With the days getting longer and brighter, many of us will be enjoying spending time outside again. March marks the first month of Spring, and if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then it’s a great time to start making the most of your green space and preparing it for new growth.
From planting summer bulbs to getting a handle on those pesky weeds, here are 12 garden checklist ideas for March.
1. Plant summer-flowering bulbs
With Spring on the horizon, March makes for the ideal time to start planting some summer bulbs. Planting them now will give them plenty of time to become established, so that they’ll be ready to bloom come the summer.
However, with March being a month of seasonal transition, it can be hard to predict the weather from one day to the next. Overall, temperatures will begin to rise, but not before we have a few more frosty nights and mornings!
To account for this unpredictability, it can be a good idea to begin by planting some hardy yet beautiful summer-flowering bulbs; such as lilies, begonias and gladioli. Check out this guide to summer-flowering bulbs from B&Q (which includes tips on how to plant bulbs) to find out more – or to buy some summer bulbs, you might want to head over to Crocus’ website where you can browse a wide variety. Alternatively, you could head to your nearest garden centre instead (which are allowed to remain open throughout lockdown).
Tip: To protect lily bulbs from summer heat later on, plant them at three times their own length.
2. Get weeds under control early
March is a good time to get on top of weeds while they’re in their pre-growth season; before they start sprouting, and become more difficult to manage. Weeds are easy to remove from flower beds and borders with a hoe if they’re newly established, or with a garden shovel if they’re rooted much deeper. Have a read of this BBC Gardeners’ World article to find out more about five different ways that you can get rid of weeds.
There are also certain weeds like dandelions, buttercups and white clover that will survive for years in the soil, and only start to sprout when the conditions are right. These can be harder to get rid of by natural means, as digging up our lawn isn’t something that many of us will want to do – and pulling weeds up by hand may not always be enough to permanently get rid of them.
However, there are additional things you can do to keep lawn weeds under control, such as avoiding close mowing (as this can weaken grass and make it more susceptible to weeds), and raking over the grass before mowing (to discourage creeping weeds like white clover and silverweed). You can also add mulch to your flower beds and lawn to keep weeds at bay – as this blocks their light and makes it harder for them to survive. You can find out how to make your own mulch at home on Grow Veg’s website here.
To learn more about the different non-chemical and chemical methods you can use to control and eradicate lawn weeds, you might want to have a read of this guide from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
3. Cut back and divide perennials - and plant some new ones
If you chose not to cut back your perennials (plants that return year after year) in the Spring – perhaps because you wanted to maintain structure in your garden, or continue to provide a habitat for wildlife – then by now, they’ll be in need of a trim, to get rid of anything that’s dead or damaged, and to make way for new growth. However, you’ll need to take extra care when cutting back your perennials, to make sure that you don’t damage any new shoot growth. To find out how to do this safely, have a read of this guide to Perennials: cutting back from the RHS.
This is also a good time to divide any winter or summer-flowering perennials that are clumped together, to help them continue reaching their full potential when they return later on in the year. This essentially helps to give them a new lease of life, and is best done in early spring (just before plants enter a new growth phase), or in late summer/early autumn (when they’ve just finished a growth phase). The RHS has also created a helpful guide on dividing perennials, which you might find useful.
If you don’t have any perennials in your garden, or you fancy introducing some March-flowering ones, then it’s worth having a look at this article on March perennials from BBC Gardeners’ World – which recommends planting native primroses, pulsatilla, pulmonaria, bergenia and hellebores.
4. Add some colour to your garden by planting March-flowering bulbs
If you don’t fancy waiting until summer to start seeing more colour in your garden, then you could consider planting some March-flowering bulbs this month. After a long, harsh winter some pretty spring flowers could be just what you need to brighten up your days.
March-flowering bulbs such as pink giants, hyacinths, daffodils, primroses, and crocus can be planted in border displays, or in pots that have adequate drainage – which makes them suitable for growing in a garden, but also on a windowsill or balcony. You can find out how to create a beautiful daffodil window box display on the BBC Gardeners’ World website here – or check out this cowslip and anemone pot display instead.
If you’re interested in buying some March bulbs then you might want to have a look at the large selection of March flowering bulbs on Crocus’ website – or you can head to your nearest garden centre.
