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Out you go! Gardening tips for March

New month, new list of gardening jobs to prepare your patch for spring. Here are five foolproof tips, courtesy of award-winning Richard Key, to make your garden gorgeous.

Are you the kind of gardener who lovingly tends your outdoor space in the depths of winter? No, me neither. But the daffs come out and the atmosphere carries that delicious promise of warmth on the horizon, I tip toe out in the garden, place my hoe, fork and spade neatly in a row, then, you know, have a leisurely coffee and croissant while I wonder where the hell to start on my my garden.

This month I already know what needs doing, because brilliant garden designer and Muddy’s Little Black Book alumni Richard Key has told me! Richard’s produced award-winning designs at Chelsea and Hampton Court  and is also an author and a Fellow of the Society of Garden Designers so he knows what he’s talking about. Here are his 5 gardening tips for March.


Plan your planting for those heady summer days when bees are humming and butterflies are flitting from flower to flower. Plant out lavender and salvias for the bees, and lilac, buddleia and sedums (iceberg plant) for the butterflies. Don’t forget to plant for the birds too! Berried shrubs such as cotoneaster, ilex (holly) and sambucus (elder) will provide welcome winter food.


Spring’s here, daffodils are out and though we had a ridiculous amount of rain in January and February, it’s a good time to spread a layer of organic material over the beds to keep that moisture in for the dry days which will surely come. Make sure the beds are clear of weeds and remove any dead stalks of last year’s perennials. Rough rake the soil with a fork or garden rake before spreading a layer of well rotted farmyard manure, spent mushroom compost or good garden compost to a depth of two inches (5cm). The mulch will also help reduce too much back-breaking weeding.


Now’s the time to hard cut those shrubs that provide that vibrant stem colour from autumn through to spring. These are mainly the dogwoods such as the bright crimson stems of Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ (above) but also shrubby willows like Salix alba ‘Chermesina’. The brightest coloured stems are on new wood, so the plants need to be cut to the ground (coppiced) in March to grow up throughout the year and be in full colour in the autumn.


This is the month when the mower comes out, so make sure it’s been serviced and the blades are sharp. Wait till the lawn feels firm enough to walk on and lightly brush or rake off any debris. Set the blades high for the first cut to top the grass and gradually lower them over the coming weeks.


Broad beans, carrots and peas can all be sown outside directly into the ground, as well as early potatoes. The new growth from these and other early plants will still need to be covered for protection from nighttime frost by cloches or fleece, which should be removed during the day.

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