Five Garden Jobs for March
February’s weather was thoroughly miserable here in the UK, with a succession of storms bringing high winds, torrential rain and snow. I’ve spent most days looking longingly from my desk at the garden hoping for some dry weather so that I could get and do some gardening, but to no avail. I’m just glad I took the opportunity when it was dry in January to cut back all the perennials.
My garden soil is heavy clay and weeks of rain mean it isn’t a good idea to walk on the soil at the moment, otherwise I’ll just compact it, squishing out all of the air. So I need to be patient, but I’m also aware that plants are starting to grow again and there are plenty of jobs that need doing before they shoot away. If you have clay soil and it’s wet but you need to at least attempt some gardening, it’s a good idea to put down some long wooden boards on the soil – old scaffolding planks are perfect for the job – and walk on these instead, this way you’ll spread your weight across the soil and stop your boots getting covered in mud.
First on my list of jobs to tackle is pruning the roses. I only have a few roses and the last one I need to trim is Rosa glauca. It’s a species rose with gorgeous single flowers in pale pink with fabulous blue-grey foliage. The stems on it are about 1.5m (5ft) high, but I need to reduce these otherwise it’ll outgrow its allotted space. Using a sharp pair of secateurs I’ll prune each stem to about 60cm (2ft) from the ground, making the cuts above healthy buds. I’ll then scatter a handful or two of seaweed meal around the base of the plants and lightly fork this into the soil – this will give the plant a boost of nutrients as it starts to grow.
Some of the herbaceous perennials and grasses have been in the borders for three years now and they need to be reduced in size. This is also a great opportunity to make more plants to fill gaps elsewhere in the garden. Plants on my list to be divided include helenium, the tall grass Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ and Aster ‘Monch’. The easiest way to divide them is to dig around the plants, lifting the plant’s root ball out of the soil. Pop it onto a sheet or tarpaulin and slice the root ball into sections – thirds or quarters will make good-sized plants. Do this using a sharp spade or a pruning saw. Remove the centre of the plant if it has become woody. Replant the new sections and water them in thoroughly.
Now is the time to repair or paint any fence panels while access to the fence is not obstructed by plants. If you have bare brown fence panels think about painting them a dark colour such as slate grey or even black. I’ve used a lovely dark bluey-grey called Urban Slate, a colour in the Cuprinol Garden Paint range. It may feel like a bold move but the dark colour provides a stunning backdrop to flowers and foliage and it also recedes into the distance, tricking the eye into thinking the garden is longer and wider than it actually is.
Mulching the soil with a layer of well-rotted compost, composted chipped bark or leaf mould will not only make your borders look neat and tidy it will also seal in moisture from winter rain, meaning you’ll need to do little or no watering come the summer. The mulch should be about 5cm (2in) thick. Spread it around your plants but make sure it doesn’t come into contact with the crown of the plant as it can cause plants to rot.
Feed Box Plants
I have a couple of box balls in my borders, and to keep them looking healthy and to keep box blight at bay, I like to give them a seaweed feed at this time of year. I prefer to use a powdered form known as seaweed meal which can be scattered on the soil around the plant. Use a trowel to carefully incorporate it into the soil, and if it’s been dry, water the soil so that the seaweed can be absorbed.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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