March Garden Diary

What to do

March is the time to prune deciduous fruit trees such as peaches, nectarines and plums. The aim is to clear dead wood out and allow for fresh new fruiting spurs to emerge for early season crops in summer. After pruning, feed with an organically-based or natural fertiliser to kickstart that new growth. Trevor is applying Dynamic Lifter and Troforte M to his fruit, and Dynamic Lifter and Powerfeed in the green bottle to his vegies to ensure strong growth and larger, healthier crops.

It’s a great time prune your Hydrangeas to remove old flower stems, clean up dead wood and stimulate better flower production for next year. When you cut the old flower heads off, leave long enough stems for a vase and then hang them up to dry. Three weeks later, dip the flower heads in dye coloured blue, red or pink and let them soak the dye in before re-hanging them for a week or more to thoroughly dry out. Pop them into a vase without water for everlasting indoor colour.

Other flowering plants that have finished their display could also do with a tidy up, including jasmine, honeysuckle, roses and jessamine. A light prune to get the plant back into shape and remove dead sections and spent flowers is often all that is needed to rejuvenate the plant for strong future growth.

Agapanthus plants maybe getting a little unruly now. Remove all old flower heads; these are best hot composted to burn out embryos in seeds to reduce the risk of spreading beyond your garden where they might become a nuisance. Now is a good time to split them and replant in another section of your garden, or thicken up borders to freshen up your density of displays.

You’ve probably noticed that your strawberries are starting to take off again after the worst of the summer heat. Strawberries should be lifted and divided now, replanted in enriched soil, ready for next season’s crop.

You can get started on a little preparation for winter planting by checking out the bare-rooted trees, shrubs and roses that will be on offer in garden centres from May. Many need to be pre-ordered, so planning your orders now via the catalogues will give you time to select the most stunning new releases, or treasures you’ve always wanted but hadn’t had time secure. Even better, barerooted tress and shrubs are usually delivered at a fraction of the cost of potted plants, so you can save a fortune. Most mail order catalogues offer delivery direct to your door, so you have extra time to find the perfect spot in your garden and prepare it for your new arrivals.

Purchasing your spring-flowering bulbs in March is also perfect for most states in Australia. A little tip; put early orders into the fridge to chill at about 2-4 degrees Celsius, ready for planting come April. This will ensure the most amazing flower results.

The first autumn rains come and often with them comes an army of snails, who take great pleasure in destroying your newly planted autumn and winter flower crops. Avoid harsh chemicals and keep them under control naturally using beer traps, or sprinkle coffee grinds or crushed eggshells around your plants to keep them away.

Keep weeds at bay to avoid being overtaken by the annual burst in growth as we head into winter. You can apply a 100mm thick layer of a chunky compost or mulch to smother them, or keep warm as the days get cooler by getting out there with a Dutch hoe or three-prong cultivator to break up the ground and restrict the growth cycle. Hand-pull what you can and add them to the compost for a nutrient boost to your garden later on, or feed them to your chooks and benefit from the nutrients through fresh eggs.

What to plant

March is a great time to plant cuttings. Take semi-hardwood cuttings from plants such as Bougainvillea, Acalypha and soft wood cuttings from Allamandra, Ixora and your favourite succulents in warmer climates. Try Hibiscus in cooler climates, along with Azaleas and Rhododendrons. In no time you will have fresh rooted cuttings – new plants to add to your garden or give away to friends.

Now is your last chance to get exotic plants established before winter hits and they slow down their growth. Examples include mangoes, which grow well across Australia (with the exception of Tasmania). Citrus and avocados are important trees to grow at home – every house in Australia should have a lime and a lemon. Avocadoes make stunning street trees or backyard trees, either in dwarf or larger varieties, and if planted now will establish well to deliver delicious results in no time.

Autumn-flowering annuals can go in the ground or pots now, ready to deliver spectacular colour through April and May. These include old-time favourites such as Violas and pansies, whose flowers get bigger as the weather cools towards winter. Don’t forget Primulas, Cyclamen and Cineraria that make breathtaking displays in winter all the way to spring.

In the vegie garden, it is time to get those spuds in for a winter crop. Leave your seed potatoes in a dark, warm spot such as a cupboard for a week or two before planting to stimulate eye bud growth. Plant into trenches that can be progressively filled as shoots appear and start growing towards the light above. The more you can mound up the soil as they grow, the more potatoes you will end up with come harvest time. For space-saving, try growing them in a tyre tower.

This is your last chance to get a spinach crop in before the winter slows down growth too much. Spinach loves autumn and a crop planted now can be picked in just six weeks time, with excess blanched and frozen for later use.

St Patrick’s Day is the traditional time to plant sweet peas for a beautiful, delicate, colourful display right through into spring. These plants love a full-sun position and a rich soil, so be sure to dig in plenty of compost first. They will need a trellis to support upward growth, so be prepared and get this in place before planting your seeds to avoid disturbing the ground once the plants emerge.

Harvest highlights

Apples are the seasonal picks for most parts of Australia; Granny Smith, ‘Hi-Early’, ‘Jonathon’, ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘Fuji’ are in abundance, fresh and at their peak flavour. There is nothing like new-season apples – so different to the cold store ones we have to endure throughout the rest of the year!

Try combining the sweetness of crunchy apples and pears in this French Pear Salad.

  • ½ C spring onions, finely sliced
  • 3 sticks of celery, diagonally sliced into 50mm lengths
  • 1 red apples, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 2 firm ripe pears, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • ½ C sultanas
  • ¼ head iceburg lettuce, shredded
  • 125 g Edam cheese, sliced, then cut into triangles
  • ¼ C green capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/3 C French salad dressing

Combine the spring onions, celery, apple, pears, sultanas, lettuce, Edam cheese, green capsicum and fresh mint in a bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Delish – From Garden to Table. Available online here.

For your state-by-state guide, please see our Seasonal Garden Guide on the right-hand side of the homepage.

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