March in the Garden

Rose Jeremy polytunnelWe are under way with some more of the outdoor sowing. I only really plant garlic, onion sets and shallots in February. The soil is too cold for anything else outside. But when March comes around there can be some nice warm days and that warmth is exactly what is needed to get things moving.

I plant all my potatoes this month. They all go in at the same time and I get them harvested as soon as I can because the plan is to try and avoid the blight. This is the mild south west of England. Late blight is endemic, it will come no matter what so potatoes that are still in the ground in September are sure to become infected. I want them harvested and bagged up by July.

Broad beans and early peas can be sown too. They are vulnerable to mice when it is cold so the warmer the weather the better because they get growing quicker. I sow some in boxes in the tunnel in February for planting out in March but those are in a hanging tray, suspended from the metal arches, safe from the little nibblers.

Any dividing or transplanting should be finished off this month.  There is a pattern of dry springs happening at the moment and you don’t want to be leaving this work until April because it can get warm and dry very quickly. Watering is not something to add to the list of to do’s when you are coming into the busiest time of the year in the garden.

If you didn’t sow sweet peas in the autumn then now is the moment. Most of the other annual flowers for the garden can be left until later in the month or into April but sweet peas don’t mind cool temperatures. A good trick is to soak them for a couple of hours in hot water before you sow. This helps break the dormancy.

When the dry, windy March weather comes along, and it always does, it is a good time to investigate the compost heap and see how much you can get on the garden. Or at least separate out to use in pots. You may have done this in February if the weather allowed. It gives you a chance to work out how much you need for the growing season ahead.

March is a long month during which the weather can be very changeable. The sun is warm when it comes out but in that clear weather the high pressure often leads to overnight frosts so you need to be careful. I always feel that patience is a good virtue to keep this month and it is better to work on the infrastructure and getting ready rather than tear into mass sowing and plantings of things that won’t enjoy the cold temperatures that March can often bring. Don’t forget – everything always catches up!

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