The sunny and long days bring many gardening tasks that can be completed in March. Even though it’s getting warmer, keep an eye on the weather forecast because there is a risk of good ground frost in March, which can catch gardeners out and potentially damage less-hardy plants. From spring cleaning the garden to pruning and improving soil health, NatureID’s resident plant expert Julia Omelchenko shares what needs to be done in the garden this month.
1. Clean up the garden
According to Julia, Britons should start their spring garden routine with a clean. This includes removing litter that has accumulated over the winter, such as fallen leaves and branches.
The expert said: “This is an important step because pathogenic microorganisms such as parasitic fungi can take up residence in fallen leaves.
“At the end of March, when it has warmed up and the night frost has stopped, you should remove any insulating material from the trees. This includes mulch, agricultural cloth and agricultural textiles.
It’s also worth going through the pots and removing any sad looking foliage and pulling out plants that haven’t made it through the winter.
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2. Prune the Plants
Now is the time to prune plants that bloom in late spring or summer, such as fruit trees and ornamental shrubs.
However, Julia highlights that some of the latter, such as forsythia, bloom in early spring on the previous year’s shoots, “so don’t prune them in March, or the plants won’t bloom”.
Pruning is important for those who want to improve their plants. The expert explained: “Pruning helps control plant growth and shape, as well as encouraging new growth.
“You need to remove dry, weak branches as well as branches growing inside the crown so that more light can enter the crown and less moisture inside it. This is a great way to prevent fungal infections.”
The expert advised using sanitized pruning shears and garden saws for pruning trees and shrubs.
She said: “Treat the cuts with a broad-spectrum fungicide and cover them with pruning sealer when dry. Do not over-prune to avoid damaging the plant.”
3. Use fungicides and insecticides on plants
Julia recommends treating plants with fungicides and insecticides in March, before buds appear. She advised: “It is best to use systemic products that contain active ingredients that can easily penetrate plant tissues. This will keep the plants safe from diseases and pests for a long time.
“Alternate between fungicides with different active ingredients, in order to protect plants from fungal pathogens and prevent the fungus from adapting to the treatment. Be sure to follow the directions on the package.”
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4. Check and improve soil condition
Spring is a time of active growth. Therefore it is important to regularly check the soil around the plants during this period. Julia warns that “it should not be dry and covered with a crust”.
He instructed: “Water the plants if there hasn’t been enough rain and the soil is drying out. Start doing this once night temperatures stop falling below freezing.”
Gardeners can begin mulching the soil around their plants in April, when it is warm enough outside. For that, Julia said: “You can use a wide variety of materials, from sawdust, tree bark, and coconut substrate to specialized materials such as agrofabric or agrotextile.
“The mulch creates an optimal microclimate and keeps the soil and roots from drying out too much. It also helps protect the garden bed from weeds.
5. Shield Coniferous Plants
Conifers are a group of coniferous woody plants, characterized by their attractive conical shape.
Come spring, gardeners are advised to protect their conifers from the sun to prevent scorching. Julia suggests that gardeners can use non-woven garden cloth or special shade netting for this.
6. Prepare the Soil for Planting
For those who plan to grow vegetables or flowers, the expert claimed that March is the “best time” to prepare the soil for them. He instructed: “Clear the beds of weeds, fallen leaves and branches. Loosen the soil by digging it with a shovel. Remove weed roots if you see any. Apply a fertilizer to increase the nutrient content of the soil.
“If you use organic, such as compost, mix it in with the soil in the garden bed to improve the structure of the medium. In addition to organic fertilizers, you’ll need to add minerals—choose them based on your crops. Apply them before planting or during a period of active growth.