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Gardener's Diary            March

Gardener`s Diary is a regular feature of run by Rosemary Martin, who is semi retired.  She says anyone can enjoy gardening whether they have a large or small garden, can`t tell a dandelion from a daisy, or are aged 9 or 90… Here you will be able to see what jobs you should be doing in the garden month by month, get ideas for spectacular seasonal planting schemes, read previews on new plants and products, find out where to buy them, and get up-to-date news of forthcoming events and places to visit. 


For those of you that have never dabbled in the "black art" of gardening you will first need to get some basic knowledge from a good gardening book. You will find some within this article as examples...


But first an introduction from Rosemary...


I have been gardening now for about thirty years, long enough for my husband to know that it`s wise to bury his head in a newspaper when I get the secateurs out...  I don`t have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice but I also think the modern trends work well. Plants in my garden have to be resilient as they get moved around frequently, and my husband has been heard  to mutter  “I don`t remember that tree being there this morning..”

Hobbies have come and gone over the years but only gardening has endured, and now in retirement this column adds a new dimension to the hobby, and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  


Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife



Eleventh edition  - March 2002

It seems the March winds arrived early and battered the country for the second half of February. Let us hope we don`t have any more to contend with. I don`t like those bitter winds that manage to penetrate all the layers of clothes we put on in our effort to stay warm. 

On a more positive note, we have already had some memorable spring-like days when the whole neighbourhood seemed to start their annual ritual of sorting out the garage and garden, and visiting the local tip with all the rubbish from winter... 

Talking of rubbish, I`ve been very good and built up a splendid compost heap - two of them actually - just by saving all the grass cuttings, vegetable peelings, used tea bags and garden prunings, with some compost maker thrown in. This is the second year I have used the compost and I can really see the benefit to the plants and shrubs in the borders. Of course it`s nothing like the crumbly peat-like material produced on the TV gardener`s compost heaps, but then I don`t have six under-gardeners to turn it over for me every fortnight!  

Talking of television, I love watching gardening programmes, and am delighted to see that Alan Titchmarsh, the gardening guru, is - like Delia with her cookery - going back to basics *with a new eight-part series on BBC 2 on Wednesday evenings at 8.30pm from 27 February 2002.  Called 'How to be a Gardener' it is a real back-to-basics approach which will inspire those who have been too scared to go out into the garden. It should also be a good refresher-course for keen gardeners. A book will be available to accompany the series, and a second series planned for next year!*  (You will see the book at the bottom of this page) 


* Taken from a review of the TV programme on



This month, as March marks the start of the gardener`s eight month active season,  I have written a little bit here about gardening for beginners...


Jobs for the month - March

House plants

Increase watering and feed plants more frequently. Check root systems and re-pot into a larger pot if necessary. If the weather is warm enough I stand larger specimens outside and give them a wash with the hose pipe on `fine spray`and let them dry before bringing them back inside. This is a job that can also be done in the summer on a rainy day. 



March - April are good months for sowing or laying new lawns. Existing lawns should be swept and raked before mowing. I have already lightly mown my lawn in December and again in February, more to collect debris than shorten the grass, and this month I shall remove the moss with an electric scarifier, which is an extremely satisfying job...   

Shrub borders and roses

If you didn`t do this task in February, turn over the borders with a fork to freshen them up and let air in - as the earth will have become compacted over winter - taking out any weeds at the same time. Cut out any dead or twiggy wood from rose bushes and shrubs. Prune roses and any shrubs, early summer and later flowering clematis hybrids, ornamental grape vines and wisteria, according to instructions in your gardening book.

Paths, walls and fencing

Another task you may already have done in February....Do any necessary repairs before plant growth starts. Use a weedkiller such as Pathclear to kill grass and weeds on concrete areas for a whole season. Examine the supports for climbing plants and replace if necessary. Pressure clean paths or other ground areas that have become slippery with moss and algae. (Read instructions carefully on weedkiller packets if you have pets)


Continue to sow summer bedding plants and tomatoes. Plants that you have stored over winter such as pelargoniums, (geraniums) fuchsias and tuberous begonias can now be started into growth. Keep some gentle heat on in the greenhouse during the nights as frosts will still quickly kill your new seedlings. I usually start seeds off in the house and transfer them to the conservatory until May when it is safe to put them in my unheated greenhouse. They will tend to get leggy and lean towards the light, so will need turning every so often..



Continue to sow successional crops such as salads and carrots. You don`t need a vegetable garden or allotment to enjoy home grown vegetables as they can be grown in amongst the flowers. In fact it helps to keep the aphids and carrot fly away if you plant vegetables amongst flowers such as marigolds, and I think it looks really nice to see vegetables and salad stuff dotted around the borders. Later on you could put a small wigwam of runner beans in.


The first fortnight in March provides a final opportunity for fruit planting while the plants are still dormant. Before growth starts, do any late pruning of young plum trees according to your book, give them some fertiliser and protect blossom from frost with horticultural fleece.

Trees and shrubs

If there are any dead or diseased branches or twigs on new or existing trees, cut them out. Give a top dressing with a  fertilizer and mulch. Check that the supports and ties for young trees are secure but not too tight, and won`t rub against the trunk. This is a good time to make sure that new trees develop a good shape by cutting back any badly shaped branches. I pinch out the tips of new trees so they form a bushier shape... 

Water gardens  

Much the same as for February this month. If the weather is suitable for you to do a pond `spring clean` then take care not to disturb any mating frogs or toads.  If they haven`t yet paired off you can put them in a bucket and cover them until it`s time to put them back in the pond. The same goes for the fish. We put ours in a plastic plastering bath where they swim around quite happily until being returned to their pond. If you are re-lining a concrete pond take care to use the correct sealant afterwards, and give it ample time to dry.  It`s probably a little early in the year for buying aquatic plants. 


The birds are very busy this month pairing off and mating. If you are thinking of placing new nesting boxes, make sure they face North so the sun doesn`t shine in them. Clean out any old nesting boxes with a hand brush but not disinfectant or water. I always take some time out at this time of year to spend a few minutes in the garden, bird spotting and listening to their varied and tuneful songs. One of life`s little pleasures...


Some web sites of interest to gardeners:    



For the expert:-


Alan Titchmarsh MBE, TV gardener, writer, broadcaster and thoroughly nice person. Just a few choice words to describe the peoples` favourite TV gardener. See his website....



For ideas:-


Thompson and Morgan: a growing resource for gardeners worldwide. The site includes the international online seed catalogues, the young plants catalogue (UK only), the wholesale seeds catalogue, together with the award winning Germination Times and a host of other useful information.



For inspiration:-


Gardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people.



For vision:-


Visit the Eden Project 


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival


For  indulgence:- 






Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary




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