Peter’s Gardening Tips for March 2016

A tricky month March, the weather can be so fickle. 2016 spring is going to be a harsh start to the season!! Proper winter seems to have been delayed like the last autumn, which went on and on to Christmas.

Pots of spring colour are the order of the day to brighten up windowsills, door steps, patio and conservatories.

Use your nose, have scent around the house – many Primroses especially the yellow varieties have a delicate fragrance and many of the dwarf Narcissus the same.

Bring winter stems into the house too, stems of Willow – Pussy Willow, dogwood Cornus alba, Mid-winter fire, catkins of Hazel even silver birch and don’t forget the flowering stems of early plums.

Float single flowers in a saucer or soup bowl – Camellias, hellebores, Primrose, replace after a few days, they are guaranteed to brighten up any table and are a great talking point!


New Primula veristar Lemon

Jobs to do:-

Have a good tidy up and remove weeds before mulching the borders with compost. Weeds are a lot easier to remove before everything else grows around them, clear from paths and anywhere you see them before they flower and seed!!

Slug control and prevention Slug Gone from Vitax is made from sheeps wool, it doesn’t kill slugs but discourages them as the wool dries their slime and is abrasive.

Sluggo from Neudorff is based on iron phosphate and is safe to use in an organic gardening, safe for children/grandchildren, pets, animals, birds and hedgehogs! The slugs die underground and it kills snails as well.

Sluggo Slug and Snail killer, Slug Gone and Nemasys Slug Control are the only products I will use in my own garden. Please read the application rates!

Prepare vegetable beds after the wet winter Weed first , dig over loosely to get air into the ground then cover with compost/organic matter, let the worms pull it down into the soil. Prepare a trench for climbing or runner beans. Runner/Climbing beans dislike a windy position and love sunshine, they need fertile, well-drained soil that the roots can freely grow in. Dig a trench removing soil to one side, fork the bottom of the trench, place a layer of newspaper and back fill with compost or manure mix, then the soil on top, producing a raised trench ready for sowing or planting out in May or June. Use strong bean poles or canes and tie together securely and brace to stop wind rock. Pinch out beans when they reach the top of your supports.


Lettuce seeds – Lollo Rosso

Seed Sowing Lettuce/salad. Sow every 2-3 weeks in small numbers to stop the glut of lettuce, little and often is better as it will allow a continuous supply throughout the season. Do the same with the micro leaves, they are all the rage! Decide on your varieties, use a good compost, if you can bring it into the house or conservatory to dry out and warm up first, that really helps as cold, wet compost is horrible to work with and no good for seedlings either!

Use clean seed trays or inserts, using labels to name your babies! Fill each tray to just below the top of lip, lift the tray an inch off the table keeping it level and then let go, this will settle the compost properly into the tray, top up any gaps if necessary.

Lettuce and salad seeds need to be fresh, they do not keep from year to year, once opened you can store the packets in the fridge to keep fresh.

Sprinkle your seeds, not too thickly 5-10mm apart on the surface – DO NOT COVER lettuce or salad seed with compost, they need light to germinate. Water very gently using either a hand water sprayer or place the seed tray in a water bath so the water comes up through the compost and draws the seeds down to the soil. Leave for 5 mins lift out and drain any excess water off. Cover with a propagator or Perspex lid and hopefully you should see baby plants germinating within 4-5 days.

Sweet Peas As it is going to be a late spring it’s not too late to sow sweet peas, a must in any garden. I sow into root trainers which can be found in most garden centres or on-line, they are a great investment for growing peas and beans too.

Happy seed sowing, it has to be one of the most satisfying jobs to sow seeds, watching them germinate and grow, my six year old daughter Imogen is completely hooked!!

Herbaceous Plants Lift and divide large clumps of hostas, phlox, aster, inula, rudbeckia, lysimachia….. etc. The best plants to keep come from the ones on the outside of the clump, discard the middle of the clump. Split the remaining plants into clumps the size of your hand and replant around the garden or pass onto family and friends. There are lots of tempting herbaceous plants in garden centres and very good value as small plants at the moment, I succumbed last week!

Other items to consider are seed potatoes, shallots, onion sets, garlic, Lillies, dahlias, wild flower plants, Roses, fruit trees and bushes, spring bulbs, shrubs and trees, Primroses and Pansies and so the list goes on……..

If you are able to cut your grass then please raise the cutting deck to 2”, do not scalp the lawn at this time of year.

Fleece peaches and nectarines to protect flower buds from frost, even a cotton sheet or net curtain draped over the tree held in place with clothes pegs will hold off a hard frost.

Depending which part of the country you are in here are some other vegetable seeds you can sow, most will need starting off with protection, under cloches, indoors in a propragator or direct sown into the ground. Read the instructions on the packet.

  • Globe Artichoke
  • Broad Bean
  • Beetroot
  • Sprouting Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage Summer/Autumn
  • Calabrese
  • Cauliflower Summer/Autumn
  • Kohlrabi
  • Komatsuna and Rocket
  • Mizuna, mibuna and mustard
  • Swede and Turnip
  • Carrot
  • Celeriac
  • Celery
  • Chicory, endive and radicchio
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Pepper, chilli, aubergine
  • Radish
  • Salsify and scorzonera
  • Seakale
  • Spinach – Annual
  • Swiss Chard and leafbeat
  • Tomato

If the ground is too cold and wet, DO NOT waste expensive seed by sowing, better to wait. Invest in a soil thermometer!


Wild Single Snowdrop

Places to go:-

Please visit gardens open under the National Garden Scheme (NGS) Yellow book, ( lots of Spring gardens with snowdrops, crocus, narcissus, hellebores etc.

Snowdrop bulbs were dug up and stolen a few days ago from RHS Gardens Wisley!! Please help fellow gardeners and report anybody acting suspiciously.

RHS Wisley Spring Plant Fair


RHS Wisley Spring Plant Fair

18-20th March 2016 10 – 4.30 Friday 9.30 – 4.30 Saturday and Sunday

I will be there on Friday 18th March with the RHS Advisory Department, so come and find me with a gardening query. I am also going to be working as a Gardening Advisor at Wisley every Wednesday in the Plant Centre from the 23rd March too!!

Happy Gardening and wrap up warm


P.S  I am happy to answer any of your gardening questions too, so feel free to leave them below and I will do my best to reply! 

Visit my website too ←

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Peter has spent his life gardening, working in garden centres and advising in all aspects of gardening, wildlife, and bio-diversity in horticulture.He managed Clandon Park Garden Centre in Surrey at the age of 23 and was a gardening radio presenter with the BBC. This continued for 15 years, running live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows.Now self-employed, Peter works on a wide variety of gardens from private to large estates and also concentrating on consultancy and advisory work to fellow gardeners. He works with the RHS Gardening Advice team at Chelsea, Hampton Court, Wisley Flower shows and is an RHS External Gardening Advisor

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