Vibrant green shoots bursting through the earth; rustling, billing and cooing in the branches. After a long, dark Winter, Spring is on its way – so get into the garden and blow away those cobwebs.
Don’t be too hasty to put soft plants out in to the garden in March as it can be a change-able month weather wise, and with the poor weather conditions we had in February it could be that we’ll be in for a late spring this year. Even if we get a nice sunny day, temperatures can dip to freezing at night and March winds can be very destructive to new plant growth.
Dress the soil
If you haven’t already done so top dress shrub borders now to encourage good growth and flowers for the summer. Use general fertilizers such as Growmore, Fish Blood and Bone or 6X. If you’ve got lime hating plants such as camellias and rhododendrons give them a dressing of ericaceous fertilizer, which contains the essential trace elements they need. Use iron sequestrene occasionally but note that the benefits of this are usually seen some months in the future.
Ready for summer colour
There are plenty of young herbaceous and alpine plants available in garden centres now, so start filling in the gaps in borders with lupins, campanulas and hollyhocks. Plant in groups of 3 or 5 for instant effect.
Plug plants of geraniums, fuchsia and hanging basket plants are all now available for potting up. Remember that they need some heat especially at night, so either keep them inside the house or make sure your greenhouse has some night heat, preferably around 10 degrees centigrade. Plugs for bedding plants are now coming into the garden centre, again these will want some heat at night. If you suffered with downy mildew on impatiens (busy lizzies) last year, try and give them a miss for the next few years as the fungus has been shown to lie dormant in the soil for several years and you are likely to get a recurrence of the problem this year. Try bedding begonias, violas or seedling geraniums as an alternative.
Work on lawns can begin in March and April. When the lawn starts growing, cutting can begin – a light cut first, then gradually drop the mower height. If you’ve got any bare patches, lightly fork over to loosen up the ground and re-seed with grass seed or use the Scotts Patch Magic, which contains everything you need in one container. Moss and weed killer can be applied to the lawn from spring onwards. Use one of the branded products or mix your own with sulphate of ammonia, sulphate of iron and silver sand.
Once rose bushes come into full leaf, spray with a combined fungicide and insecticide to prevent blackspot, mildew and to control any early infestations of aphids. Continue this at fortnightly intervals to keep pests and diseases under control. We tend to get more blackspot today due to the fact that the air is of better quality as there is much less pollution from factories – the sulphur that came from factory chimneys controlled the blackspot.
Fruit & veg
Complete the digging over of the vegetable patch, making sure you’ve added some well rotted manure or compost and a general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore or 6X. If the weather’s mild enough start planting broad beans, onions, early peas, carrots, shallots and hardy herbs – mint, rosemary, lavender. Potatoes can be started off, but remember to protect against late frosts. Sow small amounts of seed at regular intervals, instead of one big sowing, this means you should get a succession of crops ready and not all coming together.
Start off tender vegetables under protection, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and cucumbers all need to be kept warm, especially at night. If you’re not comfortable with the heat in your greenhouse, neither will your tomatoes and cucumbers be. It’s always best to be a bit cautious and sow later rather than earlier.
As apples, pears and plums come into leaf, watch for the first signs of insect damage, spray as soon as pests appear. Do not spray when the trees are full of open flowers – wait until flowering has finished.
This month’s tips are provided by Ann Winwood of Lealan Garden Centre, Shipley.