Unwins Seeds
Our customers rate us excellent…

Know your catalogue codes?

Quick Shop

March 2014 Newsletter

March is the start of an exciting and busy time in the garden; there are young plants to nurture and plenty of seeds to sow; and there is still time to get bare root trees, shrubs and roses planted.

All the hard work of last autumn should also be paying dividends; daffodils and spring bulbs are flowering to herald in spring and really lift our spirits. Plus your Unwins catalogue will be dropping through the letterbox bringing plenty of inspiration.
 I always think the best part of March is at the very end when the clocks go forward, I know we don’t really gain an hour but it feels like it when evenings are lighter.

This year Daylight Saving starts on Sunday March 30th so we’ll feel the full effect from next month. Until then make the most of whatever March brings and take time to enjoy this busy gardening month!

Pam Richardson

March in the Garden

Start summer bulbs into growth
Whatever the weather, summer begins to feel like a possibility this month. Planting and planning for summer starts NOW!
Dahlias and summer bulbs such as lilies and gladioli can all be started into growth this month, extra spring warmth and increased moisture will encourage shoots to emerge from bulbs and tubers and coax these summer flowering plants back to life.

Unpack bulbs as soon as possible after delivery and plant them as soon as weather allows while they are fresh and in good condition.  If it’s frosty or you have to store bulbs until you can plant them, keep the bulbs somewhere dry and frost free; cover them with fleece or paper, not plastic, and store them in something breathable, a cardboard or wooden pest-proof box is ideal.
To start summer bulbs and tubers into early growth, including dahlias, cannas, tuberous begonias and gladioli ,cover the bulbs and corms with a shallow covering of compost and keep in trays or pots of compost in cool frost free conditions.  When green leafy growth appears they will be ready to pot up; grow them on in warmth and plant out into their permanent positions when the risk of frost has passed.  We also sell many of our dahlias as young plants and they make superb summer bedding plants. 

If you are planting summer bulbs, rhizomes, corms and tubers in beds and borders outside do it when the soil warms up. Stagger the planting over several weeks if possible, as the plants mature and flower in succession they’ll give a longer lasting display.
If you are planting summer bulbs into containers follow the method in our step by step guide but adjust the planting depths. We’ll send you a comprehensive bulb growing guide with every order but as a rough guide most corms, bulbs and tubers should be planted at least twice their depth in containers. Rhizomes are usually planted horizontally and more shallowly.
Plant Gladioli corms deeply-at least 15cm (6in) deep.
Plant Dahlia tubers horizontally with the old stem at the top and any visible buds pointing upward; plant tubers about 12cm (5in) deep.
Plant rhizomes horizontally, and very shallowly. Iris rhizomes should be planted with only half the rhizome submerged so the other half is exposed to the sun. When you plant irises ensure the rhizome is exposed but any fine roots are buried.
For best results, we recommend growing on Begonia tubers in containers indoors until risk of frost has passed (usually late May), they can then be re-planted into baskets and containers or positioned outside. Plant the tubers close to the surface with the concave side facing upwards. Cover with a fine layer of soil so the tuber is only just visible.

Lobelias, bedding geraniums (Pelargoniums), petunias, fuchsias and begonias are traditional basket and container plants and they come in lots of spectacular colours.
All of these tender bedding plants are available to order now; they’ll be delivered at the right time for potting on or planting outside. 
If you have limited space there are lots of advantages to buying tender bedding as young plants and plug plants rather than growing them yourself from seed. You don’t need to worry about sowing and pricking out lots of seedlings and you’ll get exactly the number of plants you need. Buying as young plants can also save the extra cost of heating a greenhouse and you can also be sure the plants you receive have been expertly grown.
If you’ve been affected by wet weather and still can’t get out onto waterlogged soils you can still get your gardening fix by deciding on colour themes and planning your summer displays. Our young plants and plug plants are perfect for all types of containers, including wall baskets and window boxes, so you won’t need to struggle with wet soil in the flowerbeds to get a cheerful display.
If the thought of bad weather is influencing what you grow choose these weather proof bedding plants. Phlox ‘21st Century Special Mixed’ are superb plants for bedding schemes and they are totally weatherproof, withstanding cool, hot or wet weather.
Begonia Solenia pink is another plant that will put on a spectacular show whatever the weather throws at it.  Begonias are definitely bomb proof when it comes to weather resistance!
If you like using single varieties in contrasting colours Petunia Brilliance Collection is great value collection of free-flowering surfinias in three contrasting colours or plant a spectacular display of double- flowered Tumbelina petunias with their mass of large, frilly blooms.
Our colour themed collections are superb value; they’re put together with a great mix of plants that go together perfectly for a sophisticated designer display with minimum fuss.
I like to plant at least one new plant every season so I’m longing to try the new trailing annual vinca: ‘Mediterranean Red’ Catharanthus roseus. Its common names are vinca or Madagascar periwinkle but catharanthus is its correct Latin name. Whatever name you know it by, this tender Mediterranean plant is spectacular in hanging baskets or a patio container. I’m hoping it will give my Fenland garden just a hint of sunnier climes!

