Esther Ranson

Mum’s the Word

by Colne Life magazine

A love of gardening is often passed down from one generation to another. If your mum is a gardener the chances are you have picked up a few green-fingered tips from her over the years. March is the month of Mother’s Day (30th March 2014) and also the start of the gardening year – so to celebrate, start digging!

Although the focus is on sowing seeds and planting, March is not just about planting new but also about re-invigorating and livening up existing flower beds, borders and containers. One of the easiest instant colour plants for this time of year is the pansy, much loved by broadcaster and gardener Esther Rantzen.

“I love pansies for their soft colours, all the shades of blues, purples and golds” she says, “and for their faces, turned down, as if in contemplation. As Ophelia said: “There’s pansies, that’s for thoughts” – and indeed the name comes from the French word, pensee, to think. They look fragile, but in fact they are tough, they can survive anything except the burning summer heat, and they seed themselves and return, year after year. And outside the garden wall their little wild cousins, the violets, send out their fragrance to reassure us that spring is on its way.”

Pansies are the perfect spring bedding plants – along with primulas, forget-me-nots and wallflowers – and are great for filling the gaps in borders once you have cleared away bedraggled or dead plants. If you are planning on sowing seeds instead, the soil needs to have warmed up from winter and should be reasonably wet.

The bigger the seed the deeper it needs to be in the soil to germinate. Some seeds can be sown direct into the ground, such as vegetables, while some prefer to be in seed trays and a slighter warmer environment to be given a good fighting  chance. It’s also a good planting time for more mature plants, so think ahead to not just summer but autumn as well and try to plan your planting for all year round colour in the garden.

If you’re a novice gardener or have limited outside space then think about experimenting with some pots. Garden centres and nurseries around the UK are running a campaign through spring and summer, It Starts with a Pot, to encourage everyone to give gardening a go and enjoy their outside living areas. Why not plant a pot for Mother’s Day? Take a small or medium sized container, some potting compost, a selection of flowering plants such as pansies and a bit of planting advice from your local garden expert and you have the perfect gift.

As British Summer Time starts at the end of March the days will get longer and there will be more light for you to enjoy being in (and working in) your garden – so here are some top jobs for this month from the Royal Horticultural Society and National Garden Gift Vouchers.

Jobs to do in March
• Sow vegetable seeds and plant potatoes
• Protect new spring shoots from slugs
• Plant summer-flowering bulbs
• Feed containers with fresh compost
• Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed)
• Cut back winter shrubs
• Keep your eyes peeled for weeds starting to come through
• Start conserving water
• Re-pot houseplants
• Get a gardening gift for your Mum for Mother’s Day