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Our top 10 gardening tips for March

Spring is finally here! Well, it will be on 20th March.

We love spring. It’s when our gardens start to come alive after the long and dreary winter.

As well as the weather improving (touch wood!), the clocks go forward as well – so there’s more time for gardening.

However, despite these improvements on previous months, it can still be a bit tricky weather-wise. The weather can be fickle, with one day having clear blue skies and others wintry showers.

Don’t let that get you down though. Instead, let the coming of spring colours give you encouragement to make your garden a perfect place for the warmer months!

To help you get started, we’ve put together our top 10 gardening tips for March.

You can either read our blog from top to bottom or click on the handy links below to be taken straight to the tips you’re interested in.

Whichever way you decide to take in the information, we hope that you find it useful!

  1. Tidy and mulch your borders to minimise weeds
  2. Protect your plants from slugs and snails
  3. Plant summer flowering bulbs
  4. If you live in the south of the UK, sow and plant sweet peas
  5. Look after your lawn
  6. Prepare vegetable and herb seedbeds for direct sowing
  7. Keep an eye on your greenhouse
  8. Shade young seedlings in your greenhouse on sunny days
  9. Plant hellebores and heucheras in containers
  10. Protect against frost

1. Tidy and mulch your borders to minimise weeds

If we had to name one undisputable gardening truth, it would be this: Everyone hates weeds.

Also, following on from this, weeding is a chore that no one looks forward to – unless they’re masochists.

To cut down the time you spend on weeding, it’s a good idea to tidy your borders and beds, then mulch them with a thick layer of organic matter.

Mulching will keep the soil warm and moist, helping to keep weeds at bay. It also helps with drainage, keeping your plants healthy by allowing water to reach their roots – but preventing it from getting trapped in puddles on top of the ground.

Let’s begin with tidying. When you walk around your garden, keep an eye out for germinating weed seedlings and take them out with a hoe. Also, dig out any perennial weeds while they too are small, and they will be easier to control. If you need to protect your hands, make sure to check out our weeding gloves.

The best time for applying a mulch is the start of spring while the soil is still moist; this way the moisture will not evaporate from the soil surface so rapidly. Water first if the weather has been dry. If a layer of mulch is applied to dry soil then it will make it difficult for water to penetrate the soil at all.

Mulch bare soil with organic matter – standard garden compost will be fine.

Soil in borders left bare will very quickly lose water in dry spells. Covering with a thick layer of organic matter will cut down the rate at which water evaporates from the soil, reducing the need to water. This is especially important for young trees, shrubs, and perennials that have been recently planted.

Although, never put mulch on top of dry soil. If the soil is dry, water it first. A layer of compost is just as good at keeping water out as sealing it in!

Also, make sure that any fresh material doesn't contain harmful chemicals or pesticides before using it on your plants.

2. Protect your plants from slugs and snails

Slugs and snails can do a lot of damage to young buds before they’ve barely emerged from the soil. And you may not be aware of the damage until the leaves begin to open up.

Tiny holes made in the plants by your slimy garden guests, at this stage only the size of pinheads, will expand as the plants grow. By the summer, these holes can be massive.

One way to prevent slugs from getting to your (and their!) favourites is to use a physical barrier that the pests will not want to negotiate to get to the plants. The easiest barrier of all is a thick layer of coarse material like salt.

You can also put down some slug pellets around the base of your plants, especially if they're young and vulnerable.

Alternatively, try using potato peelings and egg shells as bait for molluscs; they'll be attracted by these food sources but won't be able to digest them properly because they lack the digestive enzymes needed for breaking down cellulose found in plant matter.

3. Plant summer flowering bulbs

All summer-flowering bulbs, if planted at intervals of a period of a few weeks, will give a succession of flowers throughout the summer and into autumn.

As a general rule of thumb, choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil, and dig your hole at the same depth as they were in their pots.

Two of our favourite summer flowering bulbs are gladioli and lilies.

Gladioli

For the best effect in ornamental borders, plant gladiolus bulbs (or, more correctly, corms) in groups of five or more. Plant the corms 10-15cm (4-6 inches) apart and 7-10cm (3-4 inches) deep. The deeper the corms are planted, the less likely they’ll need stakes for support. On heavy clay, dig the hole a little deeper and place the corms on a layer of coarse frit.

However, in northern parts of the country, wait until April to plant frost-tender bulbs such as gladioli.

