March gardening tips
Fruit trees and bushes
If you haven’t done so already, prune standard or bush apple and pear trees before the buds break; keep the centre of the tree fairly open to allow air to circulate freely. Cut out crossing and rubbing branches to avoid open wounds which encourage disease. Do not prune espalier/cordon trained apples and pears. Complete pruning of gooseberries and red and white currant bushes.
Protect fruit trees and gooseberries with netting; birds love developing fruit buds and your entire crop can disappear with astonishing speed unless protected!
Plant pot-grown fruit trees, strawberry plants and rhubarb crowns.
Check all ties and stakes to ensure they are not broken or too tight.
Check stored fruit and throw out any showing signs of disease.
Add organic fertiliser to your fruit trees and shrubs; remove any mulch, feed around the roots, water and renew the mulch. Use organic rather than inorganic or chemical fertilisers to provide a slow release of nutrients; a sudden burst of growth too early in the season puts the plant at risk from disease and pests.
Force rhubarb - clear away all dead foliage and cover the crown with a forcer if you have one or a large pot if you don’t.
Many vegetable crops can be sown this month - wait until the weather turns warmer, check the instructions on the seed packets and plant away! Broad beans, early peas, carrots, lettuces, spinach, salad leaves, leeks and chard are just a few ideas to get your healthy, cheap and home-grown food underway!
Plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers - bury them 1” deep and 12-18” apart - but remember they spread like wildfire unless you dig up every last one at harvest time.
Plant shallots, garlic and onion sets as well as asparagus crowns in friable, well-drained soil.
Harvest the last leeks, Brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli and cabbages.
Prepare the ground for French and runner beans - this is really worth the effort! Dig a trench a minimum of a spade's depth and put in a generous layer of well-rotted manure or compost (as for sweet peas). Do the same for courgette plants.
Plant out your early potatoes at the end of the month - or if you haven’t already done so, start chitting your seed potatoes - put them in a light, cool place with the end showing the most ‘buds’ uppermost - an old egg box is ideal.
If you have a frost-free greenhouse, get ahead with the summer crops - sweet peppers, tomatoes, aubergines and salads can be planted inside (if it remains cold, check the temperature requirements on the seed packet and wait if necessary).