March Gardening Jobsi
Garden Jobs in March: How to Prepare Your Garden for Spring
March marks the beginning of spring and the days are getting longer and lighter — meaning there are more opportunities in the garden.
It’s time to start planning for the warmer months by sowing seeds, tidying up, and pruning shrubs, while still being wary of the occasional frost.
To help you get prepared for the growing season, we’ve put together a checklist of the top garden jobs to do in March. Our Managing Director at Hedges Direct, Jamie Shipley, has also shared his expert tips on how to tackle your March to-do list.
- Trees, hedges, and shrubs
- Garden maintenance
- Pests and diseases?
Top garden jobs to do in March
Trees, hedges, and shrubs
- Plant and prune roses
Flowering hedges like Dog Rose can bring colour and life to your outdoor space and March is the perfect time to add them to your garden.
Dog Rose can be purchased in different forms including:
- Bare-root rose plants - These are grown in the soil before they are dug up when dormant in early autumn. They are then packed without soil around the root and sold in bundles. This is a cheaper option than pot-grown rose plants.
- Pot-grown rose plants - These are grown in a container and can be purchased all year round. Although more expensive than bare roots, pot-grown roses are a quick way to add colour to your garden.
While pot-grown roses can be planted all year round, bare roots can be planted up to March. This will give your rose shrub time to establish before the growing season begins in spring. Just make sure you’re not planting too soon in winter, as the frozen ground can damage your newly planted rose shrub. Learn more about planting and caring for bare-root plants here.
Pruning your rose plants can encourage flowering and a healthier overall appearance. March is the ideal time to do this, as you’ll be able to see what you’re doing more clearly before new growth begins.
To prune, start by removing any dead or weak stems which appear brown, as this will prevent any disease from spreading. It will also allow your plant to focus on new growth instead of wasting nutrients and energy on dead stems. Your rose shrub may also need deadheading — the process of removing brown or wilted flowers to encourage reblooming in spring.
To deadhead your rose shrub, simply cut off the flower head with secateurs — just above a healthy leaf. The new bloom will grow from this shoot.
If a flower within a cluster of roses has died, snip it off. Once all the flowers in the group have faded, cut off the whole stem.
Although well-established roses can tolerate hard pruning, newly planted shrubs won’t need much attention. Aim to prune the first winter after planting.
You can find out more about how to prune rose shrubs with our guide.
- Prune shrubs
Pruning is a great way to keep your shrubs looking healthy come spring.
March may be the last chance to get the job done before new growth begins, so it’s one thing to get ticked off your list.
|Summer-flowering deciduous shrubs ||These shrubs, including buddleja davidii, caryopteris clandonensis, and hardy fuchsia, should be pruned between January and March when they are dormant. The leaves will have fallen from your shrub, making it easier to identify areas that need attention. This will also promote healthy growth in spring.|
|Winter-flowering deciduous shrubs||Prune winter-flowing shrubs, like jasminum nudiflorum, after the flowers have died in late winter, but before new buds begin to form. This will improve flowering the following year.|
|Evergreen shrubs ||Although April is the best time to prune most evergreen shrubs, hardier plants like cherry laurel can be tackled in late winter if needed. Just make sure the weather is mild and there are no signs of frost, as this could damage your plants.|
To learn more, read our beginner's guide on how and when to trim a hedge.
- Prune dogwood
Cornus — better known as dogwood — works well as a hedging plant and can brighten up your garden during winter thanks to its colourful stems.
Late February to early March is the best time to prune, before leaves begin to appear on the stems.
Newly planted dogwood won’t need pruning until around three years when the plant begins to thicken and become congested. Before this, your plant will be weak, thin, and still establishing, so pruning could damage or even kill it.
However, older, dull, and congested dogwood plants that haven’t been well maintained, will benefit from hard pruning. This will stimulate healthy growth and help keep the stem colours vibrant.
Start by cutting off any stems at the base of the plant that appear brown and dry. You’ll probably need to use a sharp pair of loppers for this, as the stems are likely to be thick and difficult to cut.
Then, you’ll want to cut back any remaining stems to around six inches above the ground. You should only need a pair of secateurs for this task, as the stems will probably be a lot thinner.
Fertilising and mulching the soil after pruning will help your dogwood to retain moisture and encourage vigorous growth as temperatures start to rise in spring.
Read our guide to dogwood hedging plants to learn more.
- Divide summer-flowering perennials
Dividing plants can promote new growth as well as thicken and fill any gaps in your bushes. You’ll also get new plants for free!
