Maintenance Jobs for the March Garden
If you’ve been slumbering in an armchair all winter and have the sudden urge to put the garden to rights now that spring is here, take it gently at first. But don’t let me put you off! Gardening is a brilliant way to burn off calories and there’s nothing better for clearing out the cobwebs than working in the garden on a clear, warm spring day. Just take it easy to begin with. Jobs such as digging should be done in short bursts – a whole day doing a job with repetitive movement can cause untold damage to your back. Do about half an hour’s digging at first, before switching to another job that doesn’t involve so much bending.
Sowing seeds of hardy vegetables and annual flowers (plants that goes through their entire life cycle in one season and which can be sown outside in the open garden in spring where they are to flower) can begin this month. If you have a wet clay soil, you may wish to delay a bit this year until conditions have dried out. If you have a small garden, try planting a few vegetables among the flowers; many vegetables are attractive in their own right and can make wonderful contrasts to ornamental plants. For example, the fine, feathery foliage of carrots contrasts well with bold hosta leaves, while globe artichokes and cardoons are striking architectural plants and stand out in any border. Plant in groups rather than more conventional rows and they will blend in perfectly.
Get the lawn mower serviced if you haven’t already. There’s nothing worse than having to cut the lawn with blunt blades and it can do more damage than good. Later on this month lawns will need cutting after the winter break, so make sure your lawn mower is up to the job. A lawn will be much healthier and stay greener the less grass you remove every time you cut, and mowing is the best way to ensure you have a good lawn. Don’t forget edging: trim the edges at the same time as the lawn is cut. It makes all the difference to the appearance of a garden if the edges are cut regularly, and it’s less work doing it once a week as the trimmings are few and don’t have to be cleared up.
Watch out for weeds while they are still small. While you are having your constitutional walk around the garden keep an eye out for germinating weed seedlings. The best way to take them out at this stage in the year is with a hoe. Dig out perennial weeds (these are the pesky ones that re-appear each year, such as dandelions); they are much easier to control at this time of year while they are still small.
Mulch bare soil, unless you love weeding, of course! Having lovingly weeded and tidied your soil, mulch it with an organic matter, like bark chippings or spent mushroom compost. This will cut down on the weeding later in the year and it helps preserve water. I know this sounds strange after the winter we’ve had but it’s amazing how quickly soil dries out after a dry spell and if you’ve got new plants in your garden it’s particularly important to preserve moisture. After spending your hard-earned cash on plants for your garden, NEVER let them go short of water in their first year of life.