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GARDENING: March is month for planting

March 10th, 2022 7:05 AM

By Southern Star Team

Start lettuce seeds in pots (Photo: Ben Russell)

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BY JOYCE RUSSELL

Winds and rain have put gardens to the test in the last few weeks and March can also bring some unpredictable weather. There should be a slow and steady improvement as the month progresses and plenty of bright days to get out in the garden. The soil is warming steadily and daylight is lengthening – all signals that plants need to start growing strongly.

March sowing and planting

Potatoes and onion sets: There’s always a rush to get these in the ground around the middle of the month. Prepare beds now if the ground isn’t too wet – both of these crops like some manure or compost. Add lime to the onion bed, but keep this away from the potatoes. Don’t plant in very wet or frosty weather.

Parsnips: These do well from a March sowing. Sow three or four seeds at 15cm apart in the row and thin to one seedling when growing well. Cover the bed with fine mesh crop cover – this allows rain through but keeps soil a little warmer.

Peas and broad beans: Both podding and mange-tout peas do well from a March sowing and broad beans can produce great crops if sown now. Sow direct in rows outdoors if the ground isn’t too cold and cover rows with a cloche. Sow a few extra seeds in pots in a greenhouse or porch – these can be used to fill any gaps in rows when the young plants emerge.

Lettuce: I always start lettuce seed in pots under cover and I don’t plant them out until plants are 5cm tall. This helps protect emerging seedlings from slugs and snails, although you will need to use organic pellets, or other protection, when plants are in their final growing position.

Salad leaves: Sow rocket, mustard greens, mizuna etc directly in the ground where they will grow. Sowings in a greenhouse or polytunnel will grow fast – cover with a cloche to give some protection in outdoor beds.

Spinach: Sow seeds of perpetual spinach in a pot, but ‘true’ spinach can go straight in a drill in the greenhouse.

Brussels sprouts, leeks and beetroot: All of these do well if started in cells or trays. Plants get a good start and are ready to pot on, or plant out, in a few weeks’ time.

You can also sow cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, melons and aubergines in a heated propagator, but only if you can keep plants above 15C until conditions are ready for planting – usually late April to early June.

Sweet peas: These will flower for months from a March sowing and this is the month to start sowing lots of annual flowers for the border.

Beautiful bulbs

Narcissi are at their glorious best right now. There’s a lot of lovely small cup, double flower, frilled, double colour, multi flowered per stem, options as well as the bright yellow trumpet daffodils. Enjoy them all and look forward to all the other types of spring bulbs in flower from last autumn’s planting.

The next few weeks are a time to buy bulbs for spring planting These will provide flowers for summer and autumn. Check out garden stores and centres. These have a wide range of bulbs from Anemones, through Gladioli, Nerines and many more. It’s always worth chancing a few different options – grow delicate ones, like Freesias, in a container and keep an eye on water and feeding to give them the best chance of flowering.

Strawberry plants

Look after your strawberry plants if you want to give them the best chance of producing lots of delicious berries. Plants that have stood through the winter may look a little tatty. Remove any discoloured leaves and weed the soil’s surface. If growing in pots, you can top up with a little fresh compost and you can spread some well-rotted manure around plants in a garden bed. Sprinkle a little fish blood and bone or powdered seaweed if extra feed is needed. Try not to bury stems too deeply – all leaves should be above the soil’s surface.

Keep plants watered and keep a look out for whitefly on the underside of leaves if growing in a greenhouse that had these pests last year.

Some plants may produce flowers in March – protect these from frost or they will blacken and fall. Don’t worry too much if this happens – remove blighted flowers and the plant will produce more in April.

Tools and machinery

Take your garden tools out of the shed and give them some care and attention. Remove rust and apply oil to moving parts if needed. Check wooden handles aren’t about to break and edges are sharp on secateurs, hoes and loppers.

Get the lawnmower serviced if you haven’t already. Good things to do: sharpen blades, oil cables, change the air filter, renew spark plug, check batteries etc as appropriate.

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