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Garden cuttings: Toby Buckland’s gardening advice for March

PUBLISHED: 13:30 02 March 2015

Stake young perennials, like peony and asters, before plants fall over

Stake young perennials, like peony and asters, before plants fall over

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Toby Buckland delivers some sound practical and seasonal advice

With so much fresh, green growth to gobble, the slug and snail population is growing as fast as the gardenWith so much fresh, green growth to gobble, the slug and snail population is growing as fast as the garden

Hello! The sun is rising earlier every day and it’s not just the daffodils that have woken up. Birds are busily building their nests and bumblebees make a welcome return as the plump females come out from their hibernation under sheds and deciduous trees and take to the wing.

My favourite noise though comes from the choir of frogs that live in our pond croaking their baritone song whenever they think they can’t be heard. They spawn this month so make sure there’s foliage cover from marginal plants leading down to the water’s edge so when they metamorphose from tadpoles to baby frogs they can escape unseen into the garden.

March is always a month of transition and although the beginning still feels wintery, the rush of spring soon isn’t far away. It all starts here. Happy gardening!

Slugs and snails

With so much fresh, green growth to gobble, the slug and snail population is growing as fast as the garden. Rake up leaf-litter and spent stems which the molluscs use as hiding places, then a good trick is to place pieces of broken pot or slate near vulnerable plants with a sprinkling of organic slug pellets underneath. The molluscs will make for the baited pots and slate during the day as places to hole up and don’t come out again. This method also stops the pellets being washed away by rain.

If you want dahlias in late summer, now’s the time to pot up the tubers, as well as canna and ginger liliesIf you want dahlias in late summer, now’s the time to pot up the tubers, as well as canna and ginger lilies

Beer traps work a treat too especially on the vegetable patch. I set ‘stubbie’ beer bottles with a swig of beer in the bottom into the soil in raised beds to draw and drown slugs that would eat the veggies. Set tops just proud of the soil surface so that predatory beetles that hunt for slugs can’t fall in accidentally.

What to do now

If you want dahlias in late summer, now’s the time to pot up the tubers, as well as canna and ginger lilies. Stake young perennials, like peony and asters, before plants fall over.

Now is prime sowing time in the greenhouse – start off tomatoes, chillies (‘Cayenne’ is prolific and reliable), aubergines and peppers in a propagator for planting out after the frosts have finished. Plant early potatoes – I love ‘Winston’ as unlike other earlies it’s big enough to bake.

It’s the last chance to hard-prune hybrid tea roses and floribundas without delaying flowering. In the herb garden, it’s time to sow parsley, dill and chives. There are number of ways to do this either under cloches outdoors or in pots on the windowsill. I use the bare soil in the greenhouse for an abundance of fresh leaves by late spring.

Plant of the month

Gladioli

Some still think of gladdies as cut flowers for the allotment but there’s so much more to them than that. They can add height and colour to the back of the border or be flowery fillers for the front and the small ‘nanus’ varieties are perfect for growing in pots. From a tiny corm the size of a Pontefract cake up comes plump stems from knee to shoulder high in every shade.

My favourites are the fresh acid greens like ‘Green Wizard’ or the deep purple black of ‘Zorro’. The corms are sold in generous packs and if you plant every few weeks between March and July you’ll have a succession of to enjoy or harvest right through until autumn. I plant in clusters deeper than it says on the packet some 10-15cm deep to anchor them down and reduce the need for staking.

Ever bought a plant and then not known where to plant it? Or wish you knew what to plant in sun, shade, dry soil or damp? Then join Toby at his Powderham Castle Plant Centre at 10.15am on Tuesday, 24 or Wednesday, 25 March to find out ‘What Perennial Where?’ Tickets cost £7.50 and include refreshments. Booking is essential on 01626 891133.

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