March Spring Gardener


Azalea Forde Abbey Gdns S Somerset

This season can be one of the most exciting of the year, allowing us at last to get back into the garden  . Clocks go forward in UK end of March 29th ! hoorah .

Chamelia japonica (Theceae family)

Get organised

Make a list of the many things you need to do and in what order!   Maintenance of tools and mowing equipment, shed and greenhouse clearance. Stock up on plant feeds, especially liquid ericaceous required NOW for budding Magnolias, Heathers, Camellias, Rhododendrons and Azaleas, Pieris and Enkianthus which will soon be flowering raising a spring smile on our wintry faces. Later flowering plants will appreciate some slow release granules as the climate warms towards late Spring.  This will release valued NPK nutrients in to the soil boosting strength and flowering.

Garden Centres here we come

Whats this book like ,I lke gardening with my grandad !!

May I suggest a bit of time spent having a good look around with a pen and notebook as your garden may give you much needed input and ideas for the season ahead.  Possibly some new plants  or a raised bed, additional containers (excellent for a herb collection), hanging baskets or just boldly removing any old tired plants.  Choose some fresh exciting shrubs, perennials or annuals – plant hardy annual seeds now in small pots .   Look at some summer garden pictures in books and garden magazines  and decide where and what you want your plants to do for you!  Pen a rough diagram indicating  sunny, shady and difficult areas and enjoy looking for plants you fancy in terms of maintenance, length of flowering, foliage, fragrance, climbing, ground-cover. Its worth spending the time especially in early spring before the garden goes in to top gear !.

Soil testing for moisture ,nutrients ,inorganic (stones grit)/ organic content


Its easy to forget your all important soil out of site out of mind . A tidy up after winter is the obvious place to start. Soil requires considerable  TLC such as aerating for root respiration and movement making a huge impact on plant growth.  A light raking over is best, not deep  digging.   Add plentiful organic  mulch in April to maintain vital moisture and important suppress weeds that can’t wait to annoy us. It works especially if we have another severely hot summer that causes hardening of the soil as it dries out. Mulching can be vital to protect the soil in these conditions ..Grass may be  burnt above 30 deg but will eventually recover with watering.


A mixture of topsoil and compost is best to obtain that ideal crumbly loam especially if sandy . If growing vegetables adding manure and lime is important except for the leguminous (pea family) that has built in nitrogen nodules in the roots.   Adding organic fertilisers, fish blood and bone, or pelleted chicken manure is important now as this heavy winter and spring rains to come  will have  leached  out nutrients very easily.  Soil is used up every year and needs to be replenished .  Seaweed will especially help boost plant hormone systems that can make a very great improvement to performance seaweeds are different but its agreed they contain a wide range of micronutrients in very differing proportions .



Shrubs will need some pruning, but take care cutting into old non flowering wood, it may not be necessary and it can cut off the vascular system of xylem and phloem and kill the plant eg Lavender one example .  Usually cutting lateral stems to two or three buds will suffice on last years flowering stems .  Vertical stems will depend mainly on how much height is required.


Woody clematis  if flowering before July can be lightly and carefully pruned to preferred size but late post July flowering clematis relies on new annual growth which being straggly now can now be cut hard back to ground level.

Most vigorous climbers such as Lonicera –honeysuckle  can be cut back hard to choice and will respond with vigorous growth!


Prune Rose bushes 2/3 inches below last year’s growth.  Shrub roses can just be trimmed of last year’s hips, and  large shrub roses can get congested  so to allow air circulation lightly cut back two or three older stems to the base and thin out surplus central stems. Climbing roses  will require more moderate pruning to suit the situation.

Protect our wildlife they rely on us more with climate change and habitat disturbance !!!

Wildlife will require additional feeding support.  Don’t forget ground feeding birds such as blackbirds, thrushes and robins they like bits of fruit as well.  Building nests will be a top priority.   Thick conifers and hedges are also an ideal choice for birds.


Next month April we and the garden should be in full swing so let’s hope the  Spring weather comes on side.Get searching for some uplifting colourful plants from local garden centres it will cheer us all up ,we need it I think after depressing lockdowns  hopefully ending soon this summer in the UK


Enjoy the start of the early Spring, we all  deserve that  garden break.


