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Spring into March
sowing & growing
March is the time for sowing your hardy annual seeds under cover. If you have a greenhouse, windowsill or conservatory, you can sow nearly everything in our range of hardy annual seeds.
You can sow some half-hardy annuals too, but wait until the middle of the month when the light levels are better and the nights are less cold.
Pinch out tips of winter-sown sweet peas to encourage sideshoots.
Prepare areas in flowerbeds ready for direct sowing hardy annuals in later March through to April.
The end of the month is the time for mass pricking out of annual seedlings. Transplant everything that has formed its true leaves (recognisably like that of the parent plant) into their own individual pot. Take care to get right below each baby plant and lift out the whole of its root with a dibber or stiff label. Handle everything by its leaves, not stem, which bruises very easily.
Take chrysanthemum cuttings (read our chrysanthemum growing guide).
Pot on rooted cuttings of tender perennial plants taken last summer.
Take cuttings of perennials – basal cuttings of phlox, delphiniums and other early-sprouting perennials.
bulbs & tubers
Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as lilies, gladioli, freesias, crocosmia, etc.
Lift snowdrops and aconites and divide them, in the green when they are just going over.
Plant dahlia tubers in pots under cover. If you only have one or two, plant them individually into a three-litre pot, so they can grow on happily until the frosts are finished and they can be planted in the garden. If you have lots, lay them out in a shallow tray, packed in tight, and cover the tubers with moist compost. They’ll start to sprout in a few weeks and you can then take cuttings.
Later in the month, start a regime of deadheading spring bulbs (e.g. narcissi, muscari and tulips) as the flowers finish. Leave the foliage to die back naturally to feed the bulb for next spring.
Lovely things to pick and arrange from your garden in March:
Bulbs: narcissi, muscari (grape hyacinths), hyacinths, early tulips eg ‘Purissima’, plus freesias and anemones under cover.
Hardy annuals: Euphorbia oblongata and, by the end of the month, cerinthe and schizanthus (inside).
Biennials: honesty and wallflowers.
Perennials: artichoke leaves, hellebores and polyanthus, plus alstroemerias (under cover).
pruning & tidying
Cut down old growth of perennials and grasses left over winter.
If soil is workable, dig in a layer of compost or manure, and work in a slow-release fertiliser such as comfrey pellets, chicken manure, or fish, blood and bone.
Weeds will have started to grow, so keep removing them whenever you can.
Split polyanthus after flowering.
Lift and divide your summer-flowering perennials – you can tell which ones you need to attend to by the large clumps that are pushing outwards from the ground with fresh young shoots at the edge of the clump.
Prune shrub roses – remove all dead and crossing wood on your rose bushes and cut the rest back by at least a half, aiming to cut just above an outward-facing bud.
Later in the month, clip box topiary and hedging in to shape if it looks unlikely that we’ll be having any hard frosts, at least in the South, so the danger of scorching new growth will hopefully have passed.
Prune young hedges – cut one or two-year-old hedges back by a third. This might feel brutal when you’re desperate for new growth, but will make a better hedge – thick and strong, even at the base, rather than one that is left tall and gangly with gaps at ground level.
Continue to deadhead hydrangeas before new growth appears. Cut to about one third of last season's growth.
Prune forsythia as soon as they have finished flowering, cutting back to strong, young shoots.
Plant a new hedge – now is a good time, particularly for a mixed native or hawthorn hedge. On heavy soils, trials have proven that plants establish better from planting now than they do in autumn or winter, when the roots can sit and sulk in the cold.
Plant herbaceous perennials including those for picking, e.g. delphiniums.
Order and plant bare root roses – much cheaper and often stronger growers than pot-grown plants. You can plant bare root roses in March, but wait till there is no frost on the ground. Or you can pot up your bare root roses into large pots to grow on and plant them into the garden almost any time – as long as you keep them well watered.