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March is the ideal time of year to create a fruit garden. You’ll thank yourself for the hard yards you put in now when summer rolls around and it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour!
To start out, make sure the area you have chosen for your fruit garden has been properly cleared of weeds. Fruit growers are nearly always faced with some sort of weed troubles. If possible, it is best to nip the problem in the bud before you begin making your fruit garden. In late March, perennial weeds start pushing through and annual weeds begin germinating from nasty little seeds.
Late March is the ideal time to plant some summer favourites such as strawberries and tomatoes. Strawberries are delicious in desserts, fruit salads, jams – but can you really beat the feeling of enjoying a freshly-picked strawberry from your own garden? Strawberries, like tomatoes, are well suited to home gardens, as they only require a small amount of space and are relatively easy to grow. Strawberries require lots of sun and well-drained soil. A bit of starter fertiliser can help to put them on the right track too. If you’re a berry-lover, other fruit bushes (e.g. raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) can also be planted around this time of year.
Tomatoes can be used in so many different dishes, salads and preserves that it’s almost a shame to buy them when you could have them growing on your doorstep! There are many different varieties of tomato plants, and some may be better suited to your garden than others. Keep that in mind when planning your tomato planting. For best results, try to create a single-stemmed tomato plant by snapping out unwanted shoots.
Many fruit trees such as plum trees, peach trees and apricot trees are starting to flower. Give them a helping hand by pollinating them with a brush. Hand-pollination is a technique that can be used on a small-scale to transfer pollen from male to female flowers when open pollination is insufficient. Bees play an important role in pollinating our plants and their population is rapidly declining. If you are a real enthusiast, consider starting a beehive to complement your garden and help our planet!
Other fruit trees like apple and pear trees may not be flowering yet, but keep your eyes peeled for any signs of insect infestation. Look out for darkly coloured patches of bark, or wood waste material excreted by the insects (typically found at the base of these fruit trees). Circular holes on the branches of apple, cherry, peach or plum trees can also indicate the presence of borers. If this is the case for your fruit trees, you can spray the affected areas with pesticide so your fruit will grow successfully.
Now could be a good time to get out the secateurs and start pruning any early spring-bloomers that are past their heyday. This is probably your latest opportunity to successfully prune existing rose bushes so that they grow back in fine form. If you have a compost pile that can be used for mulch, don’t hesitate to throw in your pruned flowers and branches as well as old leaves and grass cuttings. It will make for excellent nutrient-rich mulch that will serve your garden well in return.