Plant Onions
I only have a small vegetable plot but onions, shallots and garlic are always a must have crop! They are easy to grow and harvest and they store for ages.
 I must have timed my planting exactly right last year because I got a great crop of onions and shallots... but not everyone was so lucky with these normally reliable vegetable.
So I asked our onion specialist why some sets struggled badly last year while others thrived.
He says, “It was an unseasonably cold spring last year and sets quite simply failed to get away well due to the cold, the early set crops struggled badly because of the very cold spring and extremely low soil temperatures with some not achieving the desired bulb size at the end of their growing cycle.”
Our expert also confirmed that it wasn’t just home gardeners that suffered, he added, “Commercial yields were down over 30% because of the cold and really poor emergence and this came off the back of a very poor 2012 season due to the extreme wet!”
My onion sets went in late last spring so it looks like my lateness was a godsend!
But if your onions weren’t good last year take heart from this advice from our expert, “Onion growers shouldn’t despair or think that it was anything they did wrong last year, or that the sets weren’t up to standard, it has just been two very unusual and polarized growing seasons - Don’t give up! You don’t get 3 poor growing years on the bounce!

I can’t think about summer without thinking of home grown strawberries. If you love the taste of home grown strawberries too we have some great bare root strawberries on offer.
When you grow your own fruit not only can you choose the varieties you prefer, there is no need to pay supermarket prices either! Fresh and juicy strawberries warm from the sun could be just outside the kitchen door… whether they are tiny alpine strawberries, large and tasty cultivated strawberries or delicious gourmet hybrids such as Mara des Bois.
Mara des Bois is definitely the strawberry of choice for many professional chefs; it has all the scent and flavour of a wild alpine variety combined with the size, texture and juiciness of modern cultivars. It’s an extra special strawberry available at an extra special price with a Buy 1 Get 1 Free offer
If you have a small fruit plot but want a long season of tasty fruits our Long Cropping Strawberry Collection is perfect.
This collection includes Mae (Early)-Outstanding early strawberry, producing large, firm, well-shaped fruit. These have good colour, good texture and good flavour - a good all-rounder in fact. Under the protection of cloches, it will begin to crop in mid May, with unprotected crops a couple of weeks later. Cambridge Favourite (Main) - This is such a reliable cropper on all types of soil and under all sorts of conditions with plenty of medium-sized, light red fruits. It’s a great choice for jams and preserves and good for freezing too because it holds its shape better than most other varieties.
Buddy (Everbearer)-This is a really great new variety with masses of deep red sweet fruit with a delicious flavour. It crops almost continually from late June to September.


Tips for the garden...

Plant lilies
Lilies elegant flowers emerge from midsummer and they combine beautifully with roses and summer-flowering perennials. Lilies look good in beds and borders where they can be planted directly into the soil; try our strong stemmed Skyscraper lilies that just get better every year.
Lilies also make superb container plants, ideal for sunny patios or balcony gardens.
Pots of lilies are also excellent for filling gaps in the border. If you have a lot of spring bulbs in the garden a strategically placed container of lilies will hide any gaps that appear once the spring bulbs fade and they’ll give a colourful show and add some height before any emerging late summer perennials appear.
If you grow flowers for cutting then our Double Lily Collection is a must. These lilies are pollen free so if you worry about pets or want to avoid pollen stains these are the ones to choose.
Lily bulbs can be planted in autumn or spring; the bulbs are scaly with roots that emerge from the base. They’ll thrive in a sunny or part shaded position in open ground or in deep pots of well drained, good quality compost. Most lilies need a period of cold to flower well so they’ll cope with winter conditions but protect from severe cold or very wet conditions.
Feed lilies in flower with a high potassium feed (Tomato food is fine) and add slow release fertiliser granules to the compost at planting time.

Step by step planting lilies in containers

Step 1 Fill the base of the pot with drainage crocks; these can be pieces of broken pots, tiles or polystyrene. They stop the drainage holes in the pots from getting clogged with soil and help excess water to escape. Half fill the container with compost, leaving space for the bulbs; a mix of multi purpose and loam based John Innes compost is ideal. You can also add some slow release fertiliser granules to the compost when you plant. Most modern lilies have been bred to cope with alkaline soils but if you are planting lime hating species lilies use acidic (ericaceous) compost.

Step 2 Place bulbs 5cm (2in) apart with the base and roots in contact with the soil and the pointed end of the bulb uppermost. Make sure the container is deep enough to keep lilies at the correct depth once they are covered with soil. Most lilies root from the base so the bulbs should be planted at a depth roughly equal to their height. Stem rooting lilies need to be planted more deeply, at least twice their height.

