While the first of the spring flowers are beginning to open, it is still winter. The ground is cold, and on all but the best-drained sites in most years it is too wet to work on the soil. If there has been a mild winter, some perennials will already be shooting in milder areas.
In colder districts and following a severe winter, this may be delayed by about a month. The region and the prevailing conditions should determine when to start planting rather than a strict adherence to the calendar. In any event, activity should be increased as the month progresses, as the busiest time of the year is fast approaching.
Some perennial weeds grow in winter, and whenever there is an opportunity these should be dug out and the beds tidied. Remove any dead foliage remaining from the previous season. Many perennials can be divided and replanted towards the end of the month (see Root division).
After heavy rainfall, mulch shrubs and perennials that are not going to be divided this year. Fuchsias, geraniums and other plants that need to be brought back into growth early in the season should be moved to a greenhouse and maintained at a temperature of 10°C/50°F.
Tender perennials such as cannas, tuberous-rooted begonias and gloxinias should be potted and placed at the same temperature.
Plant the first of the summer bedding to be grown as annuals, including Begonia semperflorens, coleus, geranium, impatiens, lobelia, nicotinia and stocks. Climbers such as clematis, honeysuckle and Virginia creeper can be planted against a suitable support.
Prune passifloras. Carry out any needed repairs to pergolas, arches and trellises. In suitable weather, remove debris and worm casts from the lawn by vigorous raking, and aerate the lawn by piercing with a fork. If the weather has been dry and mild and the site is well drained, the grass may be cut with the mower at the highest setting.
Fruit trees and bushes can all be planted this month. All fruit trees except those of stoned fruits can be pruned. Continue to inspect all fruit, vegetable roots and tubers in store to ensure that they are not decaying or infected by moulds.
Ponds may still be liable to freezing over during a severe frost and must be treated as described for December.
Deciduous trees and shrubs can be planted when weather permits. Check that any trees planted earlier in the year are still firm in the ground and secured in position by their stakes. Continue to prune deciduous trees.
In the vegetable garden, complete any remaining digging. Do not rush to plant in cold ground.
Where early crops are to be forced, place cloches over the ground a fortnight before sowing or planting to warm it up. Plant shallots and divide Welsh onions.
Sow seeds of early Brussels sprouts, leeks, radishes and lettuce under glass. Sow long pod varieties of broad beans. Delay sowing seeds of parsnips (although they need a long growing season, their slow germination results in heavy losses of seeds in cold, wet ground).
Cover the final crown of rhubarb for forcing outside during the first fortnight of the month.