Tony Booksigning 'Science for the Gardener Book

Tony Arnold signing his popular book in Somerset UK

Tony Arnold MCIHort. Author Science for the Gardener



Copies of my signed book Science for the Gardener are  available from the internet  -all good book shops world wide   or direct free delivery for a  signed copy from .

Book Special offer £11.99 click on link in New Year Gardener 2021 scroll down !







New Year 2021 Gardener

Kaffir Lillys Amaryllis Family


Whats this book about !

New Year Gardener 2021

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Happy NewYear to you all from Editor Tony Arnold

This is a good time and opportunity while you and your garden are taking a well earned rest after this dreadful year to see if you’ve managed to take some advantage of the open spaces either in your own back yard or simply a good old fashioned walk when the weather is reasonable .i don’t think I could get through the week without ‘stretching my legs ‘especially in these dreaded lock downs..


Its a very good time to look around Garden Centres and On line to search for indorplants for specific places in the house .Rubber Plants with big  attractive imposing leaves in say the lounge  and an Ivy climber in the Dining Room  mignt be a conversation point .My own very highly recommended favorite indoor plant is the Dragon Tree with long narrow palm shaped leaves Dracaena marginata .They dont mind central heating ,dont dry out  rarely require watering .Pic to Follow .Bedrooms might like the old favorite Peace lillys Spathiums and Spider plants .

Take a look at putting some winter colour in the house, conservatory and why not in the drier parts of flower beds if the weather is reasonable. Indoor plants are very popular ,some grow up or down from the ceiling or on the walls is most required

You can’t beat cyclamens , now available in a wide range of red and pink colours, fairly hardy and reasonably priced.  Hyacinths are on sale in attractive wicker baskets for indoors but you can also plant out hyacinths if they have been specially prepared by the growers.  This involves a higher temperature speeding up process, followed by low temperature for six weeks, so do check before you buy.!

If you are looking to buy family and friends some plants as a New Year Present  for winter or spring (which is not as far away as we think or like it to  be), do enjoy a good explore round local garden centres and also on secure websites.  Specialist bulb/corm growers have some excellent plant deals  on offer and as long as they are planted in well drained gritty soil in a sunny aspect can be a wonderful addition of colour to many parts of the garden e.g. lawns, bedding, rockery, also for indoor decoration and outdoor contains and hanging baskets.  Search for (fragrant) daffodils  (narcissus)and for early-late Spring  look out for packs of leucojums, ornithogalums, chinodoxias and tulips (all lily family) as well as early iris bulbs. 

red Acer growing wild in Somerset uk

 Anemones (Ranunculous family) may soon be available to keep a look out for . Bellis (Daisy) and Violas (Viola family ) are already available and will add cheery colour to your winter scene.

Early spring plants such as Heathers (ericaceous), Sarcococca (box family) very fragrant and very ok in the shade, Osmanthus woody (oleaceae) fragrant and slow growing, Chaenomeles exotic red and pink (roseaceae)  good early spring flowering in mild conditions against a wall) may be on sale now.  Plant these shrubs out about mid Feb  but not in frost periods, or retain in cool moist conditions in a light conservatory or porch until outside  conditions suitable.


Birds depend on us all during difficult weather conditions, so do ensure there is appropriate food for them, not just in dispensers but also for the ground feeders, blackbirds, thrushes, robins etc.  Thrushes are on the endangered list now and they love what gardeners don’t, snails and slugs.  It will help if we can leave the garden a bit more relaxed and untidy, so plenty of leaves, broken branches, bits of moss etc. as this will generate a food chain of over-wintering insects that ground feeding birds require very desperately in cold snaps!

Well laid out Onions homeGrown
T Down S Somerset
Get planting for February
A very large Parsnip expertly grown
T Down South Somerset UK

Hibernating animals are many more than we realise, so try to leave habitats such as piles of leaves and sticks perhaps retained by some branches or under some spreading low ground cover branches e.g. cotoneaster.  Hedgehogs are desperate (and severely endangered) at this time of the year so check they can get from garden to garden through a small hole in the neighbours  fence.  This is really important for them to travel to find winter habitats so check l with neighbours if a joint effort could be made .?

A Model Hedghog i love it .Xmas present
Pumpkins lining up

Wishing all you gardeners a very restful Christmas, Peaceful  and Hopefully  a Happier New Year and perhaps a small prayer to be thankful for what wonderful gardens and environment we have been given  and to look forward to another treasured year of growing opportunities. Hopefully climate change may be more moderate but every one of us  should all be mindful of thinking  a bit greener and adding a few more shrubs and trees if space permits and of course be energy efficient .

