March is such an exciting month in the gardening calendar! It’s a time of new growth and seed planting.
It is also, unfortunately, a time of fast weed growth but if you can make a point of regularly hoeing or pulling weeds out when they are small you can keep them under control.
There are a masses of annual flower seeds you could plant from mid-March onwards, under cover – if you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse, Cold frame or sunny window sill – or some which can be sown directly into the garden.
There are a wide range of ‘Hardy Annuals’, that can be sown straight into the soil, where they are to bloom. Things like Cornflowers, Calendula (Pot Marigold), Annual Poppies and Nigella, are all simple to grow and can be planted now. Check your seed packets for those marked ‘Hardy Annual’ or with the letters HA to be sure, the Half Hardy and more tender annuals are better left until mid-April/May when the weather is more settled, unless you can raise them inside and then plant out when it’s warmer.
If you planted annuals last year and let them seed, you will notice seedlings starting to appear all by themselves from March onwards. Just nip out any that are in the wrong place and let the others grow on – the joy of free plants!
If you are sowing seeds straight into the garden it is sensible to plant them in several rows, rather than just scattering seed about on bare soil. This is because it is very difficult to tell weed seedlings apart from your treasured plant seedlings – if you sow in rows it is much simpler to see and remove the weeds. Don’t forget to label your sowings, it is amazing how quickly you forget what you put in where!
The easiest way to direct plant annuals is to draw a circle/oval shape in the soil – on the area you plan to grow in. Then score some lines within the shape. You then sow your seeds in these rows. Once the seeds are up thin each row out to give plants some space to grow – once the plant is fully grown the rows will disappear and it will look like a solid block of healthy plants.
March is a good time to decide on your summer bedding for pots and baskets. Plan what plants you will have and which colours to go for this year. Lyn in Bloom will be holding competitions again this summer, to reward the best displays, so it’s worth really going for it! There will be an announcement of our competition details next month.
As you see there is a lot to get excited about – BUT– beware of buying tender plants now, unless you can protect them from cold weather and biting wind. Tender annuals and perennials will be very easily killed outside before May – even in mild Lynton and Lynmouth the wind can burn young leaves and shrivel plants in minutes.
If you have a greenhouse you can have a lot of fun, and save money, by buying plug plants now and growing them on undercover. But if you haven’t got one then be patient and wait a little longer (very difficult with all those tempting plants in garden centres now!) Go instead for ‘Garden ready’ plants in May, this will save you a lot of heart ache and worry.
Have a good look at your garden regularly, to see what is doing well and what you can improve or change. One good tip is to take photographs once a month, from the same points in your garden, in this way you can see how it changes through the seasons – it is amazing what a difference each month makes.
This month perennials are coming into life and shrubs are getting leaves on them. It’s the time of bulbs, blossom and looking forward to summer blooms – but whatever you are doing make sure you find time to wander about with a cup of tea and enjoy each season as it comes.