Gardening Tips - protect against pests and diseases

PUBLISHED: 14:15 03 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:15 03 March 2014

Alliums

Alliums

Archant

Pests and diseases are a priority this month now the weather is beginning to change, says Suzie Hanson, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall

NerineNerine

March is usually a busy month in the garden and it will be the weather in previous months that will dictate what needs to be done. A sustained cold snap or a covering of snow will mean a few months work needs to be done in just one. The hardy gardener will plough on regardless of weather and here at Brodsworth that determination is especially true as the gardens have remained open for most of the winter and have needed to look their best for visitors. This month is the last chance to finish any lifting and dividing in the herbaceous border left over from the autumn. Really early genus such as hosta need dividing before they come in to leaf as once they do shoot up, they are impossible to separate. Did you know the spikes that form the crown in hostas can be eaten when growth is new? They only need a light blanching, much the same way as asparagus.

Now is the time to add summer flowering bulbs such as lilies, nerine and alliums to a border or simply plant in pots to add a splash of colour and striking shapes to liven up dull corners. On the subject of potting, take this time to pot on, top dress and tidy up tender pot plants that have been protected inside during the winter. Get them ready to bring out after the last frost, usually in May or early June.

Keep an eye out for the first weeds of the season. Getting on top of them early will result in a nice, easy, weed-free summer. Remember that the winter weather has kept them largely at bay, but a warm snap will reawaken them and it’s good to be prepared. If time allows hand-weed using a trowel or hand-fork to ensure you get all the roots out. When the ground is dry, hoeing is also an option. In the large, formal shrubberies here at Brodsworth hand-weeding is rarely possible so we do our best to hoe through all the beds weekly. Like most tools these days there is a wide range of hoes to choose from, from the traditional draw and Dutch hoes to the speedy and efficient ‘winged weeder’ but it is down to personal choice; every gardener has their favourite.

Pests and diseases are also a priority this month. Once the weather changes and the days get longer these unwelcome guests start to make an appearance, especially during any mild spells. In particular watch out for slugs, snails and aphids which can be deterred by many different products on the market. Dealing with the early signs of an infestation could save time, expense and the heartache of replacing badly damaged plants later in the season. Rot, mildew and black spot may also start to make an appearance; any infected plants should have the affected parts removed or disposed of entirely. An early March tidy up will help you spot any problems before they take hold. So what are you waiting for? Get out there.

Jobs for March

Begin grass cutting on dry days

Prune Cornus and Salix if you’re after colourful winter stems

Mulch heavier soils now it is warming up

Keep an eye on watering – the ground can easily dry up if there is a spell of warm days

Open the greenhouse or conservatory doors and vents on warm days

Top tip

Get plant supports for the border in place early. If this is done you won’t get caught out by any growth spurts during mild spells and it helps to achieve a more natural look. Plants can grow through the supports rather than being bunched up and tied together after the growth has occurred. At Brodsworth we are going on a hunt around the estate to look for hazel to be coppiced and used for this job.

Brodsworth Hall is a beautiful Victorian country house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature lovingly restored to their original splendour. For more information contact Brodsworth Hall & Gardens, Brodsworth, Doncaster, DN5 7XJ

01302 722598

english-heritage.org.uk/brodsworth

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