May to plant it out in the garden.
Pruning and perennials
March is the time when you need to remove any remaining old, dead leaves and growth from your perennials, including seedheads, to allow in light and air for all the new spring shoots. Don’t throw your seedheads away though, leave them in a pile for the birds to pick through. Birds are very busy starting to build their nests this time of year and need plenty of energy, but food is still pretty thin on the ground.
Which leads me neatly onto wildlife. Who would believe we would have had so much snow in March? MARCH. So please do keep your bird feeders topped up and keep breaking any ice on your ponds and bird baths as necessary.
Ideally, you want to remove any old pond debris (leaves, dead plants) and leave it in heaps by the edge to allow any small water creatures to crawl out and back into the water. This is so the debris doesn’t decompose and reduce oxygen levels in the water. Note, I said “ideally”. I fear we may have missed the boat for our two little ponds already though. We have at least 13 frogs and two newts living in them, and the top pond has already got six huge piles of frogspawn in it. If we get the same amount in our bottom pond, I think Flora will be in for a bumper summer of tadpole catching! It just shows what nature is capable of, if given only a little help.
So this is my March in the garden – a really busy time, especially with an early Easter this year. I know I probably say this about every month, but I do love this time of year. It feels full of optimism and hope with the lighter evenings starting and British Summertime due at the end of the month. And I can’t wait to start getting my hands dirty on a more regular basis again :)
A POST BY RESIDENT BLOGGER LISA MCLACHLAN
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