March's heated debate

Uncertainty's on the march in what might be a false autumn | Fiona's Garden

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Colourful plant combinations created by builder Peter Kube and artist Jennifer Edwards in their garden at Little Hartley. Hartvale at Little Hartley is open March 6 and 7 from 10am to 4pm.

Colourful plant combinations created by builder Peter Kube and artist Jennifer Edwards in their garden at Little Hartley. Hartvale at Little Hartley is open March 6 and 7 from 10am to 4pm.

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The only plants that don't go in during March are deciduous trees, shrubs and roses that nurseries offer bare rooted later in the season, for winter planting.

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AUTUMN is coming in so early this year, I don't entirely trust it.

I'm convinced nature will keep us on our toes with another heatwave.

But there's nothing I can do about it so I'm making the most of it and getting ahead with autumn tasks.

Apart from weeding, my March gardening consists mainly of planting: plants I've accumulated over summer, seeds, bulbs, evergreen shrubs that need moving.

The only plants that don't go in during March are deciduous trees, shrubs and roses that nurseries offer bare rooted later in the season, for winter planting.

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Seed sowing is a job that's fatally easy to put off until it's too late.

Lots of gardening can be done at any time of the year, but not sowing seeds - you must get it right or they won't germinate.

March is the month to sow winter vegie seeds like broad beans, silver beet, carrots, and onions.

If you don't have time for a full-on vegie garden, at least grow some snow peas.

Sown now they'll germinate fast and you can snip the tips through winter for soups and salads.

Then in spring, leave them to flower and produce peas for harvest.

They'll need a support to climb, either a lattice panel or a wigwam made from bamboo, and like all vegetables they must have plenty of sun and regular water.

Sweet pea seeds can also be sown this month, St. Patrick's Day on March 17 being the gardener's traditional date of choice. If you didn't get around to saving seed from last year, David Glenn at Lambley Nursery (lambley.com.au) will come to your rescue.

Not only does David offer a terrific, home-grown selection, I love that he grades the flowers from 1-5 according to scent. Now that's what I call considerate, half the point of a sweet pea being its smell.

In central and southern NSW where the climate tends towards dry summers and winter rain, March is the best month to plant anything pot grown, as your plants get time to develop a good root system before frosts halt growth.

This year should be extra good, as cool conditions are helping to retain sub-soil moisture from the summer rain.

If, ahem, like me you've collected a mountain of plants since last spring and are wondering where to place them, other people's gardens are an excellent source of inspiration.

I never leave a garden without having learnt something, whether a new plant, or a colour combination I'd never considered, or a way of contrasting leaf colours and textures.

Last week I visited Jennifer Edwards' cool climate cottage garden Hartvale, Little Hartley (details below) and was thrilled by her imaginative plantings, set among mature eucalypts and put together with a true artist's eye. Don't miss this one.

Hartvale, 49 Sunray Ave, Little Hartley, is open March 6 and 7 from 10am to 4pm as part of the Central Tablelands Garden Trail. Art and pottery for sale. Visit www.myopengarden.com.au

Lastly, our spring gardens are made the previous autumn, a reminder to put bulb orders in before your favourites sell out.

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