- Time to plant seeds of tender annual indoors.
- Hydrangeas are appearing in supermarkets, they can make great temporary houseplants to chase away the remaining winter blues and then be planted outside when the temperatures finally warm up. Make sure they have plenty of light and moisture
- Keep strawberry beds weeded. Heavy weeds encourage moisture and this leads to fruit rot. Make sure you use a porous mulch, such as salt-hay, that keeps weeds down and provides a quick-drying layer that the strawberries can ripen off the soil.
- Take advantage of any mild days to prune leggy, overgrown shrubs and any perennials and grasses left for winter interest. Start on the roses and late summer blooming shrubs such as caryopteris and buddleia.
- Examine outside furniture to see what needs repainting. Scrape off peeling paint, sand any rust or rough wood and and spray paint to protect them before sun and April rains deteriorate them further. Take a leaf out of Chanticleer's book and paint them fun colours for added interest.
- The end of March is a good time to sow a range of vegetable seeds directly into the ground if the soil is warm and dry enough; carrots, spinach, lettuce, rocket, peas and broad beans.
- Most vegetables can be sown straight into their growing positions, it's important to thin them out as soon as possible which is something I find hard to do.
- Leeks, cabbages and broccoli are best sown in a seed bed and then transplanted into their final positions later, spaced well apart.
- After digging or tilling the planting beds you need to prepare the soil surface for seed sowing by thoroughly raking the soil and removing large stones and debris. This creates a fine tilth -- great old English word meaning:- "the condition of tilled soil especially in respect to suitability for sowing seeds. From the old English tilian [strive for, obtain by effort,] of Germanic origin; related to Dutch telen ‘produce, cultivate’ and German zielen ‘aim, strive,’ also ultimately to till. The current sense dates from Middle English"
- Seed packets give good advice on planting depths and distances. In general, larger seeds such as peas should go 2in deep, while fine seeds need only a shallow covering of soil.
- Use string to make a taut, straight line and run the back of a rake or hoe along it to carve out your drill. Alternatively you can place a cane or stake across the bed and lightly push it into the surface to form a straight drill (shallow depression). The depth should be as directed on the seed packet. The drills should be spaced according to the instructions on the seed packet.
- Add water to the row before sowing. This is usually better than watering over the top of sown seeds.
- Thinly scatter the seed into the bottom of the drill. Don’t be over enthusiastic, as plants will need thinning to the spacing recommended on the seed packet. A finger width apart is usually right for small seeds.
- Use a rake to gently cover the seeds with soil, filling the drill back in again.
- Before you forget where the row is and what you’ve sown, place a label in the soil at one end.
- Cover the patch with a single layer of fleece to protect against frost. Use a spade to push the edges of the fleece into the ground to ensure it doesn’t blow away, I also add staples to the edges so the wind doesn't catch it.
- Remember to water in dry spells.