1 March 2008 - 12:00am

March jobs in the garden

This is the time of year to roll your sleeves up, put on your boots and old clothes and get out there. A few hours gardening now will save you lots of effort later, and you will get better results.

Jobs you can be doing include:

Prune and mulch: Buddleias, roses and most clematis to name a few. Prune back to a bud to prevent dieback then give them a good feed and mulch. Coloured stemmed dogwoods can be cut back almost to ground level if you want to encourage the bright stems again for next year. If that seems a bit drastic, cut a third back each year. The RHS website has a good guide on to how to prune a variety of plants, but be brave, don't just trim the tops off unless you like a garden full of lollipops. Mulching your borders will keep the moisture in and the weeds down, and looks good.

Seed sowing: vegetables including tomatoes and peppers as well as many perennials, herbs, grasses and annuals can be sown in March and April and it's much cheaper and more satisfying than buying plants.

Take delphinium cuttings: Do this now before they get too big. Take firm shoots of about 10 cm long and cut from as low down the emerging plant as possible. It may feel a bit wrong as they are rather fragile looking, but if your plants are a decent size, they won't miss a few stems. Put them in a pot of gritty compost, keep well watered, cool and frost free and they will root fairly quickly, especially if you use hormone rooting powder. Pot them on and plant them out when they are well established.

Take the shears to overgrown ivy: We have been waging war on knee deep ivy which was planted many years ago at the front as ground cover. It's done a great job, but is now throttling the trees and shrubs. So, with Matt's help, we have removed barrow loads of it in the full knowledge that it will grow back eventually.

Lift and divide your snowdrops: When they have finished flowering but still 'in the green', you can dig clumps up, split them into smaller ones and spread them around.

Start an asparagus bed: Prepare the ground really well as the plants will be in situ for years and years. It's a crop that demands patience and a fair bit of work, but worth it.

Get more compost bins: ready for when you start mowing the lawn. Mix in vegetable peelings, shredded paper or prunings and the contents of your rabbit's cage to give it a good chance of rotting down into a wonderful, dark, crumbly soil conditioner.
Prepare the site for a new lawn: As with asparagus, time spent in preparation getting the soil right is rarely wasted.

But be careful. If you haven't done much gardening for a while, take regular breaks and keep stretching your back out. I tend to mix jobs, a lighter job with a heavier task and keep switching between. I don't want the blame if you end up hobbling in to your GP's surgery next week!