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Andrew Tokely's Gardening Tips for March! 09 March 2022

March has finally arrived, the days are getting longer and brighter, which will help make everything in the garden grow. With the weather on our side this can be a very busy month tiding and planning for the crops for the rest of the year.  

1.    Peach trees are among the first fruit trees to flower, making them prone to frost damage. So it is a good ideal to keep a close watch over your plants so you spot as soon as the buds start to unfurl. To make sure you are not caught out have some fleece or old net curtains ready nearby to hang over the tree to protect those buds if we get any frosty nights this month.

2.    An important job this month is to get on with pruning any bush Roses, as March is the traditional time for doing this job. Bush Roses can be pruned quite hard; I usually prune mine down to 3-4 buds, making sure the final cut is just above an outward facing bud. How hard you prune will depend on the age of your bushes. At the same time, prune out any old or diseased wood or weak thin branches from the centre of the bushes. After pruning, feed around the base of the plants with a good Rose fertiliser, and work this into the soil, then apply a good layer of well-rotted manure or compost as mulch. You can now sit back and wait for those glorious flowers.

3.    If you are lucky enough to have some Cornus (dogwood) growing in your garden you will have been enjoying their colourful stems over the winter months. The best stem colour is always produced on new one-year-old shoots. So these plants need pruning hard towards the end of this month, down to about 1 or 2 buds from the base of the plant. This may look harsh but plants will soon re-shoot, and burst into green leaf all summer followed by a marvellous display of coloured stems again next autumn.

4.    If the soil on my vegetable plot is dry and workable, I will be planting my onion sets towards the middle of the month. These will be planted into 9cm(3inch) deep drills, spacing each set 10-15cm (4-6inch) apart. But if the soil is still wet and cold all is not lost. I have had very successful results over the last few years by planting onion sets into small pots filled with multi-purpose compost and grown on under glass or in the cold frame. This way they get a start and can be planted outside once the sets have green shoots on them and a good root system, at a time when the soil is in a better condition.  This method helps you get started without you losing any growing time.

5.    This month is a busy time for my heated Propagator set at 21C (70F), or on a warm windowsill. It is the perfect time to sow Asters, Antirrhinums, Gazania, Salpiglossis, Verbena, Stocks, Mesembryanthemum, Nemesia, Salvia, Lobelia, Nicotiana, Ageratum, Dahlia, Cleome, Impatiens and Petunias. Sown now you will have good plants for planting out at the end of May, giving you colour all summer.

6.    To help get some early salads, I like to sow some salad leaves in long troughs or large pots filled with compost this month. Once sown, these can be grown on in a cool glasshouse or conservatory, and you will be amazed how quickly you will be harvesting your own home grown fresh salads.

7.    If the weather is poor make use of any spare time checking if any house plants are getting a little pot bound, and appear to be suffering. If so, now is a good time to re-pot them. Only move plants on into pots that are 1-2 sizes bigger than the original pot, and always use good quality potting or house plant compost.

8.    Around The middle of the month I will start to sow under glass my Brussels Sprouts and summer Brassicas. Sown now they will make good size plants for hardening off, ready for planting out at the end of April. Brussels Sprouts need a long growing season to ensure they produce some good quality tight buttons in time for Christmas. My first sowing of outdoor lettuce will also be sown. I like to sow a few seeds every 2-3 weeks and then prick these out into modular trays. Sowing regularly in succession will give plenty of fresh leaves to harvest throughout the year.

9.    On a dry day give your lawn a cut to tidy it up, but don’t make this first cut too short. After cutting the lawn, if you didn’t get around to scarifying or aerating your lawn last autumn, this can still be done now. Simply rake over the lawn with a spring rake, pulling out any old dead grass (thatch) and Moss. Then aerate the lawn by going over the lawn and inserting a fork as deep as you can, this will help let air into the lawn and improve your grass. After doing this, if you have any bare patches these can be re-seeded next month when the soil is a little warmer.

10.     Once the soil has warmed up towards the end of the month one of the first vegetables I will be sowing direct into the soil are Parsnips. I like to punch a hole into the ground with a crow bar, fill this with some sandy compost and sow 3-4 seeds per station. Then once germinated they can be thinned out to an individual seedling, which will produce some spectacular long roots to harvest by the autumn. As Parsnips can take a long time to germinate I like to sow a few radish seeds in-between the parsnips to get an early crop and help identify the row for keeping the ground clean from weeds.  
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