Beat the late summer blues by rejuvenating flower beds and lawns with a little loving care
Your March planting guide
- Gardens can look a little jaded by the end of summer but an easy way to add colour and interest is to fill containers and gaps in flower beds with brightly-hued annuals and perennials that bloom at this time of year such as aster, calendula, dahlias, echinacea, petunia, phlox, rudbeckia, salvia, sedum, sunflowers and zinnia.
- Planting plenty of flowers also provides nectar for hungry bees, butterflies and other pollinators. To keep them going during the colder months plant winter bloomers such as aloe, alyssum, banksia, helleborus, camellia, grevillea, hibiscus, liriope, marigold, poinsettia, primula, polyanthus, red hot pokers, tibouchina and viburnum.
- Perennials like daylilies, heuchera, hosta, dietes and helleborus can become congested after 3-5 years, reducing the number of flowers they’ll produce. To re-energise and give yourself more free plants for the garden divide large clumps, taking pieces from the outside, and discarding the centre. Give new plantsa good water when replanting.
How to feed the soil and nourish plants
- All the food you gave plants in spring will be used up by now so spread compost, sheep pellets and other manure around to give them plenty of nutrients for autumn and winter.
- Worm farm compost is one of the most nutritious things you can give to a garden, adding hundreds of healthy enzymes and nutrients. Dig it into soil or heavily dilute with water and use as a foliar feed.
- One of the cheapest forms of plant food is leaf mould, made from all those lovely autumn leaves that deciduous trees are now starting to shed. Rake them up every few days so they don’t make dead patches in the lawn or gather them from tree-lined streets in your neighbourhood. Either spread around the root zone of plants or add to your compost bin.
- For those with no compost bin try putting leaves into large black plastic rubbish bags with a few holes punched in and they’ll soon turn into gorgeous leaf mould.
- Turning compost regularly stops it becoming anaerobic (no air) thus slowing down the decomposition process and creating a smelly slimy mess. Grab a fork and give the whole pile a good shake up every now and again. Adding layers of small twiggy sticks in between green leaves and kitchen waste will ensure there’s air movement in the compost. You could also try using a compost accelerator.
General gardening upkeep
- Now is a good time to take semi-hardwood cuttings from shrubs such as box, choisya, coprosma, fuchsia, griselinia, hebe, lavender, hydrangea, teucrium and viburnum.
- With its warm days and cooler nights March is the month when powdery mildew and other fungal diseases thrive, attacking roses and other shrubs. You can recognise powdery mildew by grey-white powder covering leaves. There are many recipes online for natural remedies using milk, baking soda and sulphur or try ready-made products such as Yates Nature’s Way.
- Keep watering your pots, garden beds and hedges if the weather is still hot and dry in your area but do it in the morning to avoid those nasty fungal diseases. Neglecting your watering regime now can often result in plants dying back later on during winter when the wet weather arrives and they succumb to root rot.
- Lawns usually need some TLC by the end of summer. Removing thatch (dead grass) and moss with a rake is a good start. Next cover bare patches with grass seed mixed with planting compost. Poke the ground with a fork first to loosen soil if necessary. Finish your lawn makeover by sprinkling it with lawn food or give it a liquid feed with a seaweed or other nitrogen-based product. Water fertilisers in well, or wait until after a rainy spell before applying.
Words by: Carol Bucknell