Gardening in March – it starts with a seed

Sowing indoors is a better option at this time of year; paper and cardboard pots can be packed snugly in a tray which avoids over handling and makes them easy to water.
Sowing indoors is a better option at this time of year; paper and cardboard pots can be packed snugly in a tray which avoids over handling and makes them easy to water.

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March brings some sunny days to tempt those with green fingers back into the garden and many are now really aching for spring.

This is the month for sowing seeds and getting the garden ready for the summer months ahead.

But, before you rush to get sowing, just take some to time to plan what you want to grow, how many plants you are going to need and when you want them to flower or bear fruit. This is particularly good advice for anyone with a vegetable plot.

A sowing plan of what seeds and how many to sow each month is your key to successful growing and means that you won’t be throwing out unwanted seedlings and that your flower and vegetable beds will be full all year round.

A word of warning about sowing directly into the ground at this time of year, there may be a few sunny days to enjoy outside but the soil can still be chilly, making germination and survival hard.

Sowing indoors is a better option; not only does it provide a warm environment for germination but seeds and seedlings are easier to protect from pests.

If you can find some environmentally sound sowing trays and containers, rather than using plastic, then even better. Paper and cardboard pots can be packed snugly in a tray which avoids over handling and makes them easy to water.

Small seeds should be scattered sparingly on the surface of compost-filled seed trays and then covered with a sprinkling of sieved compost.

If the seeds are big enough to handle, then you can sow them individually into 10cm pots – the quantity should be according to the instructions specified on the seed packet, but usually for small seeds, between five-10 seeds per pot.

For plants that grow long roots, such as peas or beans, you can put them into a compost-filled cardboard toilet roll tube and, once ready, they can then be planted outside tube and all.

Most seeds will germinate and grow in a warm setting such as a greenhouse, cold frame or on a sunny windowsill.

You should keep them damp by using a mist spray to start with before moving onto a watering can with a fine rose nozzle.

Once the seedlings have grown their second pair of leaves and before they get too squashed in seed trays or pots, pot them on into small pots.

Simply ease out a clump of seedlings with an old cutlery fork or dibber and – handling only the leaves to avoid damaging delicate stems and roots – gently tease them apart.

Drop individual seedlings into a 5cm compost-filled newspaper pot ensuring the lower leaves are above the compost level.

Once you see roots appearing from the bottom of the pot, it’s time to pot on to a bigger pot before planting outside once the weather and soil warms up.

If you are growing your own vegetables, now is a good time to sow first early potatoes.

These can be planted from mid-March however planting times will vary across the country, according to temperature and risk of frost.

Early potatoes grow well in the ground and in containers such as potato grow bags or old compost bags.

You should plant your chitted potatoes with the shoots facing upwards in soil with plenty of well-rotted organic matter, and approximately 12cm deep and 30cm apart.

Once stems are about 23cm tall, they will need earthing up – by drawing soil around them to create a 15cm high ridge, to protect against frost and keep growing potatoes covered.

Good varieties of early potatoes are: Swift – good for containers, white skinned and white fleshed; Annabelle – nutty flavour with firm waxy yellow flesh; Maris Bard – white flesh with good ‘new potato’ flavour and drought resistance.

Spring seems tantalisingly close in March, particularly as work in the garden starts to get going again.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, spring usually arrives by mid-March and the frequent sunny days provide the opportunity for an increasing range of gardening tasks.

It’s time to get busy preparing seed beds, sowing seed, cutting back winter shrubs and generally tidying up around the garden.

Top three jobs in March:

  • prune bushes and climbing roses
  • plant early potatoes
  • plant summer flowering bulbs