Down to earth advice for Derbyshire’s Gardeners - March

Spring is here, the garden should be a warmer more pleasant place to work and there are several jobs to be carried out this month in preparation for the summer months.

Spring Bulbs:  
Many spring bulbs will be flowering this month so it’s worthwhile taking notes of which varieties provide the best display and if required, more bulbs can be ordered later in the year to add to the display. Once the bulbs have finished flowering, leave the foliage to die back naturally and do not remove leafs until they have turned brown. This might look unsightly for a period but will help the bulb build up its food reserves and produce stronger flowers next year.

Herbaceous Plants
Overgrown clumps of herbaceous perennials can be lifted, split and replanted this month before too much new growth appears. Ideally, plants that have been growing in same position for a few years should be split, discarding the older parts of the plants and planting the young, fresh growths. Take this opportunity to remove the roots of any weeds, like couch grass that may be growing through your herbaceous plants.    

Prior to planting herbaceous plants, make sure the soil is free of weed roots and work plenty compost into the soil. As the new soft shoots emerge they will attract slugs. Provide some form of protection with slug traps or slug pellets.

The grass will be growing this month and may need to be cut before it gets too long. General purpose lawns can be cut to 3cm (1.25in) in spring and fine lawns cut to 2cm (0.75in). Later in spring the
lawns can be cut shorter.  Avoid scalping the grass (especially at lawn edges). Apart from looking unsightly, this encourages moss and weakens the grass. Weeds come back in to growth this month - deal with them before they get out of hand, carefully dig out perennial weeds and their full root system using a hand fork, don’t forget to tidy up any damage done to the soil when removing weeds from lawn or more weed seeds may
germinate. Gently rake the grass with a spring-tined rake, taking care not to tear it. This removes winter debris and lifts grass and weed foliage for efficient cutting. Bare patches on the lawn attract weeds, so re-sow them in spring. Use a garden fork to break up the soil surface, then firm and level it before applying an appropriate grass seed. Water newly seeded areas regularly, if necessary. Another method for covering bare patches is to use a strip of lawn from a rich growing area to patch the bare area (you'll need to re-sow the area where it came from). Avoid frost when carrying out these tasks.

Shrub Border:
Shrubs grown for their colourful winter stems, Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow) should be pruned now. Cut them back to around 30 cm (12 inches) this will allow new coloured stems to grow for next
year’s colourful display.

Kitchen Garden:
'Early' varieties of potatoes can be planted in the early part of the month followed by the main varieties next
month. The shallots and onion sets started into growth in a cool glasshouse can be hardened off ready for planting out. They will still need protection from frost.

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