16 March 2021

This is the first of my monthly columns where I will be keeping you informed of the latest goings-on at Furzey,  imparting some tips for your own garden and answering your horticultural questions. I am very much looking forward to sharing the joys of gardening with you as we make our way through the horticultural year.

As we bid farewell to a difficult winter, there is much to celebrate in March as the days are getting longer and the promise of warmth is returning. It can only mean one thing; spring has arrived.

Here at Furzey Gardens, those first glorious signs of spring are starting to rear their head. Colours are beginning to return to the garden and we’re seeing our plants responding to the new warmth. It feels as if we’re taking that wonderful step into a new season of hope and joyfulness.

Pete White, Furzey Gardens Head Gardener

Although many plants won’t quite be ready to find a new home in your garden just yet, now is the perfect time for you to step outside, soak up the beautiful seasonal changes and get yourself prepped and primed for the year ahead. Why not get your gardening fork out and start to dig over the soil in your beds? Break up the soil to allow air in; this is also known as ‘aeration’, and it will allow your soil temperature to rise quickly so that the surface can breathe in preparation for seeding. This is also the prime time to start spreading garden compost around your plants so that they can drink up all of those natural nutrients.

I myself have spent the last couple of weeks ticking off all the winter tidy up jobs. It’s been a very cold, wet winter, and for a long time the grounds at Furzey Gardens have remained frozen solid; I’m sure many of you reading this will sympathise! We are now in a position where we can do a lot of pruning, cutting back and clearing, and are waiting for a touch less water log before we really dive into planting… There is a lot waiting to go as soon as we can.

If you haven’t already cleared away any dead stems from last year’s crop, now’s the chance before any new growth starts to show its face. Cut the necessary plants back as close as you can to the ground, and keep an eye out for any congested clumps that need dividing.

Camelia Saluensis and daffodils

You may be hard pressed to find a huge deal in colour right now, but there is the opportunity to plant your trees and shrubs if they are a part of your garden vision. The ground is virtually in perfect condition, with the soil warming and water still in the ground. We currently have a sublime selection of Witch Hazel Hamamelis in our garden; they have this glorious, almost tangerine like, spicy scent that fills up whatever environment it finds itself in. Bliss!

Despite flowering plants being in shorter supply, that doesn’t mean that now isn’t an excellent time to visit gardens. There is nothing quite like spotting those first flowers of the year; especially after a grey, dreary winter, we appreciate those initial spots of life so very much. Or, perhaps, you have access to local wild spaces – what colours are they revealing? Go out! Explore. See what you can find.

If you’re looking to kickstart your garden for the year, I would also recommend heading out to nurseries to see what is in colour. You may be pleasantly surprised; honeysuckles, camellias and daphnes flower in February and March as do dozens of species of spring bulbs that can be bought potted-up right now. Plus, if you know what you want, you can always start the planting process; even if they are to lie dormant for a while. For example, you can confidently plant your summer bulbs – such as lilies, crocosmia, gladioli and agapanthus – outside right now. Forget about them once they’re in, and then get ready for a beautiful surprise when summer says ‘hello’. If you’re still worried about the danger of frost, you could always plant some bulbs undercover as they start to grow, and then embed them within the soil once the danger has passed.

And if you don’t know what you want? Grab yourself a seed catalogue and allow your mind the space to wander. This period gives you a brilliant chance to sit back and truly mull over the potential of your garden.

Narcissus cyclamineus and heather

Of course, for the vegetable growers among us, there are plenty of things you can be getting your hands dirty with. March is a great time to start planting:

  • Aubergines
  • Chillies
  • Tomatoes
  • Broad beans
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beetroot.

All can be sown outdoors, although it would be advisable to start off with your aubergines, chillies and tomatoes underneath glass. It’s also worth preparing your seedbeds by covering them with polythene to work the soil before sowing, and to continue with this protection during the early days of sowing.

As you work your way through these early gardening steps as spring fully arrives, don’t forget to keep your eyes firmly attuned to the world around you. While it’s still early days for any major changes in nature, we will soon be treated to sights such as frogspawn, the initial appearance of butterflies and certain birds calling out their song. It truly is a spellbinding time of year.

If you have any gardening questions that you would like me to answer next month, please do email marketing@minsteadtrust.org.uk and I’ll aim to cover them in the April edition, when spring will have arrived in earnest and our garden is heading towards its peak season.

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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