Step 3 Cover the bulbs with compost and top up the container keeping the lily bulbs at the correct depth. Don’t fill the container right to the top; leave a space between the rim of the pot and the final soil level to allow space for watering.

Pop in a label to remind you what has been planted.
Put the pots outside somewhere cool but protected from frost.
Water to keep the compost just moist but not wet.

Chit Potatoes
Potatoes are an easy and delicious home grown crop as well as being one of our most useful vegetables. You can start Main crop potatoes into early growth this month by ‘chitting’ them. Potato growing has lots of jargon but this term just means getting them to sprout before you plant them.
Put the tubers ‘rose end’ up in a chitting tray or egg box– if you’re new to potato growing the rose means the end with the most ‘eyes’ or buds (you see what I mean about the jargon!).
When these eyes have produced sprouts of growth around 2cm long the potatoes can be planted out, either into open ground or into potato growing bags or large containers.
Keep covering the potatoes with soil as they grow to exclude light and encourage more tubers to form. The leaves and top growth (known as haulms) will start to thrust through the earth and the potatoes will need water and feed like any other plant.
New Potatoes, First Earlies are normally ready to harvest when flowers appear on the plants. But if you are growing Second Early and Main crop potatoes and want larger potatoes, wait around 3-4 weeks after flowers have faded to allow the tubers to reach a decent size. Keep checking for tubers if you are growing potatoes in bags.

Potatoes grow well in containers and on established plots but they are also a great crop for a new garden. Preparing the plot prior to planting gets rid of weeds and digging up the spuds at harvest time helps to break up and turn over new soil.

I once gardened in an organic garden and one year we grew potatoes on the site of an old herbaceous border.  I must admit I was really sceptical when this was first suggested but the end result was a good crop of Red Duke of York potatoes.It was definitely an unorthodox method but if you regularly have a lot of grass clippings and want to cultivate a scrubby new plot or allotment it’s worth a try.

Here’s how we did it:
The plot (about 5ft by 8ft) was very roughly cleared of perennial weeds and what was left of the old perennial plants was lifted.
The ground was left fallow for a few weeks to allow the birds to pick off cutworm larvae and other pests. Then the seed potatoes were settled into very shallow depressions scooped out in the soil. These potatoes were covered with a layer of damp newspaper and weighted down with a shallow covering of soil. As the season progressed we used vast amounts of grass clippings to cover the potatoes as they grew, effectively earthing them up and keeping light off the crop.
At harvest time I was amazed to see just how effective it had been, not only had we had a crop from the plot but as a bonus we’d used the waste grass clippings to enrich the soil and add organic matter. Plus what had been a scrubby old border was then ready to replant the following year with a lot of new perennial plants!


Plant Bare Root Roses
There is still time to plant bare root perennials and roses. The storms have been truly awful in some parts of the UK but in others the warm, wet weather has kept soil temperatures up and moisture levels high. Where ground isn’t flooded the warm, moist soil will help newly planted, dormant plants to establish very quickly.
Bare root roses are always good value.   They are easy to store and because they weigh very little and take up less space than containerised plants they are cheaper to transport too.
Unlike container grown roses, dormant bare root roses once they are dug from the field don’t need to be fed and watered by nursery staff before you buy them so the growers’ costs are less than for container plants.
All these savings are passed on to gardeners so you get the same top quality plants at a great price.
Of course once these bare root roses are planted in your garden they’ll burst into life and appreciate the same care as all roses. Keep them watered and feed with a specialist rose fertiliser to encourage strong healthy growth and lots of flowers. You can also sprinkle this granular rose fertiliser into the planting hole when you plant your roses. It’s easy to apply and enriched with horse manure and vital nutrients.
Buy bare root roses NOW and take advantage of our Buy 2 get 3rd FREE offer; our roses have never been better value!

Keep sowing seeds
This is the month when seed sowing is in full swing! Sow hardy annuals and vegetables outside when soil warms up (let it dry out a bit too if rain has affected your plot). Sow the tender and half hardy flowers and vegetables under cover. By the end of the month it should be warm enough to start sowing half hardy annuals including lobelias, penstemons, salvias and asters. Climbing plants such as Cobaea scandens (Cup and saucer plants) and Ipomoea (Morning Glory) need a long growing season so start sowing them in warmth this month, they’ll need the extra warmth to germinate and they’ll be ready to plant outside when frost has passed, normally by June.
If you want to get ahead with sowing early vegetables then start with early and main crop peas, early carrots, leeks and spring sown broad beans; they can all be sown directly outside in March. Cover ground with fleece to protect from frosts, this will also help discourage pets and small mammals from disturbing any bare soil.
If you’ve already sown early hardy flowers such as pansies or violas they’ll be ready to plant out into beds, borders or containers.


Sign Up for our FREE newsletter - Full of great tips and offers