Garden notes for March 2020
I expect like me you have often used the word ‘cloche’ to refer to a covering that you put over plants to protect them from the worst of the weather. The word is derived from the French word that normally translates into ‘bell’ in English. Victorian gardeners used bell-jar cloches and were originally made from hand blown glass. Nowadays you can get them in plastic. I used to think that they are a bit of gimmick, but it has been pointed out that the bell shape means that the surface of the cloches is always at a 90º angle to the sun, unlike the flat sided glass and plastic alternatives. This creates the optimum growing environment for plants. They are especially useful for individual plants. They might be worth a try for you as well.
Multiply your snowdrops by lifting and dividing them as soon as possible after flowering, they are best transplanted when green. It also helps encourage flowering as the clumps may become overcrowded if they are not split every 3 -4 years.
Hopefully we will get some drying weather, and the lawn will need a trim with the mower set high for the first cut. Towards the end of the month most lawns will benefit from a moss raking using a scarifier if you have a larger area to do. These can be hired from Hire Shops but you may well have to book it in advance as the weekends are popular.
Roses will need pruning towards the middle to end of the month, depending on the weather and if there are still severe frosts around. The earlier you do it, the earlier the first blooms will appear, but you can also lose all the flower buds if you do not leave at least 3 from the base stem. Give them a feed with a special rose fertiliser and they will reward you later for this generosity.
Start leeks under glass for pricking out and transplanting at the end of the month
Salad crops such as lettuce can be started for transplanting once they have established themselves. Put them into the soil that you have warmed up under cloches or fleece.
Pansies and violas can be sown now for a show later in the summer.
You should get your seed potatoes ‘chitted’, by putting them in egg trays in a frost free place and exposing them to light to get the first shoots greened up. If you are daring, plant early varieties of potato but be sure to keep an eye out for frost warnings and cover any leaf shoots before the frost comes down.
Later in the month watch out for slug and snail damage on emerging plants. This can be particularly damaging as the creatures are very hungry after the winter and are attracted to plants like delphiniums and hostas. Cuttings of delphinium can be taken and rooted in potting compost under glass to have them flowering much later than the usual June burst.
Get sets of onions for planting out as soon as the soil condition is right. When you do plant them out, protect them from Jackdaws who take delight in pulling them out and throwing them around. Field mice can also be a problem.