The second half of March can often be dry with warm days; but keep the fleece and cloches to hand as tender plants may need some protection – temperatures can fall quite markedly at night, writes Jackie Power…
Planting of deciduous trees, hedging shrubs and roses need to be completed this month. Herbaceous perennials such as Anemone, Campanula, Echinacea, hardy Geranium, Rudbeckia and Verbenas can be planted during March and April; they provide a backdrop for displays in the borders and beds.
It’s time to feed plants as they wake up and start putting on rapid growth. Lightly dig in well-rotted manure or compost around shrubs; this also helps improve soil condition. Garden centres have (bagged) compost and manure (look out for organic products) but this can be expensive, and so if you have a garden / allotment and don’t compost – maybe it is time to start!
In the vegetable plot pick any over wintering crops (cabbage, leeks, celeriac) to free up space for new season’s plants; the first sowings of beetroot, early seed potatoes, carrots (under cover if the weather is cold) and radishes can be started.
Spring flowering shrubs to enjoy include – the Forsythia which pops up everywhere and is easily recognisable by its cheerful yellow flowers; Magnolia stellata – a small tree that grows as a shrub; its pure white fragrant blooms are a joy but they are often lost early to strong March winds. Another Magnolia, usually in bloom during April is already out; M. Soulangeana has decided to unfurl its lovely pink flowers early. The Hellebore ‘atrorubens’ stands out in the spring garden – it has a neat, compact habit with startling deep purple-red blooms that last into April.
One modest little plant rarely seen but is a delight to have in the garden is Viola odorata – commonly known as sweet violet. It establishes as a perennial also setting seed, and so once planted will always be a spring companion. Viola doesn’t mind shade, produces blue, fragrant flowers in March; over time it spreads becoming a ground cover plant – but is easily thinned out by digging up individual specimens; these can be potted up and given as gifts. Viola is also happy growing in window boxes with a mix of spring bulbs, ferns, garden Thymes and miniature Cyclamen.
The astronomical end of winter occurs on 20th March followed by the clocks going forward on 27th March marking the start of British Summer Time. We are leaving winter behind – and looking forward to the lengthening days giving more time to work in the garden – weather permitting.