Top gardening tips for March 2013
Now’s the time of year to plan what you’ll do with your garden, so here are some top tips for this month plus new plants to look out for in garden centres
In the flower garden
- Prune hardy fuchsias unless you want them to grow really tall. Simply cut all of last years stems down to within 5cm (2in) of their bases and new shoots will soon replace them. A handful of general-purpose fertiliser will give them a boost.
- Plant sweet peas into well-conditioned soil, but set supports in place first. You can buy obelisks or make them using five 1.8m (6ft) rustic sticks or canes pushed into the soil in a 60cm (2ft) diameter circle, tied in at the top.
- Plant gladioli corms into well-worked soil. For informal borders, set them in groups 10-15cm (4-6in) apart and 5cm (2in) deep. Be sure to mark the spot to avoid treading on the shots as they emerge.
- To encourage new growth from low down, remove about a third of the oldest stems of winter-flowering shrubs, such as mahonia, Lonicera fragrantissima and Viburnum x bodnantense, pruning as near to the ground as possible.
- To increase stock and promote flowering, split and divide herbaceous perennials, replanting only the most vigorous outer portions into refreshed soil.
- Cut back ornamental grasses and perennials that were left for winter interest to make way for new growth.
- Prune lavender and Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ to the lowest point where new growth is emerging to keep plants bushy.
New flowers to try this year
Dahlia ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’
Large blooms up to 7cm (3in) across, each boasting a distinctive ‘collar’ of secondary florets in a contrasting colour. These half-hardy perennial bushy plants are ideal for border or container and reach about 50-60cm (20-24in) high. Sow seeds from now until April and watch them blossom from July to September.
Pansy ‘Summer Berries’
Strong, upright plants bearing masses of large pastel blooms all summer. In shades of pink, yellow and mauve, including some tricolours, with deep faces shading to light pink and lavender. These half-hardy annual or biennial grows 20cm (8in) tall. Sow seeds May-July outdoors to bloom the following spring, or until April under glass to flower May-September this same year.
Phlox ‘Moody Blues’
A lovely mix containing a range of blue shades highlighted by a small percentage of white. Plants produce a profusion of flowers over a long season. Ideal for borders, pots or baskets. Half-hardy annual that grows 35cm (14in) tall. Sow until April under glass for flowers June-September, or September to flower May-July next year.
Large sulphur-yellow flowers with greyish green foliage. Remove old flower spikes to encourage re-blooming. This award-winning plant grows 1.5m (5ft) and is best at the back of your border. Plant now for flowers June-September and for many years to come.
Achillea ‘Summer Berries Improved’
A huge colour range, including bright and pastel shades plus stunning bicolours. Compact growing, it creates impressive ‘domes’ of blooms throughout summer. This half-hardy perennial grows 60cm (2ft). Sow now for flowers in August-October, or sow April-July to flower following year.
Petunia ‘Tumbelina Fragrant Mix’
A British-bred plant that’s a must for hanging baskets and patio containers, producing mounded, trailing plants that are very free-flowering. The beautiful double blooms come in three harmonious colours (creamy white, blue vein and rose pink) all of which are deliciously scented.
In the edible garden
- Plant early potato varieties, setting the tubers so that the new shoots are pointing upwards. Space them 40cm (16in) apart in rows 45cm (18in) apart, with the tubers 10-15cm (4-6in) deep.
- Sow beetroot seed as long as the soil has dried out enough to create a seedbed. Take out a straight drill 2cm (3/4in) deep and space the capsules thinly, as each contains up to four seeds. Thin afterwards to 5cm (2in).
- Sow a pea like ‘Early Onward’ towards the end of the month. Mark the row with a garden line, then use a draw hoe to take out a 10cm (4in) wide drill on either side of the line. Space seeds 5cm (2in) apart and cover.
- Feed fruit trees and bushes with bonemeal before mulching with well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost.
New fruit and veg to grow this year
Runner bean ‘Stardust’
These unique beans are the result of an expert cross between a runner and a French bean, giving all the best qualities from each. They have the excellent self-pollinating habit of the French bean combined with the superb flavour of a runner. Stardust gives you masses of white flowers on vigorous plants that set well to produce deliciously tender stringless beans and give you a reliable crop no matter what the weather.
With great sweetness and very few seeds, these red and yellow peppers are perfect for popping in to children’s lunchboxes. The plants crop prolifically, have a compact habit and are well suited to container growing. They’re perfect for stuffing too.
Chilli ‘Norfolk Naga’
Chillis come in all shapes and sizes with heat ratings from ‘mild’ to ‘blow your head off’ hot! The new ‘Norfolk Naga’ chilli hits 1 million-plus on the Scoville scale for chilli heat (jalapenos are 2,500-10,000), so it definitely comes in the second category and is not for the faint-hearted!
This semi-determinate, vigorous garden variety is great for a large container. It produces lots of flowers with a good fruit set. The baby cherry-sized fruits are sweet and plants have good late blight tolerance.
A superb variety for the home gardener, with a perfectly balanced flavour and exceptional disease resistance, cropping from late June to end of September.
All available from Marshalls.
- Play bee and hand pollinate dwarf peaches and nectarines growing in pots under glass (they don’t need heat, just protection from peach leaf curl). Using a soft paintbrush, collect pollen from some flowers and transfer it to others.
- Tidy up ragged, overgrown lawn edges by cutting them into proper straight lines or flowing curves using a half moon edging iron. Dig out the unwanted grass and flick soil away from the lawn edge using the back of hoe.