Peter’s Gardening tips for March

Spring starts to explode at last, well … almost!

Are you ready to get out there and attack the garden? Some of you have with the wonderful warm weather we had!

If you’re a fair weather gardener you might not have had a look at your garden since last autumn. Go on, say hello to the largest room of your property – unless you live in a flat…Check it over, see what’s happened, any signs of spring?

How is the lawn looking?

Any damage to structures, fences, shed roof, trellis or plants?

What needs cutting back or appears dead?


Decking, garden furniture, patio looking grubby?

Compost heap to check.

Seeds, plants and compost to order.

Digging and mulching to do?

Create a list of jobs to do, then prioritise which is the most urgent to tackle first.

March sayings:

“So many misties in March,

So many frosties in May”!


“A peck of March dust is worth a king’ s ransom”


“March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb”


“When it thunders in March one may say ‘Alas’!”

Make the most of any dry days especially when the ground starts to dry out. Spread any home grown compost, leaf mould, manure or mulch on borders as soon as possible because everything is starting to grow. Don’t pile up against the trunks or stems of trees or shrubs.


Aeration. One of the most important jobs to help grass to grow. De-compacting the lawn is so necessary – roots need air to grow properly.

Stagnant, airless soil grows nothing! After any big shows at R.H.S. Wisley the lawns are all spiked with an aerator for the grass to recover from the trampling of thousands of feet. Small lawns use a garden fork, large lawns hire a machine.

Aeration also improves drainage, discourages moss, reduces thatch and encourages worms.

Moss control:

Treat lawns now after aeration with your choice of moss control. Remember to apply on a dry day with rain forecast within 24 hours to water in the product applied to the lawn. Leave to work for 2 weeks then scarify – small lawns use a spring tine rake and scratch vigorously. This should be a good work out. You should end up with piles of dead grass and blackened moss.

Large areas to scarify hire a machine.

Afterwards overseed with grass seed – a superb New grass seed from Johnson’s lawn seed is The 1. It’s a new perennial rye grass which germinates fast, is deeper rooting, more drought and cold resistant, with a great colour through the summer. Visit for your nearest stockist.

Rake in the new seed and lightly cover with compost.




Time spent now clearing will save time later on. Still sunny days are perfect to spray with a weedkiller to clear annual weeds, remember to use safely and away from ponds- read the label and keep a sprayer just for weedkilling!

Hoeing is a great non chemical approach on dry sunny days, so the weeds wither and die. The other method is the dig up and bend!

“If you hoe when you don’t need to hoe, you never need to hoe!”.  A. Aslett.


Finish Apples and Pears.

Roses hybrid T and floribundas need a good haircut. Cut out old silvery stems to the ground to encourage new stems to grow from the base of the plant. Don’t be frightened by cutting back hard 8-12 inches or 25cms. Use good sharp secateurs, pruning saw or loppers.

Shrub roses cut out old stems, criss crossing branches and thinnest less than pencil thickness. These should Not be cut back so hard.

Check out David Austin Roses for more information.

Tickle over the soil with a border fork then apply mulch and rose fertiliser. As the buds break spray with a fungicide to prevent black spot.

Tickling, rootling, tiffling, firkling are words used for turning over the soil surface with a lady’s fork or border fork. It’s beneficial to decompact where you’ve been treading, helps drainage and air into the soil.

Have you got any strange gardening terms or words from your part of the country or hand me downs from relatives?

Rootled soil

Rootled soil

Seed Sowing:

Whist talking about soil think where you would like colourful plants this season- create some bare earth, dig over lightly, break up lumps with the fork and rake, so the surface is crumbly making a fine tilth. Choose your Hardy Annual seeds and sow carefully, raking the seed in gently.

Sweet Peas, Wild Flowers, Nigella, Godetia, Poppies, Cornflower, Nasturtians, take your pick loads to choose from, lots of colours too.

Buy seeds with single flowers preferably for the bees, butterflies, moths, bumblebees and hover flies.


Large range of seeds can be sown if the ground is ready. Protection is vital against frost, birds, mice/ voles, slugs+ snails rec.

Cloches come into their own now with early sowings, a great investment. Make sure the seeds have enough room to grow, develop and mature. First early potatoes can be planted towards the end of the month.

I could write an entire article on veg planting now, so leave me some questions to answer….

Feeding Time:

As plants grow the demands are great especially fruiting and flowering plants. A general purpose feed for a lot of plants is very beneficial –

Growmore, Vitax Q4, Miracle For, Phostrogen etc…  Slow release fertiliser can be applied now too, more expensive but a targeted approach only released at the right temperature and moisture content, lasting 6 months or more.

Tubs, bulbs, hedges, roses, fruit bushes will respond quickly to some TLC.

Happy cared for plants are less prone to diseases and will reward you more.

Check your garden’s fertility and carry out a ph test. A lot of vegetables grow better in a higher ph or alkaline soil.


Signs of Spring are all around. Butterflies, Queen Bumblebees, Honey Bees, Frogs,Toads are all waking up.

What have you seen?

I heard a Chiffchaff yesterday. The bird song is increasing in volume! Nest building is happening too.



What ever you do please  make time to enjoy the explosion of Spring. Look at stunning Camellias, bulbs, primroses…

Garden Centres are crammed full of goodies. Look to visit gardens open with the National Garden Scheme, National Trust,  RHS and private gardens.


Happy Gardening everybody!

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Peter Mills

I love everything to do with natural history, wildlife, biodiversity and of course horticulture - basically the big outdoors. I grew up with very good teachers namely my parents and my French grandfather who was a superb grower of vegetables. At Hadlow College I studied a three year OND in Horticulture. I had a market stall selling plants. Went onto wholesaling house plants to florists and garden centres across southern England. In 1986 I joined Clandon Park Garden Centre as manager. Whilst there I started my career as a gardening radio presenter with the BBC Southern Counties Radio. This continued for 15 years, building up valuable contacts with the RHS Wisley, live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows etc. Since 1998 I have been self-employed, working as a Head Gardener and in private gardens . Through the RHS Advisory Department at Wisley I advise on horticultural problems in members gardens, including pest & disease problems, lawn-care advice, pruning of wisterias, fruit trees, roses, wildlife gardening, growing fruit & vegetables, creating wildflower meadows, identifying plants and control of pernicious weeds. I am an extremely lucky guy who loves what I do and the trade called Horticulture!

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23rd Mar 2015
Thanks for voting!
I heard Monty say that it's OK to put grass clippings on the raspberry bed as a mulch (after weeding) but then Pippa has said in the past that this will draw nitrogen from the soil as they break down; could you clarify please.

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