5. Protect new shoots from slugs
Around this time of year, slugs and snails will begin to emerge from their winter hibernation and look for something to feed on. And unfortunately, new shoots will often be first on the menu without some protection. While many larger, more established plants can sometimes take a few hits from slugs and snails, and go on to recover; young shoots and bulbs usually won’t be so lucky.
When trying to stop slugs and snails from munching away at your plants, it’s worth keeping in mind that – although annoying – these creatures are a useful part of our ecosystem. For example, they can quickly turn green matter into compost (so much so, that many people add them to their compost bin to help speed up the process), and are also an excellent food source for other creatures including hedgehogs, frogs, birds and beetles.
There are plenty of ways that you can deter slugs without harming them or using chemicals – such as adding plants to your garden that produce a slug-repellent scent, or applying petroleum jelly to your plant pots to create a slippery surface that will be difficult for the slugs to grip on to. For more homemade remedies, have a look at this advice from Rentokil.
6. Plant potatoes, onions and shallots
If you’re new to growing your own vegetables, then potatoes, onions and shallots are good, lower-maintenance options to start with this month.
Potatoes are a good staple food because of the diverse range of ways that it can be used. They’re also packed full of antioxidants, which might reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. When it comes to growing potatoes yourself, it can help to be aware of the different types: first early potatoes, second early potatoes, or maincrop potatoes, which are named according to their planting and harvest dates.
Early potatoes (such as Red Duke of York and Rocket varieties) and second early potatoes (such as Charlotte and Ratte types) are planted in March and harvested in June, while maincrop potatoes (such as Maris Piper and King Edward varieties) are planted in mid to late April, and harvested between July and September. Have a read of this page on potato types explained from BBC Gardeners’ World to learn more.
Or if you want to get started with your first or second early potatoes – which can be grown in the ground or in containers, then BBC Gardeners’ World also have a detailed guide on potato growing – which covers everything from how far apart to space potatoes when planting, how to care for your crop, and how to remedy common potato-growing problems like slugs and blight. You can also buy early and second early potato bulbs from Crocus’ website.
Not only are onions great at adding flavour to some of our favourite dishes, but they’re also high in nutrients, including vitamin C; a powerful antioxidant which protects the body against free radicals (harmful molecules that can cause disease), B vitamins which are important for nerve function and metabolism – and potassium, which is essential for normal cell function, nerve transmission, fluid balance, kidney function and muscle contraction.
Onion sets (small immature bulbs) are usually available to buy from garden centres in early spring and late summer – or you can find them on Crocus’ website here. They like to be planted in a well-lit sunny location, in well-drained soil that has been enriched with compost. Before you start growing, head over to Grow Veg’s website where you can read their full guide on Growing Onions from Sowing to Harvest.
If you’d prefer to grow shallots, which are a smaller, milder tasting cousin of the onion – then you’ll be pleased to know that these are highly nutritious too. They’re full of antioxidants, can relieve allergy symptoms, and have antiviral and antifungal properties.
Shallots are low-maintenance, and will thrive in a sunny spot with well-drained soil – much the same as onions. They can be grown from seeds or sets, though sets are quicker to mature, and will survive better in colder conditions. To find out more about how to grow and care for shallots, have a look at this article from LoveTheGarden – or you can buy shallot sets over on Crocus’ website.
7. Sow spinach, chard and beetroot seeds outdoors
From March to May you can sow leafy vegetables like spinach, chard and beetroot seeds. These veggies belong to the goosefoot family – a group of weedy plants which have a high salt-tolerance, are naturally found in temperate regions around the world, and have leaves that resemble the foot of a goose.
Spinach, chard and beetroot are all good sources of iron, which is important for growth and development throughout the body. Chard and spinach also contain large amounts of vitamin K, which is important for blood clot formation, and the healing of wounds – and can also support bone health.
These leafy vegetables are easy to grow, and their glossy leaves and brightly coloured stems can make a striking addition to your garden. Ideally they’ll be grown in a vegetable patch, but if you have a smaller garden, then they can also be raised in large containers instead.
For tips and advice on how to prepare your soil, sow your seeds, and look after your plants thereafter, it’s worth having a read on this guide to growing spinach from Garden Focused, this advice on growing chard from the RHS, or these tips on how to grow beetroot from BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine. You can also buy spinach, chard and beetroot seeds from Crocus’ website.
8. Mow the lawn when new growth appears
Your lawn should start to see some new growth this month and there are a few things that you can do to help it grow strong and healthy.
