What to do in the Garden in March

Prune Winter Flowering Shrubs

The general rule with shrub pruning is to reduce by one third once a year just after flowering and then to give it a hard prune once every few years (or when it starts to look too dense).

How to prune shrubs:

First, remove all dead, diseased or very old wood, crossing/rubbing branches or inward growing branches. Dead wood is brittle and often already broken in places. A gardener’s rule for testing on less obvious wood is to carefully scrape back a small fragment of bark either with a knife or with your finger nail – if it’s green underneath it’s alive, if it’s brown underneath it’s dead.

Removing old wood is necessary for all types of shrub: Hypericum, Spirea, Rose, Viburnum or Lonicera to name just a few. It opens up what could be a densely packed shrub into a lighter, more airy plant that not only looks a lot better, but keeps the plant healthy by giving the young, more promising growth room to grow and put on a good show throughout the year.

Removing rubbing/crossing branches:

Always remove the branch that is smaller, weaker or less attractive. If the branches have been rubbing, one may be more damaged than the other in which case that is the one that should be removed.

The ideal shape for any shrub or tree is to imagine what it looks like from above. It should be circular with evenly spaced branches all the way round without any growing across each other.

Remove inward growing branches:

This is a particular occurance with roses. The perfect rose bush should look circular from above, with all the stems evenly spaced in a radial pattern. Sometimes rose branches break from an inward facing bud producing a branch growing the wrong way right through the centre of the shrub. This should be removed.


Trees and large shrubs may require the use of a small hand saw. Always cut branches at the ‘collar’ of the join (where the branch joins on to the main stem/main branch) - cut just above the collar.

 


 

Always cut twice on big branches:

When removing any large branches from a tree always make your first cut up to 12” away from the main stem/branch. Also, make a small cut on the underside of the branch slightly further in towards the trunk. If the weight of the branch breaks as you’re cutting it, instead of tearing down the length of the trunk it will only tear until the cut on the underside. The stump left behind can be sawn off safely afterwards.

When pruning Hazel shrubs, keep any of the fan shaped branches as these make very effective plant supports for medium sized perennials. Push the branch into the ground around your perennials so the fanned branches create a ‘cage’ that will hold and support your perennials as they grow. Hazel is a very hard wood and can be used for years to stake perennials.

 

Lawn Care

Mowing

In case there wasn’t an opportune time in February to mow your lawn, March might look to be a better bet. The lawn may be looking a little tatty after the worst of the weather has passed and may be littered with fallen twigs and the last of last year’s leaves. On a dry day start by picking up the larger debris by hand and then run the mower over the lawn on a high setting. Edges of the lawn on pathways and borders may also need a trim and you’ll be amazed at how this improves the entire appearance of your garden.


Lawns should not be cut when wet, if your lawn remains wet and dewy all day but it really needs a cut, you can either go over it with a broom to brush off excess water helping it to dry quicker, or go over it with a leaf blower. If this is done in the morning your lawn should be dry enough to cut in the afternoon.


Fill patches with lawn seed

Sometimes it just takes a few fallen leaves to accumulate on the lawn to smother the grass eventually killing it off, leaving a bare patch visible. Once you’ve managed to run the mower over the lawn and tidy up any debris it is the perfect time to tackle this problem. Use a rake to ‘fluff-up’ the surface of the bare patch to give a tilth in which to sow your seed. Then throw on a generous handful of good quality lawn seed and rake it into the soil. Finally, give your seed a can-full of water and cover with fleece or polythene to accelerate germination (and also to reduce the amount that will be eaten by birds).


Trim edges

Use edging shears to cut any tufty edges around beds, borders, paths or patios.

 

Early season mowing: When mowing at this time of year the ground may be very soft and the grass can be very uneven and tufty. Therefore, adjust your mower to a high setting and just cut the top of the grass. Cutting too low can cause the grass to be ripped out of the ground leaving you with bare patches.

 

Apply mulch to young trees

This is especially good for trees planted within the last five years. Apply either well-rotted manure or leaf-mould around the base of the trunk (avoiding contact with the trunk if possible). Once the mulch is applied soak with water to carry some of the nutrients down to the roots straight away.

 

Provide support for perennials

 

It’s a good idea to provide supports for your perennials to grow into while they’re still small. One effective method is to position canes or stakes around tall-growing perennials and weave twine around them to create a ‘web’. As the perennials grow they will become entwined within the web, holding them together and supporting them. Any that become loose can be tied in as and when needed.

 

Pinch out spring bedding plants

To ensure your spring bedding plants grow into healthy, bushy plants with lots of flowers they need to be pinched out. It’s easy to do, simply pinch off the growing tip above a lower down node (where the plant branches out) about half way up the stem. This can be done with your thumb and forefinger.

 

Apply mulch to roses

Roses need plenty of feed to give maximum display through the summer and applying a good layer of mulch to your rose beds is a great way of giving them all the nutrients they’ll need. You can either put a layer of mulch over the entire bed or just apply a smaller amount around the base of each rose. One you have applied your mulch, give your roses a generous helping of water so they can start absorbing some of the nutrients straight away.

 

 

Dead-head Daffodils

As soon as the flowers on your Daffodils start to look past their best, pull them off by hand. The energy the plant saves by not having to ‘die-back’ and produce a seed head will be put to good use in the bulb, giving you a bigger display next year.

 

 

 

 

 


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