Arrgghh! So much to do now that it’s March! There’s a shiver in the air, a lovely anticipation that the garden is about to pirouette from the wings onto centre-stage again. We need to get ready! Let’s pot up some summer bulbs, sow some salad seeds, sort out the shed………..
Smashing summer bulbs
The garden centres, online or not, are full of all sorts of summer bulbs and tubers primed to give you a glorious show this summer.
There are an insane number of varieties and categories of Dahlia; look at the wonderful Hadrian’s Midnight’ in the feature picture, for instance. I have only grown a few, but middle-sister Laura and I are trialling a couple of Suttons’ varieties this year, ‘Autumn Fairy’ and the lovely ‘ Cafe au Lait’ (which is our feature picture today’. They have an interesting section on dahlia-growing, actually – link at the end – in which an earlier 3Growbags blog is mentioned.
The thing is that even if you intend to plant them out in the garden later on, you should get the tubers potted up now, and started into growth inside – greenhouse, cold frame, cool windowsill, etc. They must be protected from the cold and gradually accustomed to outdoor conditions; only plant them out when there is not a chance of a late frost in your area.
Have a look at your tubers first and trim away any wispy dead rooty bits from the fat ‘fingers’. Fill a good-sized pot with peat-free compost to 4-6″ (10-15 cm) from the top, and tuck your tuber into it with the remains of the old shoots uppermost. Fill with more compost over the top, water the pot and leave it in your frost-free place. Once the shoots start showing, make sure the pot is in good light.
If your dahlia tuber produces loads of shoots, why not take off a few to use as cuttings? It’s easy-peasy, honest. Just cut off the shoot near to its base, and if you can include a tiny bit of the parent tuber, so much the better. Pinch out the central bud and poke it into gritty compost near the edge of a small pot (the soil drains better at the edge). They usually root easily – either in a heated propagator or on a warm windowsill with a plastic bag fixed with a rubber band over the pot (take the bag off regularly though, to clear the condensation). You should end up with even more of your favourite varieties for free!
Another wonderful summer bulb is Eucomis – the pineapple lily – and this, like a dahlia, can be very grumpy in cold soil. Pineapple lilies can be grown outside in most of the UK, but only if they are planted deeply – 6″ (15 cm) at the very least – to protect the bulb from the worst of the frost. However, I think they are best in pots, where they can put on a fabulous show in a sunny spot. You can start them easily just as you do for the dahlias, with some protection, and I would say three for a large pot of gritty compost would be right. Actually, we 3Growbags have got a super offer coming up for these spectacularly striking plants very soon – watch out for it!
We’ll also have some agapanthus bulbs for sale and guess what? You can plant them in exactly the same way as the dahlias and the pineapple lilies! Then what about adding some garishly gorgeous glads, and lilies, and nerines………..so many delights in store for the hot summer days ahead.
The garden shed
Okay, own up – how often do tidy your garden shed? Not as often as you should, I bet. Just like me, then. If it’s a jumble of half-used bags of compost, old plant labels, muddled trowels, canes and dibber, bits of twine, tumbled pots and trays, etc., etc., then
a) you looked in my shed last week, and
b) I counsel you to spend half a day (or a day, if necessary) NOW, sorting it all out, and making it shipshape and spruce ready for the growing season ahead. In the intense horticultural activity often required in spring, it is hugely irritating and time-wasting to be casting round for that ball of twine, correct-sized pot, bag of vermiculite or whatever, which should be just THERE, but isn’t. Organise it all now to prevent frustration later.
My method generally involves taking everything out of the shed, giving the shelves and floor a clean (of sorts), and then putting all the stuff back in, with the most-used things in the closest handiest positions.
Oh my goodness, you’ll feel so smug when the job is finished, and so primed for all the potting on, pricking out, supporting, labelling and fertilising you’ll soon be engaged upon!
- Do try growing some salad leaves, radishes, etc. in pots on a terrace, balcony or sunny windowsill. They need very little space, can be picked 8-12 weeks from sowing, and are super-easy. Get the children involved!
- You may have some trees and shrubs that are prone to suckering i.e. they throw up shoots from their roots away from the parent plant and spoiling lawns or paths. Rather than just cut them off which can actually increase their vigour, dig down to the source of the sucker if you can, and rip it away from the root – that might just persuade it not to grow again, if you’re lucky.
- There aren’t that many pollinating insects about yet, though there were certainly a few to be found in the warmth of last weekend. If you grow early-blossoming fruit such as apricots, nectarines and peaches on a wall or under cover (maybe horticultural fleece for instance to protect the plant from peach-leaf curl), it will really help your yield if you can assist pollination a bit. Use a fine paintbrush to lift the pollen from one flower to the centre of another, just as a bee would do.
- Finish cutting back dogwoods etc.to enjoy the best stem colour on new shoots – an earlier blog gives you more advice on this (and even includes a little video!)
More NB: If you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.