Muddy gardens: What to do in March
Spring has sprung. The daffodils are here, and the bluebells are on their way. But there’s a definite feeling that something more is to come – like perhaps some warmer weather. In the meantime, if your garden is anything like mine, you may need to perform a little surgery to bring it back to its best. And the lovely Andy Mills, head gardener at Painshill, the 18th-century landscape garden in Cobham created by Charles Hamilton, is just the chap to advise us on what we should be doing. Andy had been leading the gardening team at Painshill since March 2014, and has a varied gardening career behind him, from the seven-acre garden at the National Trusts’ Packwood House, near Lapworth in Warwickshire, to a 3,000 acre private estate in Dorset. This is what Andy suggests we should be doing in our gardens this month.
The grass is always greener
March is a good time to start giving your lawn some care and attention. First of all mow the lawn on a high setting to remove the winter debris. You will then need to aerate it, which will help roots to grow deeper and will create a much stronger lawn. You can do this by making small holes (using a border fork) which will allow air, water and nutrients to reach the roots. You then need to scarify the lawn to remove debris and weeds before feeding it with spring lawn food. You could also apply a moss killer if required at this time.
Weed and feed
You can also start giving your flower beds some much needed attention. Obviously weeding is required but then feeding and mulching beds will retain moisture, improve soil structure and start to warm the soil earlier allowing for plants to get going.
This time of the year is your last chance to plant bare-root trees. In addition it is also a good idea to check stakes and ties on any trees you planted at the back end of last year.
Who let the dogs out?
If you have Cornus (Dogwoods) which you grow for the winter stem colour you are best to prune them now to promote new growth. If you have a Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ then leave it – it won’t respond in the same way as the other varieties.
You should also remove leaves from Hellebores and Epimediums which will help the flowers to develop and will encourage fresh new leaves. This will also remove places where pests such as mice and slugs can hide whilst they eat the new flower buds.
Talking of pests – now is a good time to dig over vegetable plots to allow the frost and winter rain to penetrate and break up the structure, this will also expose pest eggs (slugs) to predators. If you fancy a bit of spring cleaning then clean out your indoor growing space ready for sowing and growing.
Divide and conquer
In addition now is the time spread out your snowdrops. A great way to encourage an even better show for the future is to lift and divide them for replanting. Dig up the clump, split the root ball into roughly the size of a satsuma and replant at about 2-3 inches deep. I suggest scattering some general purpose fertilizer around after planting to feed them, and if it does not rain give them a good soaking to wash it in and feed them as they die back.
Put the kettle on…
Lastly, make yourself a hot drink find a warm cosy spot and settle down with the seed catalogues, make a list, and order some delights for 2016.