Lets hope that science in the form of this  new vaccine will be available as soon as possible to all  to rid us of the evil Covid virus this year once and for all !!.I believe we also lost 40/60,000in the blitz .

Tony Arnold MCIHort or tony@scienceforthe for science based garden enquiries.

NewZealand ‘Christmas tree ‘actually Metrosideros excelsea .Myrtacea
Temptation on the tree !!!!

(Author took pic of this superb tree on S Island )

Science for The Gardener Book personally signed copy available direct from Tony or the website .)

Secial offer

www.funscienceforthegardenerbook .com


Cotoneaster Tree in Winter agood meal for the birds

Head Gardener of Knights Hayes National Trust Gardens UK Jess Evans

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is H-GARDENER-K-HAYES-scaled.jpg
Head Gardener Knights Hayes N Trust Devlon uk

When it became clear at the beginning of the season that we would most likely be short of staff and volunteer help in the walled garden this year Bev, senior gardener in the walled garden, made the decision to not sow many crops. It takes a huge amount of work to grow, plant out, care for and harvest the crops we grow each year in the walled garden and we didn’t want to waste seeds on growing crops we would be unable to care for fully throughout the season.

In order to avoid having large areas of empty beds green manures were sown in large patches, this was to help with keeping the weeds down and to help with improving the soil. We use green manures often in the walled garden and have been experimenting with using them more and in different ways throughout the growing season for different reasons.

Green manures are plants grown with the intention of ameliorating the soil in some way. This could be by adding nutrients, improving the soil structure or increasing the organic content or the soil. Some green manures can be used to help with breaking up compacted soils and others can be used overwinter to help reduce soil erosion when beds may otherwise be empty. At the end of the growing season (or seasons for some green manures) the plants are incorporated into the soil, the aim is to ensure the green manure is fully aerobically decomposed. The tops of the plants can be shredded on the surface before hand and allowed to wilt, after then the roots can be turned in. This may be done by hand or with a machine, either way it is key that it is not incorporated deeply, around 15cm deep, as otherwise you will break up the channels that the roots will have opened up deeper down and potentially undo the soil structure improvements that will have happened. The soil needs to be left after green manure is turned in for a few weeks before it is sown or planted again with the next crop. This is due to the microbes that rapidly multiply in the soil to break down the organic matter require nitrogen to carry out this process and so the nitrogen in the soil is temporarily ‘locked up’ but will be available again for plants once the green manures have been fully composted in the soil.

The simplest way to use green manures is to incorporate them into the growing rotation plan in a kitchen garden or to use them as cover crops for the winter or when beds will sit empty for some time. They can also be used however in strips between edible crops or to undersow a crop with the intention of allowing the green manure to spread and take over once the crop has finished. Undersowing is a good way to incorporate winter green manures into the rotation as they will be more established at the end of the crop growing season and more ready to fully cover a bed for winter.

In the walled garden at Knightshayes we use green manures as a way to improve soil structure and nutrient levels but also to cover the beds for winter. We are experimenting with using them more throughout the growing season and using different plants for different reasons, chicory for example is a great green manure to break up compaction. This season we have used green manures to help cover large areas where we have not grown crops and so would have had large empty beds rips for weeds to take over. We have used Phacelia, which is a beautiful plant related to Borage and great for bees as well as good as suppressing weeds, white clover as a short season green manure to improve nitrogen levels in the soil (although this can be used for paths for many years if the right variety is chosen), red clover as a green manure for a few seasons (initially as strips between other crops but now a full bed after this year) which is great for nitrogen fixation and also improving soil structure thanks to its deeper tap root and branching root system and chicory which is a biennial plant (produces a rosette of leaves in the first year and throws up a flower stem the following year whilst putting down a tap root) that can help with alleviating compaction when it puts down tap roots in the second season. Overwinter we will use a combination of Italian ryegrass and field beans to protect the soil and help with weed suppression also.

Head Gardener Jess evans with Editor and Author Tony Arnold

A good example of making use of green manure as stated in the editorial .

Green Manure Knights Hayes NT Gardens UK
A nice welcome from Knights Hayes Gardener Team