Garden Cuttings


- Credit: Archant

Toby Buckland delivers some sound practical and seasonal advice


- Credit: Archant

Hello! I love flipping over the calendar into March. Gone are the scenes of snow-topped moors and it’s hello to native primroses on Devon banks welcoming in the spring. It’s a deceptive month, starting off cold but quickly changing into the ideal weather for starting off flowers and vegetables from seed.

Rhubarb is always there in abundance at such a meagre time of year

Rhubarb is always there in abundance at such a meagre time of year - Credit: Archant

The season begins here and if, like me, you’re itching to get growing, there are dozens of jobs to do, from dividing perennials to starting off that kitchen garden or cut flower patch. So trowels at the ready, here’s to springtime!

What to do now:

Now perennials and ornamental grasses are growing, it’s easy to divide up congested and overgrown patches for fresh new plants. Dig up the whole clump and use either your fingers, garden forks or a spade to chop them into saucer-sized portions. Re-plant, adding fresh compost and watering in the roots.

It’s not too late to start off your sweet peas - seeds sown now will catch up quickly here in the West Country and establish just as well as those sown in the autumn. I sow six per five inch pot and plant them out in threes at the base of wigwam or support when they’re about six inches high.

Pinch an inch from the tips of the stems to encourage bushy growth and lots of flowers.

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It’s not too late to put up boxes for nesting birds and feeders for fledgling young. Wooden boxes at least 15mm thick are best as they don’t get too hot in summer. The size of the hole dictates which bird will choose to nest inside, blue tits go for small 26mm holes, sparrows a 32mm hole while robins prefer an open-fronted box.

If you only manage to get one thing done in the next few weeks, don’t forget to prune bush roses – always cut to an outward-facing bud and if this means cutting off fresh green growth, don’t worry it will grow back. Finally, don’t forget Mother’s Day on the 30th of the month and remember a planted flower-basket has fewer calories!

Plant of the month: Rhubarb

Rhubarb’s a wonderful plant to have on your plot as it’s there in abundance at such a meagre time of year, providing an invigorating filling for pies, crumbles and fools. So simple to grow in any reasonable garden soil, all it needs is a spot that gets sun for part of the day. It’s hardy, although in cold years it does come up late and that’s when you should force the stems into growth by covering with an upturned bin filled with straw or an ornamental rhubarb forcer. Yorkshire Pots make a very pretty one which costs around £50 but it’s guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Whether you plant the ubiquitous ‘Timperley Early’ or the long-cropping ‘Glaskins Perpetual’, give it a good mulch of manure after picking’s finished in summer to feed the crowns and help them to recover.

This article was first published in the March issue of Devon Life. To get the magazine delivered every month to your home, subscribe at or call 08448484217

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