March is the start of the gardening year, well it is according to my battered Readers Digest ‘The Gardening Year', and it's probably as good a time as ever to ‘get going' in the garden. A fine March day with the sound of flies and bees in the air and the garden awakening is paradise. It is good to be out in the fresh air and the exercise is refreshing but don't let it get the better of you and lead you to sow every packet of seeds that you have without stopping to think if you will manage to keep all these seedlings going when they need more space or when the colder weather returns.
Whilst it is still cold, limit yourself to a few seeds of lettuce ‘Little Gem' and some of the old-fashioned extra scented sweet peas. They are both pretty hardy and the peas benefit from a long growing season.
By the end of the month we will have put the clocks forward and everything will seem different. The hawthorns will be bursting into leaf and the borders filling out. As the gardening year accelerates to full speed, it's go, go go.
Feed flowerbeds and fruit and vegetable plots. Even if you have cultivated or mulched the beds during winter, the rain will have washed out some of the nutrients. It's easy to spend unnecessarily on fancy-packaged and branded fertilisers but Growmore is dead cheap to buy from Mole Stores in Newbury. The fat granules are easy to spread and the 7:7:7 formulae makes it perfect for general use; it is not targeted only at roses, vegetables or tomatoes. I use it throughout the garden sprinkling it fairly generously on flower beds, around trees, shrubs and fruit. Consider spreading it when rain is forecast to ensure the fertiliser is washed into the soil and granules that land on shoots or leaves disperse and don't burn.
March is still the time for enjoying little gems such as small daffodils, scillas, crocuses and dog's tooth violets. Scillas bring shades of blue to the party and make a low carpet of leaves and lace-like flowers under shrubs and hedges - like massed snowdrops, small narcissi or crocuses. Thinking as I write, would blue scillas combine with yellow narcissi in drifts bring a pleasing colour combination to a dull area? The challenge is to find daffs and scillas that flower at the same time.
Happy Gardening, Giles Derry
Dates for your diary
Tuesday 13 March 7.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. Marcus Dancer is telling us ‘How to grow Clematis successfully'. These gems seem to thrive for some of us and struggle and die for others. Not fair, you echo. The soil around here is perfect for clematis as you can see from the Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) in the hedgerows. Do join us. Guests and non-members (both £2) are always welcome.
Saturday 7 April. Spring Flower Show at 2.30pm in Chieveley Village Hall. This is our first show of the year, so why not have a go? There are classes for bulbs and other flowers, domestic produce such as marmalade, lemon drizzle cake (recipe provided) and flapjacks (yummy) as well as handicrafts. Or simply drop in to see the hall transformed by the colour and scents of spring flowers; a breath of fresh air after such a dark wet winter.
Saturday 28 April. Coach outing to Exbury Gardens Join our trip to Exbury Gardens near Beaulieu. Exbury is one of the Rothschild mansions and has 200 acres of woodland gardens stuffed with fine specimen trees and shrubs. It is predominantly a spring garden with camellias and magnolias as well as the famous rhododendrons. A coach will collect us from the village hall at 8.30am and return by around 5.00pm. All for £20. If you would like to join contact Michael Pocock