Optional Garden Tasks in March?
March really is a wonderful time in the garden with so much promise for the fruitful and abundant days to come. The below article is by no means a comprehensive schedule of all the garden jobs for the month. However, I am hoping these two articles helps you manage timing and your time by providing some focus for the less experienced and keener gardeners alike.
My previous article “Essential Garden Tasks in March” covers the absolute bare minimum of what to do for just about EVERY garden.
Many of you will also think a lot of the below are essential rather than optional tasks, but every garden is different, and I know that some people will also find some inspiration or simply a timely reminder somewhere amongst the headings below.
Please only skim the headings in CAPS for the tasks that apply to your garden, as many headings will not apply.
SOW HARDY ANNUALS - If you’re looking for ideas try some traditional Meadow Flowers such as Scabosia, Cornflowers, Cosmos, Poppies or Clary Sage all of which are a welcome addition to a cottage garden or mixed boarder setting. Some other worthy contenders are Larkspur, Lobularia and Nemophila.
You can simply sow the seeds directly into the ground once it is warm enough, applying feed and dressing, and if the weather doesn’t provide rain, ensure they are well watered!
Alternatively, and especially if it’s a little cold, you can use trays/modules in a cold frame or cool greenhouse, and after a week or two these will have germinated, and can be moved onto individual plastic pots. If time runs against you, you can even skip a step leaving them in the trays/moulds a little longer, perhaps until they grow to 5-6 inches, and then plant handfuls directly in the ground.
HARDEN OFF EARLY STARTERS - Hardy Annuals previously sown under cover should be hardened off. A cold frame is ideal, gradually increase the ventilation over a week or 10 days. But if you don’t have a cold frame don’t worry, you can achieve the same results by moving the plants outdoors during the day and back to their cosy perch at night.
PLANT TENDER SUMMER FLOWERING BULBS - Bulbs (and Corms) such as Lilies, Gladioli and de Caen Anemones are a great for patio containers and, in mixed boarders they are a great filler plant between trees and shrubs which are a reasonably inexpensive way to achieve colour and depth. A handy trick is to plant them at set intervals to ensure an ongoing display of flowers instead of everything all at once.
DEADHEAD DAFFODILS - once the flowers fade, so that the plant energy can be used to build up the bulb’s reserves for next year. Do not cut the foliage yet.
NEW LAWN - If you are planting a new lawn or replanting an old one, toward the end of the month is the ideal time to sow the seed, or to lay the turf. Temperatures and moisture levels will be ideal. Of course you can lay turf at almost any time of the year, but if done this month considerably less aftercare is needed. The secret to a healthy new lawn is in both the preparation and the aftercare, and hopefully you are well on top of this already!
LAWN CARE - Feed your lawn not too long after the grass starts to grow (this really should have gone in the Essential Tasks article). Generally it is best to feed your lawn toward the end of the month, but do it once soil and air temperatures are right.
Rake/Scarify your lawn with the appropriate rake/machine if you didn’t manage to do it last autumn. This will remove thatch allowing air and light to promote healthy sword. If moss is present, remember to treat the moss first!
REPAIR BARE OR DAMAGED PATCHES IN LAWN - You can use seed or turf to repair a patch. Remember to match the surrounding grasses as closely as possible or your lawn will have “jigsaw effect.” Whether you use turf or seed the initial preparation is the same:
Cut out the damaged patch in a square and lightly dig the area.
When RESEEDING sprinkle good topsoil or compost over the area, scatter the seed, cover with topsoil or compost and water with a fine rose.
If using TURF, fit a correctly sized square of new turf, and water in with a fine rose.
In both cases ensure the new grass is flush with the surrounding grass. Oh…. and avoid trying either method within 24 hours of frost.
PREPARE VEGETABLE SEEDBEDS - The result you are looking for your hard work is a fine tilth. Ideally the soil won’t be too dry or too moist while you are working it. Getting the moisture balance right can sometimes be awkward! If it is a little wetter than you’d like, use boards to distribute your weight to avoid compacting the soil.
It is well worth applying an organic fertiliser such as seaweed while you are finishing this off, and do plan the application over sections a couple of weeks before sowing seed on the section.
You can pre-warm the soil to give your plantings a head start by covering with appropriate plastic sheeting.
PLANT VEGETABLES - Experienced vegetable growers more than likely have their own personalised schedules worked out, perhaps in tandem with their recipes, but if you’re just starting out remember to only plant a portion at a time (say every week or 10 days), so that you have a continual supply rather than a once off abundance from your vegetable garden. Remember also, that if it is a little cooler you should really wait a week or two before sowing. Let the weather and your soil guide you.
VEGETABLE SEEDS TO BEGIN PLANTING OUTSIDE - Lettuce, Peas, Spinach, Salad Onions, Broad Beans, Cabbage, Beetroot, Turnip, Radishes.
OTHER VEGETABLES TO PLANT OUTSIDE - Parsnips, Early Potatoes, Onion Sets, Asparagus Crowns, Carrots, Leeks and Cucumbers.
VEGETABLE SEEDS TO START (OR CONTINUE) TO PLANTING INDOORS - Lettuce, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Globe Artichoke.
CLEAN GLASSHOUSE WINDOWS - In a few short weeks your glasshouse will be filling up with beautiful plants, many of which are quite tall (tomatoes, peppers), and now is the last opportunity to clean the windows without a whole bunch more awkward reaching around and trying not to damage tender growth.
GREENHOUSE VEGETABLE PLANTING - At the end of the month sow tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in small pots or trays. 21ºC is the ideal temperature so you may want to consider a propagator.
OTHER GREENHOUSE PLANTING -
Sow Half Hardy Annuals such as Marigolds, Alyssum and Ageratum in the propagator.
Sow Tender Bedding such as gazanias and salvias.
BARE ROOT PLANTING - This is your last chance to finish any bare root planting. You may even find it difficult to place orders for bare root specimens at this stage. Of course you will still be able to plant potted plants so if you’ve missed the boat there is no need to despair.
PLANT OUT - You can declutter some of the items left overwintering in your greenhouse and/or cold frames by planting out overwintered perennials such as chives, parsley, marjoram etc…
March is a time for lots of action and activity in the garden, but I have no doubt that many of the above won’t apply to your garden, and some of the others can certainly be viewed as optional. So please don’t be discouraged by what might appear to be a long list!
There is no need to get remotely bogged down in all the jobs you could or should be doing in your garden. It is far more important to get out into the warmer weather and just enjoy it. And if you do need a little help with the digging, weeding, pruning, planting etc… give me a call, I personally provide garden services and maintenance in South County Dublin and would be delighted to help.