As previously mentioned, March is the best time to get on top of weeds before they start to spread. In terms of lawns, this might mean treating moss, clover, and other lawn weeds by pulling or digging them up – or, in some cases using special treatments to keep them away permanently. This might leave your lawn looking slightly battered for a couple of weeks, but it will quickly recover as the weather warms up and your grass enters a new growth season. This RHS guide has some helpful advice on how to tackle lawn weeds.
This month, you might also want to give your lawn the first cut of the year (only when it’s dry) if you’ve noticed some new growth. However, with frost still acting as a potential threat to grass, it’s important not to overdo it – or to wait until temperatures become a bit milder, which will often be dependent on where in the UK you live.
Before cutting your lawn, first clear it of any debris that might have collected there during the winter, such as sticks and twigs, as these can damage your lawn mower. It’s also a good idea to check for any wildlife that might have been using your grass as a habitat. Then, when you make the cut, be sure to only give your lawn a trim, as cutting it too short can leave it vulnerable to frost damage, and more susceptible to weeds.
Check out this advice from the Woodland Trust on when to make the first cut of the year – or have a watch of the video on spring lawn care below.
9. Sow more tender vegetables – such as tomatoes and chillies – indoors
Some vegetables, including tomatoes and chillies, need to be sown early to maximise their growing potential throughout the year. However, these veggies are also tender, which means they are vulnerable to low temperatures. If you’re keen to get growing, then it’s best to sow these indoors. Then, as temperatures rise, and tender plants start to become more established, you can start to think about moving them outside.
Tomatoes and chillies are considered ‘superfoods’ because they’re high in vitamins (such as A and C), minerals and fibre. There are also a number of different varieties available – and as they make a welcome accompaniment to such a wide range of dishes, you could save yourself some money by growing them at home.
Both chilli and tomato seeds will do well in pots on a brightly-lit window ledge. Have a read of this guide to tomato growing from BBC Gardeners’ World, or this article on how to grow chillies from Chili Plant, to find out more. You might also want to take a look at our article; 8 superfoods that you can grow from home, for tips on other fruit and veg, such as blueberries and kale, that you can grow from home.
10. Add a fresh layer of compost to container plants and flower beds
Compost loses structure and nutrients over time, and can gradually become less valuable. In March, plants will be preparing for and then entering into a new phase of growth. This means that they’ll need sufficient nutrients to support this growth, and to stay strong and healthy – so that they’ll be less vulnerable to disease, pests, or adverse weather conditions.
If you want to give your plants the best shot possible for the year ahead, then you can help by adding a fresh layer of compost to container pots or flower beds. It’s best to remove a layer of old compost before you do this, to allow the new compost more of an opportunity to mix with the old soil and work it’s magic.
If you don’t have a compost bin, then you can buy compost at your nearest garden centre – or you can order it from Amazon. It is, however, worth considering starting your own compost heap, as this is an easy, free and convenient method of enriching your plants, and is also an eco-friendly way to dispose of organic waste. Have a read of these 10 tips from Country Living on how to make your own compost at home.
11. Avoid cutting hedges until bird nesting season is over
Although you might be keen to get to work on your garden this month, the RSPB recommends avoiding cutting any hedges until after the main breeding season for nesting birds is finished. This period runs from March to August, and during this time birds might be hedges might contain active bird nests. Trimming hedges runs the risk of doing damage to the nests, and to the eggs, chicks and/or birds that they house.
Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 makes it illegal to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any living bird while it’s being built. To find out more about this, and about what to do if you think an active nest is at risk; then have a read or this advice from the RSPB.
You might also find it helpful to have a read of our introductory guide to bird watching to learn more about different bird behaviour throughout the year.
12. Prune roses
Most roses respond well to pruning in February and March because it prepares them for the new season of growth ahead. Often, the more you prune them, the more they will grow when the conditions are right.
The reason that roses respond so well to pruning is because when their branches are cut, this stimulates the plant to produce ‘auxin’ – a growth hormone that is found in the main stem of almost all plants. When a rose branch or stem is cut, auxin is sent directly to the site of the cutting to encourage new shoots to grow. Pruning also allows you to boost your rose plant’s flowering capabilities and overall health, while still having control over its shape and size.
If you want to learn more about how and when to prune roses, then it’s worth taking a look at this handy guide from LoveTheGarden.