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Spring arrives

Prune Cornus for colourful stems. Credit: GardenWorldImages.com

Spring usually arrives by mid-March and the frequent sunny days provide the opportunity for an increasing range of gardening tasks. It's time to get busy preparing seed beds, sowing seed, cutting back winter shrubs and generally tidying up around the garden.

Top 10 jobs this month

  1.  Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes

  2. Protect new spring shoots from slugs

  3. Plant summer-flowering bulbs

  4. Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials

  5. Top dress containers with fresh compost

  6. Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed)

  7. Cut back Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow) grown for colourful winter stems

  8. Weeds come back in to growth - deal with them before they get out of hand

  9. Start feeding fish and using the pond fountain; remove pond heaters

  10. Open the greenhouse or conservatory doors and vents on warm days

Monthly Advice

Things to do in the garden this month:

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Weather

Rain

Widespread showers will feature throughout the month, but the total rainfall is usually lower than earlier in the year. Heavy showers and melting snow continue to wash nutrients out of the soil, which will benefit from a mid-spring application of fertiliser.

As temperatures rise and rainfall lessens, the soil begins to drain and become more workable.

This is often a good time to cultivate clay-based soils. The drying process can be speeded up in wet areas by covering the ground with plastic and fleece. This increases the number of days of fieldwork possible this month.

Sunshine

The days are now longer and light is beginning to reach adequate levels, even in northern regions. There is an average 30 per cent increase in sunshine levels across the UK in March, with 90-100 hours being an expected broad average across the UK.

South-east, south and south-west England usually fare better than northern England and eastern Scotland, which in turn fare better than western and northern Scotland.

Despite the general increase in sunlight, it is still a good idea to keep glasshouse plants well spaced, and to keep the panes clean, in order to maximise light on dull days and in northern districts.

Temperature

The sun’s rays are growing stronger, causing temperatures to rise. Bear in mind that towns and cities remain several degrees warmer than the open countryside, which allows some tasks to be done earlier than would otherwise be advised in a northern region, for example.

Continue to check greenhouse and conservatory heaters to make sure they are working properly (a maximum-minimum thermometer is a useful checking device).

Wind

North-westerly winds often bring cold, strong breezes. And, like the saying ‘March winds will blow and we shall have snow’, snow, sleet and hail are also likely.

Winds can reach gale-force, particularly along the western coast of the UK. Make sure that tree stakes are securely in place, and that plants are tied firmly to supports.

If large trees are damaged, it is best to prune off the damage. Small branches are manageable for most gardeners, but more major work will require the help of an arborist or tree surgeon.