Although summer-flowering perennials like lavender and potentilla can be divided in spring or autumn, doing this in early spring usually provides the best results. Mid-March marks the beginning of the growing season, so dividing during this time will allow your perennials to establish themselves more quickly in their new home.
The soil should also be slightly moist in early spring, making it easier to work with than soggy soil.
To divide and replant your perennials, use the following steps as a guide:
- Make sure your plants are well watered - Dividing your plants after a rainy spell — or after soaking the soil with a watering can — will ensure your plant roots are hydrated, limiting stress. This will also make it easier to lift your flowers, as the soil will clump together.
- Dig up the plants - Using a garden fork or spade, gently lift a plant, shaking off any excess soil. Repeat this for all of the plants you want to divide. Small plants, such as heuchera, can be lifted easily with a spade. However, large perennials, like hemerocallis, may require two garden forks on either side of the plant to remove it from the ground.
- Separate the plant - Tear the plant to divide the roots, you may need to use a knife if the roots are growing tightly together. Aim for around three to five shoots for each plant.
- Replant each section - Replant your new shoots in the same depth of soil as before and water well. Do this as soon as possible to keep the roots from drying out.
- Use mulch - Adding mulch to the top of the soil can help retain moisture and nutrients, aiding root establishment before the warmer growing season.
- Plant deciduous hedging plants and evergreen shrubs
Spring time may be your last chance to plant deciduous hedging. Deciduous plants will be dormant, so planting during this time will help them establish and become strong enough to support growth come spring.
The most common deciduous hedging species to plant in March include:
Evergreen shrubs grow best in mild weather with plenty of rain, so mid-March is an ideal time to plant.
The most common evergreen shrubs to plant in March include:
Delay planting if the ground is icy or waterlogged, as this could stop the roots from establishing quickly, hindering growth or even killing the plant.
Harsh winds can also rock your new plant, resulting in holes in the soil that expose the roots to the drying air. To prevent this, you can use stakes — sticks usually made from wood — to support your newly planted shrub.
To do this, hammer a single stake around 60cm into the ground next to your shrub, being careful not to damage any plant roots. You should then use garden twine or ties to attach the stake, around two-thirds of the way up the shrub. You could also add more stakes around your plant if it needs some extra support.
- Top-dress any plants growing in containers
Roots that have overgrown their container will need repotting, as this could hinder growth.
However, if your plant is healthy, but the soil is looking dry or old, topdressing can replenish the nutrients. Doing this will also help to retain moisture, keeping your plant from drying out.
The beginning of spring is the best time to do this, as your plants will be able to make use of the nutrients during the growing season.
To topdress your container plant, follow these steps:
- Remove any dead leaves from the top of the soil
- Use a small trowel or your fingers to scrape the soil, and gently remove around five centimetres of the compost.
- Add the new compost, topping up the amount of soil that was there before.
- Water your plant gently.
During years when they don’t need repotting, topdressing will give plants a boost in nutrients for healthy growth.
- Plant flower bulbs
Spring is the best time to plant summer-flowering bulbs directly into the ground when the soil is just warming up. This will allow them time to establish and flower come summer.
As long as the frost has passed, gladiolus bulbs can be planted from early March to late April. These will produce beautiful flowers come June.
Although Gladiolus can withstand cold temperatures, they grow and bloom best in mild conditions.
Lily bulbs usually bloom through summer and autumn, depending on the type, so should be planted from late autumn to early April. Therefore, March is nearly your last chance.
Lilies are very hardy, so they can cope with the cold temperatures of late winter.
Although ranunculus bulbs can be planted in autumn for spring flowering, they can also be planted in early spring for summer flowering.
New bulbs can cope with light frost during March. However, if temperatures are still considerably low, wait until the weather has warmed up a little to prevent damage.
Planting in an area of your garden that gets the sun will encourage vigorous growth.
- Sow flower seeds
Hardy annuals - flowers which carry out their life cycle within one season or year and are most tolerant of light spring frosts — are best sown between March and May.
Flowers which benefit from being sown during this time include:
- Sweet peas
- Centaurea cyanus (cornflowers)
Fine soil is needed so the plants can easily break through the surface to find the sunlight they need. Any lumps or obstructions will waste their small energy reserves, killing them before they reach the surface.
To sow flower seeds, use the following simple steps as a guide:
- If the soil is dry, break it gently by using the back of a pitchfork to remove any large clumps. Remove any stones or weeds, as this could hinder your seedlings’ growth.
- Create a shallow drill (line) in the soil using a trowel — you’ll need to check your seed packet for the correct depth. Straight rows make it easier to care for your plants, so use string or length of timber to guide you.
