What to do in the Garden in March

March is all about preparation. As the temperatures slowly begin to rise outside, it’s a pleasure to be working in the garden, getting ready for the long summer days ahead. 

Trees and shrubs

If you have pruning work to do, make sure your secateurs, pruning saw and loppers are sharp before you begin. Trim back straggly growth on trees and shrubs. Fruit trees will still be dormant in early March, so you have time to prune them if you didn’t tackle this job during the winter. Prune shrub roses to encourage vigorous growth and flowering. Reduce branches by approximately one-third, taking them back to a strong leaf bud. Planting of bare root trees and shrubs is also best done while the plant is dormant, so March is the last opportunity to do this before next winter. Use blood, fish and bone meal, as well as compost or manure, to add nutrients to the soil around your trees and shrubs.

Perennials, biennials and annuals

Tidy up last year’s growth on perennials and biennials, removing old stalks and leaves damaged during the winter. Established perennials can be lifted and divided to give additional growing space. Use the spare plants to fill in gaps elsewhere in your garden or give them away to friends. Position supports in the ground for plants which will require them as they grow later in the year. 

Sow annuals such as sweet peas now to ensure you have a good display for your pots and borders in the summer. Planting lilies and gladioli now will add fragrance and colour to your borders and provide plenty of cut flowers to enjoy indoors. Use spring bedding plants to brighten up your borders until the summer bedding plants are ready. 

Taking the time to mulch your flower beds now will save you hours of weeding time over the next few weeks. Keep your garden looking at its best with regular deadheading of daffodils, winter pansies and other flowering plants. Top dress plants in containers and remember to start them if the weather is dry.

Vegetables and fruit

Prepare your vegetable and fruit beds for the spring by digging compost or well rotted manure into the soil and clearing away any weeds. 

Sow broad beans, runner beans and peas in trenches. Peas won’t germinate if the soil is too cold, so if the weather is not warm enough early in March, it’s best to wait until later in the month when the temperature may be a few degrees warmer, before sowing your seeds into drills. Protect your pea seeds from mice by covering the soil with chicken wire and pushing the wire firmly into the ground either side of the drills.

Although tradition has it that seed potatoes should be sown on Good Friday, it is actually better to make a series of sowings through March in order to optimise your potato harvest. If you didn’t chit your potatoes in February, make this a priority at the beginning of March. Sow first earlies from mid-March, second earlies in late-March and maincrop potatoes from late-March to mid-April. If the ground is still hard in mid-March you can use containers for your first earlies.

Other seeds to sow in March include cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, coriander, leeks, lettuce, onions (use sets if preferred for speed), parsley, radishes, rocket, spinach, spring onions and sprouting broccoli.

If it is still cold in your area, use horticultural fleece to cover the ground where you have sown seeds. This has the added advantage of helping to prevent birds from pulling out seeds and onion sets. Plant out strawberry runners potted up last autumn. To encourage an early crop of strawberries place a polytunnel or cloches over plants. 

Lawn care

Lawn care in March is entirely dependent on the weather conditions. If the ground is frozen, you should stay off the lawn as much as possible in order to avoid damaging the grass. If the weather is warmer it is a good opportunity to use a lawn feed treatment. March is also a good time to aerate the lawn. Sandal aerators or a rolling lawn aerator work well for smaller areas, but if you have a large area of lawn you may need to buy or hire a powered aerator. After a mild winter you may find your grass has already grown long, so it’s time to get the lawnmower out again. Adjust the blades to a high setting before cutting the grass.

Other bits and bobs

Now is the time for some outdoor spring cleaning. Greenhouse panes should be cleaned both inside and out to maximise the light. Clean your patio to remove any algae or moss which has built up over the winter. If you use a pressure washer for this job you can also use it to clean dirt off sheds and other outside storage. If you have landscaping work to do, March is the ideal time, ahead of the summer. Whether you want to construct a deck area, create new paths or build raised beds, it’s good to get these jobs done so that you can enjoy your new features when the warmer weather arrives. Provided the land is not too hard, March is also a good time to construct a pond, as you can get plants established and introduce fish once the risk of the pond freezing over has passed. 

Planning ahead

After spending some time working in the garden, there’s nothing better than retreating into the warmth of the house and poring over a plant catalogue, planning ahead for the months to come. Seed and plant catalogues are the perfect place to find inspiration and discover new plant varieties to introduce in your garden. 

Order plug plants now and they will be delivered at the optimal time for planting in the coming weeks. If you will be planting container grown fruit bushes, such as blackcurrants, blueberries and raspberries, order them in March so that they are ready for planting in April. 

Encouraging wildlife to your garden will help to reduce pests, so keep bird feeders topped up and put a little food out for hedgehogs and you will reap the rewards in the months to come.