March jobs in the garden
March is the best month to get out into the garden. Time spent now will pay huge dividends later in the year. Halt your gym membership, don your wellies and pick up your border fork! Here are a few suggestions:
• Weed your borders. Perennial weeds such as dandelions and bindweed need to be dug up carefully and put in your green bin or burned. If you leave a tiny bit of root, they will come back. Annual weeds such as chickweed are a pain, but are easy to pull up or hoe. Once clear, give the area a good mulch with bark chippings, gravel or better still compost to prevent seedlings from germinating and you should be reasonably weed free for several weeks at least;
• Now is a good time for planting most flowering plants, shrubs and trees, as long as no frost is forecast and they are hardy. Don’t make the mistake of letting the garden centres seduce you into buying your bedding plants too early unless you can mollycoddle them in a frost free greenhouse until May at the earliest;
• March is also a good month for pruning clematis. It can seem complicated so if in doubt check out the RHS website www.rhs.org.uk where there are clear instructions. Clematis love a good water and mulch at this time of year, and a handful of sulphate of potash or wood ash;
• If your multi stemmed dogwood is looking a bit messy and the coloured stems are a bit dull, you can prune it really hard back to a bud now. If that’s too drastic for you, prune around a third of it and, after three years, you will have completely rejuvenated your plant. Give it a feed and you will be rewarded with some bright new stems. The drastic pruning method works for several shrubs including the shrubby willows (salix), catalpa and cotinus for bigger leaves;
• Buddleia also benefits from a hard prune now: aim to leave a strong, short framework of branches around 30 cm above the ground, or taller if you want more height;
• Dead head your daffodils and give them a foliar feed, don’t cut them back or tie them into knots, they hate it and may sulk next year. Split and divide your snowdrops if you want to make a bigger show in future years.
This is the time of year I wish I had planted loads more flowering trees and shrubs, they are so beautiful and lift the spirits in early spring. A beautiful, slow growing cherry graces our back lawn, Prunus ‘Shogetsu’ longipes (pictured). After around 15 years, and in a rather exposed spot, it’s grown here at Charnwood to about 2 metres. I looked it up on the RHS site and it says its ultimate height is around 4 or 5 metres. It has a beautiful, spreading habit so there is no need for pruning. Cherries hate it anyway and always look horrid when pruned into a lollipop! The buds start out pink and gradually open into gorgeous white, exuberant bunches.
For perfume in spring we’ve a Virburnum x juddi. It’s no drama queen, more of a gently pretty kind of plant, but it makes its presence felt by its beautifully scented flowers that pervade the whole garden. Again it’s a compact shrub, fine for a small garden.
Here’s to a beautiful, warm spring so we can all enjoy our gardening!