March 10 March 17

So much needs to be done in the garden this month but it is either raining or the ground is still frozen. Most work needs to be done in the greenhouse getting all those seeds you ordered in December and January sown and growing away for summer displays and early crops.

Get in the greenhouse

So much needs to be done in the garden this month but it is either raining or the ground is still frozen. Most work needs to be done in the greenhouse getting all those seeds you ordered in December and January sown and growing away for summer displays and early crops.

Planting out

This week we will sort out the last plants in the nursery that have to be planted out. The buds are starting to burst on most trees and shrubs and it will soon be past the best planting time, particularly for bare-root plants. Plants grown in containers can be planted all year but best not to late May to September as it is hot and dry.


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Amaryllis bulbs

I was given a very large hippeastrum (amaryllis) bulb for Christmas - it has grown well and produced three huge flower spikes. As the flowers fade it is important to feed the bulb up for next year's flowerbuds, which will form inside the bulb. Continue watering and feeding with a high potash liquid fertiliser until the foliage begins to turn yellow and dies down. Then stop watering and allow bulbs to rest for the summer.

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Get sowing for early crops

If you have a heated greenhouse you can sow, aubergines, peppers and tomatoes in the next few weeks to ensure an early crop. Try sowing one or two seeds direct into small pots of seed compost. I have used compressed peat pots this year to avoid a shock for the plants when they are planted out. Ensure the compost is kept moist, but not overly wet, and maintain a temperature of at least 21C which will often require a heated propagator. When seedlings are large enough to handle remove the weakest from each pot if you have sown more than one per pot. Plants can receive a check to their growth if planted into a cold growing medium so lay out growbags to warm up before planting.

Time for parsnips

Although it is still cold, some vegetable seeds can be sown outside. Parsnips need sowing at 15cm spacing. Put three seeds at each station along the drill - parsnips are very erratic at germinating, so with three seeds you should get something appearing and no gaps. You can use radish to mark rows while parsnips germinate.

Steel a march on weeds

Mulch bare soil in beds and borders to suppress weeds and retain moisture in the soil. Mulch should be applied in a good thick layer 3-5cm thick. Well-rotted bark mulch performs very well.

Get moving with shrubs

March is a good time for moving plants as most are still dormant but they won't be for long. Evergreens, particularly, need to be handled carefully, ensure they are moved with as much soil around the base as possible. Evergreen shrubs will often die if moved in the depths of winter, as they are unable to replace moisture lost from the leaves when the ground is frozen. Bare-root deciduous trees and shrubs need to be finished planting now as well because, as the buds open, the plants will find it hard to take up enough water to get established.

Dead-head daffodils

Dead-head daffodils as flowers fade, but leave foliage alone. If old flowers are left, the plant's energy will be used to produce seed. It is important to build a bulb's reserves so a new flower bud forms inside for flowering next spring. If you have been to any of the snowdrop days you will know how good they look under trees and naturalised in grass. They rarely grow well from dry bulbs so the best time to divide or buy them is now while they are still in the green. Overgrown clumps can be lifted and divided now or new plants can be bought from specialist mail order nurseries.

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