Estates Manager blog: March 2024

8 March 2024

Spring into action: Your gardening essentials for March

As March heralds the arrival of spring, gardeners eagerly anticipate the opportunity to delve into their beloved outdoor spaces once again. With the days growing longer and the weather gradually warming up, there’s a sense of renewed energy and possibility in the air. Spring offers the perfect window of opportunity to prepare your garden for the upcoming growing season and to witness nature’s awakening after the winter slumber. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a novice enthusiast, here’s your essential guide on what to do in the garden.

Prepare the soil: March marks the ideal time to prepare your garden beds for planting. Begin by clearing away any debris, weeds and remnants of last year’s growth. Loosen the soil with a fork or a tiller to improve aeration and drainage. Incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to enrich the soil with essential nutrients, promoting healthy plant growth throughout the season.

Sow seeds indoors: Get a head start on your gardening endeavours by sowing seeds indoors for plants that require a longer growing season, such as tomatoes and peppers. Use seed trays or pots filled with a good-quality seed compost, and place them in a warm, well-lit location, such as a sunny windowsill or a heated greenhouse. Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged, ensuring adequate ventilation to prevent damping off.

Daffodils at Furzey Gardens

Start hardy vegetables outdoors: While some vegetables thrive when started indoors, others can be sown directly into the ground as soon as the soil is workable. Hardy vegetables like peas, carrots, spinach, and lettuce can be planted outdoors in March. Choose a sunny, sheltered spot with fertile, well-drained soil, and sow the seeds according to the instructions on the packet. Keep the soil consistently moist to encourage germination and establishment.

Prune fruit trees and bushes: March is an opportune time to prune fruit trees and bushes before they break dormancy and begin to bud. Remove any dead, damaged or crossing branches to promote airflow and reduce the risk of disease. Pruning encourages healthy growth, improves fruit quality and maintains the overall shape and structure of the plant. Be sure to use clean, sharp tools and make clean cuts to minimise the risk of infection.

Divide perennials: Revitalise your perennial borders by dividing overcrowded clumps of plants such as hostas, daylilies, and ornamental grasses. Carefully dig up the clump, ensuring you retain an adequate portion of roots and foliage. Gently tease apart the roots, discarding any dead or diseased sections, and replant the divisions in their desired locations. Water thoroughly to help them settle in and continue to thrive.

Tend to bulbs and tubers: March is the time to give your spring-flowering bulbs and tubers some much-needed attention. Remove any spent flowers and yellowing foliage from daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths, allowing the plants to redirect their energy back into the bulbs. Consider feeding them with a balanced fertilizer to support future growth and flowering. If you haven’t already planted summer-flowering bulbs such as dahlias and gladioli, now is the perfect time to do so.

Weed and mulch: Stay on top of weed control by regularly inspecting your garden beds and removing any emerging weeds before they have a chance to take hold. Mulching is an effective way to suppress weed growth, retain soil moisture, and regulate soil temperature. Apply a layer of organic mulch such as compost, bark chips, or straw around your plants, ensuring you leave a gap around the stems to prevent rotting.

Monitor for pests and diseases: Keep a close eye on your plants for any signs of pest infestations or disease outbreaks. Early detection is key to preventing the spread of problems and minimizing damage to your garden. Inspect the undersides of leaves, stems, and fruits for pests such as aphids, slugs, and snails. Remove and dispose of any affected plant material promptly, and consider using organic methods of pest control where necessary.

Plan and prepare: Take some time to reflect on your garden layout and design, considering any changes or improvements you’d like to make for the upcoming season. Sketch out your ideas, research new plants or varieties to try, and create a planting schedule to guide your efforts in the months ahead. Consider factors such as sun exposure, soil type, and plant compatibility when planning your garden beds and borders.

Enjoy your garden: Above all, take pleasure in the beauty and tranquillity of your garden as it awakens from its winter slumber. Embrace the sights, sounds, and scents of spring as nature bursts into life all around you. Take moments to relax and unwind in your outdoor sanctuary, whether it’s sipping a cup of tea on the patio, watching birds flit among the branches, or simply soaking up the sunshine. Your garden is a place of joy and rejuvenation – cherish it always.

Yellow flowers of Rhododendron Macabeanum and pink blooms of Rhododendron Irroratum

March is a pivotal month in the gardening calendar, signalling the start of a new growing season and offering a wealth of opportunities to prepare, plant, and nurture your outdoor space. By following these tips and tasks, you can set the stage for a bountiful and beautiful garden that will bring you joy and satisfaction throughout the year. Happy gardening!

What to see at Furzey Gardens this month:

March is such an enjoyable time at Furzey as plants respond to the warmth and longer days. Every day I notice changes as new shoots appear and buds begin to burst. Following the mild winter, a number of our plants are blooming earlier than they would normally. Our Rhododendron Macabeanum, one of the largest and oldest specimens in the garden, is already showing off large pale yellow blooms. Just along the path, one of our smaller Rhododendron’s from the irroratum sub section is abundant with pale pink and crimson spotted flowers.

Elsewhere, Corylopsis pauciflora are a delight with small pendent clusters of primrose yellow flowers and our magnolia trees are full of buds, I expect their magnificent displays to begin in the next week or so. Camellia are still going strong and every day, more and more daffodils are flowering.

An exciting development has kept the team busy in the arboretum over the last few weeks. We have been preparing the ground and planting 25 new cherry trees to form our new cherry tree grove funded by generous supporters of our fundraiser earlier this year. I have selected a variety of trees with very different characteristics, offering us a prolonged flowering period, which should begin late March, and run through to late April. I can’t wait to see how it develops as the trees become established and provide opportunities for the people we support to learn about planting and caring for young trees. It will also provide many benefits to wildlife in the gardens and above all a beautiful new area where visitors can stop and take in the beauty of their surroundings. I do hope you will visit and enjoy the new area too.

What’s On at Furzey Gardens:

Our programme of events at Furzey is well underway, with plenty for all to enjoy. As well as activities and garden trails for our younger visitors, we have workshops for adults to get involved with and enjoy.

On 28th March, adults are encouraged to unleash their artistic flair in our magical workshops run by Angie from AJR Art to design your very own handcrafted fairy creations. Choose from a half day to create a fairy door or for a full day to construct a whole fairy house – the choice is yours! Ticket prices, including all supplied materials, start from £50 (non-members).

If you fancy capturing the beauty of Furzey Gardens through sketch but do not know where to start, Marina Stuart is running a sketching workshop on 10 April where she will inspire you and share the wonder of sketching outside ‘On Plein Air’. Ticket prices include materials and cost £36 for a two hour session.

Don’t miss Furzey’s Arty Eggs, a daily Easter trail running from 29th March until 14th April! With each two-foot egg produced by a different talented artist, keep your eyes peeled for 15 colourful treasures hidden around gardens! Normal garden entrance donation applies.

The tea rooms and gardens are now open seven days a week, 10am – 4pm, I hope you will be able to visit us at the gardens soon.

This article originally appeared as the monthly In The Garden column in the Lymington Times, buy the paper on the second Friday of every month to read the next column first.

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