This month there are signs of the approaching spring, with bulbs appearing and birds and wildlife waking up as light levels. There’s plenty to do this month in preparation for the season ahead. Outdoors, the garden is coming to life again, and its time to prune shrubs, such as Wisteria.
Sowing and planting:
Continue to plant shrubs, trees, climbers, hedging plants and roses. Avoid planting roses in areas where roses were previously growing, otherwise new introductions may suffer from replant diseases. This occurs when a plant is replaced with the same type. For most plants this does not cause a problem, however, for others, most notably roses and others in the rose family the new plant fails to thrive or put on decent growth. The roots of the previous plant need only to have been in the soil for a few months for the problem to occur.
Dahlia tubers stored over winter (or bought this year) can be started into growth. Place them in a light, warm place to sprout before planting. They will need additional misting with a spray-bottle of water to stop them drying out. Click here to visit our summer flowering bulbs and tubers page where you will find an excellent selection of beautiful Dahlias, Gladioli, Cannas and lots more.
Lily bulbs can be planted in pots for flowers this summer. After growing on indoors or in a cool greenhouse they can be moved onto the patio when in flower so that you can enjoy the blooms.
Bulbs coming up in the rock garden or in containers may benefit from overhead protection from the rain and snow. A sheet of glass or Perspex placed on piles of bricks will do the job.
Hardy annuals can be sown in pots or modules to provide colour.
Place gladioli corms in seed trays or boxes and place in a light, warm (around 10ºC/50ºF) spot to encourage them to sprout before planting. This will ensure an earlier display.
Sweet peas can be sown under cloches, in a cold frame, or in a cool room in the house. Any sweet peas that were sown earlier in the autumn can now be potted.
Root cuttings can be taken of Papaver (perennial poppies), Verbascum (mullein), Acanthus (bear’s britches) and Phlox.
Soft tip cuttings can be taken from fuchsias this month.
If you do have any seedlings and/or cuttings in the greenhouse, make sure they are getting the maximum light available, or else they will become weak and leggy. If necessary, turn them once a day so that they get light on both sides. This will stop them leaning over towards the light, and keep them upright and compact.
Don’t forget to prick out seedlings before they get too crowded and then to pot them on as individual transplants as soon as they are large enough.
Plug plants are now available for sale. They can be grown on in your glasshouse, being a relatively cheap source of large numbers of plants, while avoiding the need for propagation facilities and labour. Click here to visit our Kinder Plug plant website page.
Cutting back, pruning and dividing:
Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering.
Prune Wisteria. Wisteria needs regular pruning to keep the growth and size under control, but it will also improve the flowering display. Although it seems complicated, wisteria pruning is quite simple if you follow the RHS simple guide – click here for details.
Divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting ‘in the green’.
Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges. Click here to view the RHS website guide to pruning evergreens.
Cut back deciduous ornamental grasses left uncut over the winter. Evergreen ornamental grasses will just need a tidy up. Click here to view the RHS website guide.
If the weather is warm you may need to start mow. Set the cutting height at its maximum and only mow when the grass is dry.
Re-cut lawn edges to crisp up the appearance of the garden and save work later in the season.
Turf can be laid provided the soil is not too wet or frosty. Work from planks to avoid compacting the soil. Do not walk on the newly laid turf and leave undisturbed for several weeks to allow new roots to establish.
Prepare seed beds for new lawns to be seeded later in the spring, but only attempt this if the ground is not too wet.
Continue to deadhead winter-flowering pansies and other winter bedding. Pansies will carry on into the spring and even to early summer if attended to frequently.
Improve soil by spreading compost or manure over beds and forking in. Mulching with a deep layer of organic matter helps to condition the soil, suppress weed growth, insulate plant roots from temperature fluctuations and conserve soil moisture during the summer. Lighter soils can be mulched now, but heavier soils are best left until March when the soil is warmer. Click here to visit our soil and compost page.
Towards the end of the month you can top dress beds and borders with a balanced fertiliser such as Growmore or Blood, Fish and Bone to feed perennials as they start back into growth. Click here to visit our fertiliser page.
Keep a check on planted containers to see if they require watering as pots that are sheltered may miss out on rainfall. Keep pots moist, but not wet.
If snow falls, knock it off the branches of evergreen shrubs and conifers to prevent branches breaking under its weight.
Consider purchasing water butts now ready for the summer. Rainwater is particularly useful for watering acid-loving, ericaceous plants (tap water is often slightly alkaline).
Prepare vegetable seed beds and sow some vegetables under cover. (Our full range of vegetable plants will be available end March/early April.)
Chit potato tubers. Click here to visit our edibles page and view our range of seed potatoes.
Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches. Once they start into growth in spring, flowers and buds are especially vulnerable to frost and may need protection to crop well.
Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off.
In the greenhouse:
Check that glasshouse heaters are functioning properly. A maximum-minimum thermometer enables accurate monitoring of your greenhouse temperature. A minimum temperature of 5 degrees C (42F) is required to prevent Fuchsias, Pelargoniums and other tender plants being killed off by the cold. Higher temperatures (at least 12°C/54°F) will be needed for tropical plants.
Ventilate the greenhouse on sunny days to reduce the risk of fungal infection.
Clear leaves and twigs from guttering on greenhouses and sheds.