- Following the space suggestion on the packet, place the seeds along the drill.
- Refill the drill with the soil you removed and gently pat down with your hand to firm.
- Water along the drill using a watering can.
You can also sow your seeds by broadcasting, which involves scattering them over the soil. Although this is quicker and easier than drilling, seeds can be wasted, and growth often appears uneven.
- Take action against weeds
As well as being an eyesore, weeds can hinder your plant’s growth when they're competing for nutrients in the soil.
Although weed control should be carried out all year round, doing this early in spring will prevent them from thriving in the warmer months.
Weeds can either be annual or perennial, and this will determine how you deal with them.
- Annual weeds - Weeds that last for one growing cycle, producing seeds for the next year. Breaking the surface of the soil gently with a hoe is usually enough to kill these types of weeds. Don’t wait until large weeds grow - hoeing every week or two will kill seedlings before growth begins. Doing this when the soil is dry will prevent the seedlings from re-rooting in the wet soil where they thrive.
- Perennial weeds - Weeds that have a longer life cycle and recur year after year. These should be forked out, removing all of the roots. Adding a layer of mulch - material usually made from dead plants like compost or grass clippings - over the soil after doing this will keep weeds under the surface. They will usually die due to suffocation and lack of sunlight. Deep-rooted and persistent weeds can be difficult to kill, so weed killers may also be needed.
- Mow the lawn
As temperatures rise in mid-March, you may notice your grass growing faster. Therefore, you can begin mowing again but cut lightly and keep the grass fairly long to keep moisture in during the warmer months.
Ensure that temperatures are mild enough, as mowing with any signs of frost on your lawn could cause unnecessary damage when your grass is most vulnerable. This could result in brown, withering grass or even death.
Mowing should only be required every two weeks in March and April, rising to once a week in May.
To learn more, read our guide on how to keep your lawn looking healthy.
Pests and diseases
Although slugs are around all year, their activity increases during warmer, wetter weather.
This is particularly a problem in spring as slugs can kill your new seedlings by eating them. They can also destroy new growth in herbaceous plants and create holes in tender leaves.
Slugs can often be controlled by:
- Moving them - Handpicking slugs in the evening and moving them to less vulnerable areas of your garden will prevent damage to new growth.
- Raking soil - Raking your soil every so often will expose slugs to predators.
- Create a slug-free zone - Keep all your vulnerable new plants in one area, and prioritise protecting these from slugs. You can add copper barriers known to repel slugs or textured mulch they find difficult to travel over to this area of your garden.
- Biological control - Biological controls that contain microscopic nematodes will infect slugs with bacteria, killing them. Water on the soil in the evening for effects that usually last up to six weeks.
- Caterpillars and aphids
Pests like caterpillars and aphids are found mainly around spring and summer and can damage your plants by eating them.
- Caterpillars - These insects can chew on and eat the leaves or roots of your plants, hindering growth. Picking caterpillars off leaves and moving them to less vulnerable areas of your garden, or attracting predators that eat them with nest boxes can control the problem. Using biological control can also be used to kill them.
- Aphids - Aphids are small insects that like to feed on new growth, making them a risk to growing plants in spring. In large numbers, aphids can weaken plants, causing yellow discolouration and wilting. A few aphids on your plant aren’t usually a problem, but encouraging wildlife into your garden will keep their numbers to a minimum. You should also avoid killing wasps — they tend to eat aphids, making them an important insect-controlling predator.
Learn more about popular pests and diseases to look out for here.
- Box blight
Box blight is a disease that affects box hedging plants, caused by fungal infections. This results in the leaves of plants turning brown and eventually falling off.
To prevent and control box blight you should do the following.
- Dispose of infected leaves - Check for white spores on the underside of leaves, as this could indicate infection. Remove and dispose of them immediately in the bin.
- Disinfect pruning tools - If tools have come in contact with infected plants, disinfect them after use to prevent potential spread.
- Keep on top of pruning - Pruning once a year will provide better circulation to your plants, reducing the risk of disease which thrives in damp conditions.
Read more about box blight and caring for box hedging here.
Moles often begin to appear at the beginning of spring, leaving unsightly hills on the grass.
This can be a problem for garden owners, as tunnelling can also disturb the roots of seedlings and other small plants, potentially killing them.
Although moles should be treated as a normal aspect of wildlife, excessive damage to your garden can be controlled by using electronic ultrasonic devices. These repellent devices create a high-pitched buzzing noise, which aims to drive moles away from the garden.
If you’re wondering how to deal with the inevitable showers in the coming month and stay on top of your outdoor to-do list, take a look at our top garden jobs to do in April.
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