I know it has been a wild and wet winter but there are an awful lot of plants out there flowering fit to bust! Some of the winter and spring bedding has taken a beating but pansies and violas are so resilient that they quickly recover with a few days good weather. March is the perfect time for a garden spring clean after the winter, re-invigorating and livening up existing flower beds, borders and containers. Pansies are the perfect spring plants – along with primulas, forget-me-nots and wallflowers and are perfect contenders for patio pots, hanging baskets and window boxes, ideal and easy to plant.
Pansies and violas are two of the most popular bedding plants and are great for filling the gaps in borders once you have cleared away bedraggled or dead plants. Their names are often used interchangeably. Plants considered to be pansies have four petals pointing upwards, and only one pointing down. Violets have three petals pointing up and two pointing down.
Both are hardy annuals that offer colourful flowers in your garden. They both need watering regularly and need to be planted in moist, well-drained soil.
Pansies and violas like sun and cooler temperatures. Make sure you remove fade or dead flowers to prolong blooming and encourage more flowers to grow bringing a joy of spring to a garden following cold winter months.
Jobs for the Month
There have been so few days this year so far that encourage gardening, so the job list is a real mix of what should have been done as well as what needs to be done.
Clearing, pruning, weeding, feeding and mulching would cover it! |In the flower beds, the dead growth from last year should be cut back before the new growth gets too far ahead, especially with ornamental grasses and clumps of perennials. Spring flowering shrubs should be left until after they have flowered but any overgrown summer shrubs could be thinned out by removing old wood (take out about a third of the plant) or cutting back low the fast growing Spiraeas and Buddlejas. Perennial weeds usually need to be dug out unless you can apply a systemic weed killer such as glyphosate, without touching other plants. If you do use a weed killer then be sure to let it do its job properly; don’t apply it if its is going to rain in the next 6 hours, and let the plant die back before you tidy it away.
Feeding and mulching are the best way to make your garden ‘grow’, a slow release multipurpose feed such as Vitax Q4, TopRose or Miracle-Gro Granular is ideal, or if you prefer a liberal dressing of Blood Fish and Bonemeal. The best mulch would be your own well-rotted garden compost from your carefully tended compost heap, bagged re-cycled green waste or bark mulch. All of these work well keeping the weeds at bay, retaining moisture and feeding the soil over a longer period of time. Summer flowering bulbs and corms such as lilies, gladioli and dahlias can be planted out later in March, and overgrown perennials lifted, divided and replanted.
In the edible garden, fruits trees and bushes are budding up nicely, but the soils may still be too wet to cultivate. It really does need to dry up a bit but from experience it will happen and when it does it will happen quickly.
The soil can be improved with addition of grit and organic manure. If you have time, energy and the materials then raised beds are worth making. They don’t have to be too big, even 1m x 50cm would make a useful space, and raised beds are very much more productive as they are easier to cultivate and maintain.
If you are working on small beds then sow some early leaf crops indoors to get a head start, quick maturing salads and spinach are usually successful. Root crops such as early carrots and beetroot are usually best sown direct as they don’t transplant quite so well.
Potato growers should have their selected seed potatoes set out in a light frost free place to chit [letting the shoots start to grow]. The early varieties can probably be planted out early to mid-March if the weather is good and the soil temperature is rising. A soil thermometer is a useful thing to have as ideally the temperature should be over 7oC and rising. Onion sets and shallots can go in now as they are quite tough. Birds love to pull them out as they start to grow so either firm them in really well or protect them with a layer of fleece until, they have put roots down.
Here’s a few other jobs to tackle – if you have a pond, check the plants in baskets before they start to grow. If they need dividing and replanting use an aquatic compost. Well-established pond plants can be fed with a special aquatic plant tablet that is formulated for pond use and doesn’t encourage the growth of algae.
Finally the lawn; give it a light trim on a dry day and see what treatment it needs. A complete weed, feed and mosskill will sort most problems especially if used alongside a good raking over and aeration using a fork, then reseed bare or thin patches or re-turf as this is often an easier and economic option.