March has come bowling in 'like a lion' and temperatures are well down into the minus figures. HOWEVER, as soon as the Beast from the East has abated, there's not a moment to spare. Here are six garden tasks to attend to as soon as possible - because we all know that the month can end 'like a lamb' and soaring temperatures will result in a fantastic growth spurt outdoors.
The first day of spring! Air temperatures are well into the minus figures across the UK, with the advancement of Storm Emma making it feel like Siberia
There are plenty more sayings about the month of March, including the well-known: March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers. There's probably no denying that this is true. You can choose whether or not to believe 'As it rains in March so it rains in June'.
Winter and early spring flowers generally keep low to the ground where they are afforded a little protection. This dwarf Iris reticulata looks resplendent in its winter beauty.
Flowers are out now!
Whatever the reality, there are snowdrops, daffodils,
tiny irises and crocuses all flowering their socks off at the moment, come snow or shine. Most people have been delighted by the transformation of the landscape into winter wonderland filled with magical crystals and beautiful sparkle. It provides a great backdrop for those welcome, early flowers.
Get outside as soon as the ground is frost-free
Don't rest on your laurels
for too long! There are at least six urgent jobs to do in the garden as soon as the snow has melted and the soil is no longer frozen:
As soon as the ground is workable, clear weeds and start to warm the soil
Clear debris from your veg patch. This includes old plants and, of course, weeds. Then WARM UP the soil by placing fleece, carpet or polythene on the surface.
Save your old carpet for the soil, it's a great warming device!
Climbing supports can be purchased off the shelf or constructed from canes - they make architecturally pleasing features all year round.
Prepare supports for crops and climbers that will require help as they head vertically. This includes runner beans, peas and climbers such as clematis. You can create your wigwam or tent shapes using canes or twigs - or you can even purchase architecturally-pleasing supports that will be beautiful all year round. Vertical accent in a garden is highly pleasing.
It's time to bring out your seeds - they will be ready to sow if you have stored them in this smart seed packet storage tin! Click on the photo to find out more.
Sow herb seeds under glass such as chives and basil. You can also sow cabbages (make sure you avoid using spots where brassicas were growing last year); kale; leeks; radishes, carrots (early cultivars only) and broad beans.
It's time to 'chit' your seed potatoes. Early crop spuds can go in during March. This photo shows the red variety 'Arran Victory'. Click on the picture to find out more.
Plant potatoes. They can be planted unsprouted but an earlier crop and higher yields can be achieved by 'chitting' them first. This simply means allowing them to sprout in a bright, unheated room. Then when the sprouts are about 5cm long, plant the seed potatoes at about 30cm deep. Allow about 60cm between rows. Make sure the ground isn't frozen.
Last chance to plant bare root fruit trees! It's an inexpensive way to grow your own.
Last month to plant bare root fruit trees and bushes. Get them in as soon as the ground is frost-free and they will soon be making new roots.
The slugs will soon be looking for your tender young shoots. Keep on top of the problem right from the start of the growing season.
Weed your beds! It really is the key to good gardening for the entire season. Weed species spread really quickly as soon as the sun comes out. Oh, and keep on top of the slug problem too.
Help the hedgehogs!
We all love hedgehogs, so perhaps you could help to monitor numbers and create habitats for these little mammals that are in decline.
One more pleasurable task this spring for those interested in wildlife and conservation
is to consider offering to help monitor hedgehog numbers. Wildlife Trust organisations across the entire UK are running 'iSpy a Hedgehog' t
racking scheme to help track the whereabouts of these much-loved little beasts. It's all about habitat restoration and awareness, trying to improve the long-term picture for these little beasts. The scheme will also equip people with knowledge to enable them to appropriately respond to planning applications which could impact upon these prickly beasts.
Further information regarding the hedgehog tracking scheme from wildlifetrusts.org
Also from iSpyWildlife.
Here's a 'mini-selection' for you! Click on the photos to find out more about the products.
Cast iron small hedgehog ornament. Also available: rabbit; snail and squirrel.
Metal hedgehog garden ornament available from Perfectplants.co.uk
Hedgehog planter made from natural materials. Just add plants!
Spike the hedgehog ornament can come to a garden near you! He's made from natural materials.
This garden stake has a hedgehog picture on the top! It can be plunged into the earth so the friendly beast sits at ground level.