The Flower Garden in Early Spring
What to do in the flower garden in March
Visit your local garden centre or nursery now, to stock up with herbaceous plants, while there is still a good selection. Established perennials that have been growing for three years or more will need lifting and dividing, so they continue to flower well.
Use a spade or fork to dig up the clumps, keeping as much soil on the roots as possible. Pull each clump apart into several sections with your hands, or in the case of tough-rooted plants, two hand forks placed back-to-back and then levered apart. With very thick or fibrous roots, you may need to slice through them with a sharp spade. The sections taken from round the edge of the clump are the best ones to use, rather than the older, central portion. Remove any weeds and dead leaves or other debris from the new plants before planting them where they are to grow. Check established plants, too, to clear out weeds and decayed leaves or stems, before new growth starts fully.
Sowing Under Glass in March
Sow now the quicker-growing half-hardy annuals indoors or under glass, to plant out later or to grow in pots for a greenhouse display, for example: Arctotis, African and French marigolds, cosmos, and verbena. Provide a temperature of 16°C (60°F). Try sowing a few hardy alpines now such as campanula and saxifrage, to brighten up the garden later. Alpines need less heat to germinate and do well in a cold frame.
Sowing Annuals Outside in March
A start can be made on sowing hardy annual flowers in their flowering positions when the soil is warm and friable. Rake the seed-bed to a fine tilth and firm well by treading it down before sowing. Broadcast the seeds in large groups rather than dotting them about. Don'ts forget to label each sowing.
Bulbs and Corms
Any early bulbs that have finished flowering and whose foliage is yellowing can, if required, be lifted and dried-off for storage and replanting in the autumn.
Start planting out gladiolus corms, provided the soil is frost-free and not waterlogged. Plant them in full sun and in a well drained soil. Gladioli look best planted in clumps, rather than in rows. Space the corms at 7.5cm (3 in) apart and 10 cm (4 in) deep. If your soil is heavy or waterlogged set each corm on a base of sharp sand or grit, to improve drainage. In cold areas start the corms off in trays of moist compost; once the new shoots appear, plant them out. Once planted the corms can be left to grow in-situ, in all but the coldest areas of the UK.
Planting Sweet Peas
Plant out autumn-sown sweet peas now, spaced 23 cm (9 in) apart. Taller-growing forms should be staked at planting time. Low-growing bushy varieties don't need staking. Sweet peas sown last month will need pinching out, as much better flowers are produced on the side growths, than from the main stem. Pinch out the growing tips of the young plants at about 10 cm(4 in) high.
Pests and Diseases
As well as encouraging growth in plants, warm March days bring out pests, weeds and diseases. Emerging seedlings and awakening perennials and are particularly susceptible to hungry slugs and snails that can readily attack any young, leafy growth. Scatter pet friendly slug pellets around vulnerable plants. Remember that dogs, cats, birds and other wildlife can also be seriously affected if they eat the pellets. The safest and most economical way to use slug pellets is to place a dozen or so under a slate or tile at strategic places around the garden.
Birds, too, can become a nuisance at this time, pecking at emerging buds and vegetable seedlings. Fruit cages and cloches offer the best protection but netting and black cotton thread can offer temporary protection until growth is established.
Plants for March
A sure sign of spring is the English Sweet Violet:
Sweet Violet (V. odorata)
Bergenia (elephants ears)
Doronicum (leopard's bane)
Euphorbia (Hardy Spurge)
For bulbs see