March in the Garden
Author: JM Date Posted:2 March 2018
Depending on your approach to gardening, the months of autumn can be the best or worst of the gardening year. For those who have been busy over the summer clearing away the remnants of previous seasons it is a glorious time filled with abundance. For those who haven't - well maybe next year!
Whilst the garden is at its full to overflowing, there is no time to sit on laurels.
- In dry seasons it is surprising how the perennial garden will benefit from an all-over liquid feed - just to take that late summer stressed look away.
- Detailed notes taken at this time of year are the most effective and they become more valuable as winter approaches when what we think we will remember simply is not there for recall.
- Dead-heading at this time of year takes on new meaning as we try to extend the display of late-summer plants so that they might chime in with autumn flowering specimens.
- Early autumn is one of the best times to take cuttings of late flowering , especially tender, Salvias - most will strike effortlessly at this time of year and if kept dry and away from frost get away to a good start next spring.
- With two to three months of growing weather still ahead, splitting of perennials now is often more successful than in winter, especially if they are to be potted in anticipation of planting a new project over winter.
- It is the time for dahlias to shine, but they will only do so if they are well staked and continuously dead-headed. Tying in the odd stem is an ongoing necessity and ensuring labels are correct and legible is a good job to be done at the same time in readiness for cutting down or storing.
A glorious autumn foliage display is not too far off.
- In dry seasons a deep watering over the next month will ensure autumn foliage on shrubs and small trees will persist longer than if left under stress.
- In the same way deep watering of Hydrangeas will ensure an elegant display of burnished flowers from now on rather than a desiccated embarrassment hanging out to dry.
- Wisteria will continue to send forth vigorous shoots in all directions - discipline is paramount when dealing with them to avoid an unholy mess. Remove these shoots two buds from home as they appear throughout the year to achieve a dense cascade of fragrant flower.
- As the worst of summers heat subsides now is a good time to neaten the hedges. Regular but often is the preferred wisdom with hedges. It makes for lighter work overall with less bulk requiring removal as a lot of the small stuff can be used as mulch under shrubs.
- Hedges are often neglected when it comes to feeding but as with lawns when you are constantly removing growth and expecting it to be replaced extra feeding needs to be done. A late autumn dressing of blood and bone will do the trick for the year.
- If lawn growth is weak and before the weather starts to cool now is a good time to apply a liquid fertilizer which is high in nitrogen. A weed and feed type at this time of year ensures cleaner lawns for winter.
- Healthy lawns stave off weed invasion but even they have a hard time dealing with clover. If dealt with early rather later a weaker solution of a proprietary herbicide can be used. Keep an eye out for young clover seedlings getting going as soon as autumn rains start and pounce before they get a toe-hold.
- Di-kamba , the active ingredient in most proprietary broad- leaf herbicides is particularly toxic to English Box - be careful with its use near them.
Annuals bring a vibrancy to the late summer and autumn garden that is seen wanting in many perennials.
- For those in warmer areas is time to sow biennials . Foxgloves, Iceland Poppies, Wallflowers Bellis, Orlaya, Calendula, Cerinthe ( Honeywort)- all should be sown before temperatures drop halfway through autumn. It is still worth doing but last month was preferable for those in colder areas if young plants are kept going under cover.
- Preparations should be underway for bulb-planting in many gardens however if it is simply too dry for too long to get them in at the ideal time. Try potting bulbs in odd numbers and in pots of assorted size to be planted out at your leisure over winter.
- Liquid feeding of annuals every fortnight will ensure they keep going right through until frost .Tomato food ( high in potassium) is best once plants begin to flower otherwise plants can run to too much leaf.
Preparations made in Spring will be paying dividends this month.
- Potted specimens in full flower are hungry subjects so keep them looking their best with a teaspoon of soluble fertilizer sprinkled over the surface of the roots before watering.
- Keep pots of Lilies fed and well watered as they go over to ensure good sized bulbs for next season.
- Pots of Hosta can be looking tired at this time of year but a quick cut-down in the middle of summer spurs on a new set of leaves - smaller but fresher looking.
- Now is the best time to rejuvenate or start new pots of Parma Violets for late winter flowering. They will be well rooted plants ready to burst into bud by august.
- Creating your spring display of potted bulbs starts this month with the emptying of remnants and reclaiming of pots which have been languishing in out of the way places.
A bounty of flowers for the house needs planning and not a small amount of effort.
- Chrysanthemums will be needing tying in on a regular basis as they become heavier on top. Regular feeding with tomato food is best practise for plenty of flowers of good (but not gross) size
- Sowing of Sweet Peas will be done this month. Start preparations of their bed early and allow to settle before planting out young seedlings. Generous preparation is rewarded manyfold with these traditional cut-flowers. ( read our full growing guide on our blog page)
- Biennials and cool weather annuals such as Calendula, Orlaya, Stock and Snapdragon can be sown now to have good sized plants going into winter.
- For early flowers Anemone and Ranunculus corms can be planted towards the end of this month. In frosty areas cloches will be needed to protect early blooms.
- Congested clumps of Narcissus should be lifted and divided this month before the bulbs become active Summer pruned roses will be in flower again by the end of this month but it is still not too late to encourage a late autumn flush.
- Keep lilies fed and well watered as they descend into dormancy to encourage the development of large bulbs.
- Cut away Helleborus orientalis foliage ( It has done its job ) and mulch and feed them\
Have the following at the ready for autumn jobs
- Lime, Iron-sulphate, Potassium-sulphate,
- Blood and Bone
- Sphagnum moss
- Snail bait
- Bamboo canes in various sizes
- Slow release fertilizer
- Lawn food (NPK balanced)
- Tomato food ( high in potassium)
- Coopex ( European Wasps)
- Make sure leaf rakes are still strong and good to go.
- Turn heap last winters heap one last time before using for winter planting.
- Make sure to reserve some of the old compost to inoculate the new heap with your composting culture.
- Keeping a balance of fine and coarse ingredients is still important all year to make sure plenty of air gets into the heap. If the heap is dry after summer give it a good watering .
If you think there's a gaping ommission in our round-up please leave a comment and we will include it in forthcoming blogs. Good gardening is but accumulated wisdom, so let's share it around!