Lilies

Lilies can be planted outside in well-prepared soil in groups in any mixed border. Plant the bulbs to three times their own depth and 7-10cm (3-4 inches) apart.

On heavy clay soils, plant the bulbs on a layer of coarse grit to add drainage. Lilies don’t like to sit in damp soil!

4. If you live in the south of the UK, sow and plant sweet peas

If you live in the south, sow and plant sweet peas now. They're a great way to brighten up your garden without much effort, and they'll grow well even if it's still cold out.

If you don't have much space for plants, try growing sweet peas in pots on a balcony or patio instead. Plant them in a sunny spot with well-drained soil that has been enriched with compost or manure. The seeds should be planted about 1cm deep and then watered gently after planting them – you don't want to wash away the seedlings!

There are many different ways of growing sweet peas and they have many uses in the garden. The easiest way to grow sweet peas is to sow them where they are to flower. Germination will be improved by soaking the seeds overnight to soften their coat. Plant two seeds at 30cm and 1cm deep.

The plants may need a framework to grow around initially. If you don’t have any to hand, make sure to check out our wide range of plant supports.

5. Look after your lawn

By this time in most parts of the country, grass will be growing steadily now and will need to be cut regularly to keep it in good condition.

So, start mowing regularly. Although, remember that a lawn will be much healthier and stay greener the less grass you remove every time it is cut.

For the first few cuts, set the blades at their highest setting.

Even if you tend to leave the clippings on the lawn in summer, keep the box on the mower in spring, so that air, rain, and fertiliser can penetrate the turf.

Feed your lawn towards the end of the month in southern part of the country. In the north (or generally if it’s a particularly cold March), wait until next month. The grass needs to be actively growing in order to make the best use of fertiliser.

6. Prepare vegetable and herb seedbeds for direct sowing

Prepare your vegetable and herb seedbeds for direct sowing by raking the soil to remove stones, weeds, and other debris. Water the soil before sowing so that the seeds can germinate quickly when they are placed within damp earth.

Even if it’s been left exposed, soil should be beginning to dry out now and will be in a better state for the making of good seedbeds for sowing.

The soil doesn’t need to be so wet that it sticks to your boots, nor so dry that it takes a lot of effort to break it up, but hopefully nature has given a helping hand and broken down the worst of the clods.

If the soil is rather too moist for treading on, then use planks. These will distribute your weight and prevent localised areas from becoming too compacted.

Break larger lumps of soil down by bashing them with a garden fork, then use a rake to smooth out smaller lumps and create a fine tilth, pushing and pulling the rake back and forth to a depth of roughly 1.5cm.

Tread the soil to firm it, and apply organic fertiliser, such as one based on seaweed, about two weeks before sowing. Rake that in – and the seedbed will be ready for the seed.

7. Keep an eye on your greenhouse

It’s amazing how much dust and dirt can accumulate on glass, even in dry weather. Keep the windows of your greenhouse clean to give seedlings inside maximum light exposure. Long, thin, straggly seedlings rarely make good plants once they mature!

Also, make sure to ventilate whenever the weather is good. Plants grow best when they are protected from the extremes of hot and cold – and ventilation is important in regulating a greenhouse’s temperature.

8. Shade young seedlings in your greenhouse on sunny days

Plants lose water in the form of vapour from their leaves. This is known as transpiration.

On sunny, warmer days, transpiration increases.

Young seedlings and cuttings are less able to cope with this. So, it’s important to shade them on particularly sunny days.

Although you can invest in expensive blinds for your conservatory, sticking up newspaper to block the brunt of the sun will work as well.

9. Plant hellebores and heucheras in containers

If you're looking for some low-maintenance perennials that will thrive in containers, consider hellebores and heucheras. Hellebores and heucheras are reliable winter-into-spring container plants that make excellent partners.

Both are hardy flowering plants that can be planted in shady areas of the garden or grown indoors as houseplants. They're also great for beginners because they require little maintenance once established.

10. Protect against frost

March can sometimes still be a frosty time of year – especially at night.

So, keep an eye on the weather forecast with the aim of protecting tender plants.

Cloches, horticultural fleece, or even plastic bottles with their bottoms cut off will give protection from the frost.

Also, take care to protect fruit blossoms and early fruitlets until there is no further threat of frost. The buds and flowers of peaches, nectarines, and cherries open up early in spring and are prone to frost damage.

Conclusion

We hope these tips will help you enjoy your garden in March.

For more gardening tips and guides, make sure to check out our blog.

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