March is truly the start of the new season for gardeners. The weather improves, soil warms and drifts of bright yellow daffodils proclaim that spring is here.
Dobbies resident gardening expert, Louise Golden, explains how to get your garden into shape for the months ahead:
Whatever the size of your outside space, there are plenty of things to do to prepare for the summer months. Spring cleaning should extend to the garden and now is the time to hoe borders to remove weeds, feed borders and hedges with fertiliser and prune summer flowering shrubs such as Buddleia and Lavatera.
March is also the ideal time for planting, quickly establishing during the early spring. In the fruit garden mulch existing rows of raspberry canes and fruit bushes and plant rhubarb, remembering to allow room for them to grow to their full size. With all new plants, add a thick layer of mulch to help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.
One of the most economical ways to add colour into your garden is to grow your own bedding plants. These should be planted up immediately into small pots to grow in a warm frost-free greenhouse or conservatory ready to transplant into the garden when all risk of frost has passed.
For cottage gardens, now is the time to lift and divide congested or over-large herbaceous plants and plant new ones. Hardy annuals such as Nigella, Centaurea and Calendula can be sown now, as can Sweet Peas, ready for picking later in the summer. Summer flowering bulbs, such as Gladiolus and Ranunculus, can be planted now and, as daffodils and Narcissi start to fade, remove spent flowers but leave the foliage to die back naturally. This will focus all the energy back into the bulb for the following year.
To keep your lawn in top condition, you can prepare new lawn areas for sowing in April. Once cultivated, make sure the area is firmed and level ready for sowing. For quicker results, you can also lay new turf, leaving it undisturbed for a few weeks to allow the new roots to establish. Later in the month apply a spring /summer lawn feed high in nitrogen. If it’s mild enough, and the lawn is showing signs of growth, give it the first light cut of the season, keeping blades on their highest setting.
If you’re looking to grow vegetables, prepare the vegetable beds by removing weeds and forking plenty of garden compost or well-rotted manure. To help keep the soil warm and dry, you can cover prepared beds with sheets of black plastic until you are ready to plant. As weather and soil conditions allow, plant shallots, onions and early potatoes. If space allows, consider planting an asparagus bed. One of the most prized of all vegetables, once established they reward you with a spring bounty of delicious spears for many years to come. And remember to watch out for slugs. Apply nematodes to the surrounding soil as an effective organic control.
One key trend for 2018 and something that we’re especially excited about at Dobbies is the ‘living wall’, which can be easily created in-doors and out. Dobbies’ living wall planters will be available mid-March in store and online and are perfect for those who want to create a statement in their garden or bring the outdoors in.
Louise Golden is the senior plant buyer for Dobbies Garden Centres throughout the UK and Ireland. Having worked with plants and gardens for more than 30 years, she is a font of knowledge when it comes to all things botanical, and loves to spend time looking after her own garden in rural Wiltshire with her two children.