March is one of the busiest times in the vegetable garden. It is also an excellent time to start a herb plot and if you have some cloches or cold frames for protection, all the better. Ideally use the herbs as fresh as possible by creating a herb garden close to the kitchen door.
01. The weather in March can be very fickle, so don’t sow all your seeds in one go. A classic example is the parsnip. Many like to sow it very early and then complain about slow or poor germination. We always sow later, even mid-April and the emergence rate is significantly better!
02. Sow suitable varieties early e.g. Boltardy Beetroot, Resistafly or Flyaway Carrots. Lots of brassicas (cabbage family) can be sown now, either in trays or in seedbeds to be drawn for transplants later. Broadbeans should be sown in early March.
03. With all seeds take precautions against slugs when sowing. Don’t wait until emergence as often mortal damage will have been done already to the tender seed leaves.
04. Lettuce should be sown successionally. You can use the thinnings to eat or as transplants. Transplanting will delay harvesting which will help keep a sequence of fresh crop. Cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins and celeriac also can be started in the greenhouse.
05. Sweetpea plants can be planted out now and sweetpea seed sown outdoors (beware of mice and birds). Many herbaceous perennial seeds as well as annuals can be started now. N.B. when sowing seeds outdoors, don’t be too keen to over-firm the soil cover. In South Wales the rain will usually do that for you and seeds don’t emerge well from under a ‘cap.’
06. In late March, gladioli can be planted, grouping the corms 15cm apart and 10cm deep. Put sharp sand in the hole base to prevent waterlogging and chance of rot.
07. A light dressing of general fertiliser will benefit fruit, flowers and vegetable plots now and also the lawn (if you like lawn mowing). If you have shrubs and trees to plant in March, ensure the roots do not dry out. Soak for 5 minutes in a bucket of water if bare root. If in pots, only tap the plants out immediately before planting so that the root hairs do not dry out.
08. Keep your soft fruit and other trees free of weeds as much as possible to reduce competition for soil nutrients. A light mulch of compost or straw manure helps suppress weeds, holds in moisture and feeds the trees and shrubs. Also prune Hydrangea paniculata, Cornus alba and Salix this month.
09. Rose pruning can be undertaken to keep climbers and bushes open and airy. However, check varietal requirements.
10. Buying Plants. Hold off buying frost tender plants e.g. bedding plants until later in April. Many will have been started off under glass or polytunnels and late severe weather can quickly curtail their establishment. In late March it is safer to purchase herbaceous perennials as less expensive plants in slightly smaller pots which will very quickly catch up with many of the larger plants. With all purchases, check that there is good root development.
Norman Jenkins & Claire Jenkins (MCIHort)
Bordervale Plants, Ystradowen, Cowbridge, CF71 7SX
01446 774036Back to Readers Corner
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