Your Garden in March

This month I was asked to write an article on what to plant in your garden in March. My first reaction was a big groan as in a normal year in the Algarve, we should have done all our planting at the beginning of the rainy season. 

WORDS Tamsin Varley

Planting in the autumn gives several months of wet weather to really get roots established. I’ve been keeping rainfall statistics in my garden for twelve years now and this year has been the oddest yet. We had a very wet September and December but little rainfall outside of those months. Based on my historical data, my best guess is that we will have a lot of rain in the next three months or so, which means that if we have lots of rain coming, then it’s still not too late to do some planting. 

I would caution that anything planted now, even if we do get a lot of rain in the next few months, will still need regular watering throughout the summer. If you have an irrigation system, you don’t need to worry. If you don’t then be prepared to drag watering cans or hoses around to provide supplemental water.

March is a busy time in the vegetable garden. Go down to your local vegetable plug shop to get an idea of what is available. Generally, it’s time to plant salad crops, such as lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and radishes as well as summer crops, such as French and runner beans, courgettes and melons. I’m going to try sweet corn this year and am planning on sowing my seeds in March so they are ready for planting in April when the soil will be really warm.

You can plant up pots at any time of the year, but again, March is ideal to start thinking about bringing summer colour to your balconies and terraces. Garden centres should have a good selection of summer bedding plants now. Try and balance any mixed pots so that you have a tall accent plant at the back, some contrasting shapes and colours nearer the front plus some plants that will grow over the sides of the pots to soften their edges.

If you want to think about shrubs that look their best in March, then try planting Viburnum Tinus, which is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a compact evergreen bush, which is smothered in flat heads of tiny white flowers followed by metallic blue berries. Another white-flowered plant at its peak in March is the climbing Jasmine (Jasminum Polyanthum) which fills the air with its sweet scent for weeks. Teucrium Fruticans or tree germander is an easily sourced shrub in the Algarve which has silver stems and grey-green lanced-shaped leaves and blue tubular flowers with a pronounced three-lobed lip. Other shrubs with blue flowers at this time of year include lavenders, Ceanothus and Pride of Madeira (Echium Candicans) with its spectacular blue flower spikes.

 If you like yellow, then you’re in luck as there are a lot of plants to choose from – a large variety of Euphorbia or spurges, Phlomis with their whorls of yellow flowers and Medicago Arborea or Moon Trefoil with its tightly packed orangey-yellow heads of flowers, to name but a few. 

If pink or orange is more your colour palette then try my favourite plant, Grevillea, with its spectacular spidery flowers or African daisies (Osteospermum), which make fantastic ground cover.

Tamsin Varley is a member of Clube Dos Bons Jardins, a small, friendly multi-national garden club that meets at a different location around the Algarve on the 2nd Tuesday of every month (except over the summer) and includes an optional lunch afterwards.


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