MARCH 2020 Van Hage newsletter by Mary-An Charnley
It’s March, the days are becoming longer and although it may not be obvious, the ground is starting to warm up and even the weeds are starting to grow! We just need some sun now to dry the soil and spring will be on its way. Gardens are already looking brighter with the cheery flowers of primrose, snowdrop, crocus and daffodils. Camellia buds are swelling ready to produce single or double flowers that look just like powder puffs in every shade of pink and red as well as white. Forsythia, a hardy dependable plant produces masses of yellow flowers and is great for growing at the back of a border.
Now is the time to spring-clean the garden. A rough guide is to wait until the soil doesn’t stick to your boots, then you’ll know the time is right to get cracking. Start by forking over the soil in the borders, then weed and mulch with Garden Compost or well-rotted Manure sold in bags, and feed all the perennial plants ( the ones that come up each year having died right back over winter). A good feed to use is the charmingly-named Fish, Blood& Bone. It’s particularly important this year, as a lot of goodness will have been leached out of the soil by the copious amounts of rain we have had.
It's also a good time to dig up and divide overcrowded herbaceous perennial plants and, if parts of your garden are looking a bit empty or boring, to plant pot-grown trees, shrubs, roses and climbers: the backbone of the garden. Between these can be planted herbaceous perennials, and annual flowering plants (which flower for one year only), to produce colour and interest over the summer. To fill in any gaps, try some dahlia tubers which are generally available now. Either ready potted up or planted at the end of March or April, they will produce flowers from July until the first frost, in a myriad of colours which will look stunning in mixed borders and as an added bonus, will be beneficial to pollinating insects, bees and butterflies.
As conditions improve further, it’s time to think about preparing the soil for growing some vegetables. Rake the soil to a fine tilth, then sow lettuces, rocket, radishes, spring onions, broad beans, parsnips and peas. If the idea of sowing seeds does not appeal, then small plants in seed trays are readily available at the garden centre. Plant out onions sets and shallots and also roots of horseradish. These can make a bit of a takeover bid if left to their own devices so it’s a good idea to grow them in a large pot sunk in the ground.
Potatoes can be planted out at the end of the month. If cold weather is forecast, then early vegetables can be protected by covering them with cloches or horticultural fleece.
Herbs can be planted up in large containers and put on the patio near the barbecue area. Now is also a good time to plant rhubarb, pot-grown fruit trees and soft fruit, also the first strawberry plants ready for fruiting this summer. Keep an eye out for slugs and snails in this Spring’s wet conditions.
You can sow tomatoes, chillies and sweet peppers in a heated propagator or on a warm windowsill indoors, and If you’re fed up with this winter’s grey and wet weather, why not plant up some tubs and containers for an instant splash of colour. Primroses, polyanthus, flowering bulbs, violas and pansies, plus the taller wallflowers are all great for providing instant colour and will look lovely planted up with some alpine plants trailing over the edges of the pots.
The longer days mean that its also time to give your houseplants a bit of TLC, by stepping up the watering and feeding regularly with a liquid feed.
It’s the start of a busy period so it’s a good time to make the most of improving weather conditions and enjoy your early Spring gardening!
At Van Hage we are here to help you with any of your gardening queries, and we look forward to seeing you soon.
From the team at Van Hage