March signals the start of the change of seasons from Summer to Autumn. As the days become shorter, plant growth slows down, and the tasks around the garden turn towards preparing for the Winter ahead. Watering is needed as we are still in need of rain to keep up good soil moisture for growth and the maturing of fruit and vegetables.

Pip fruits will be ready for harvesting this month, as will the last of the stone fruit. The right time to pick apples is a question that I often get asked. What I do is note when I picked the fruit last year, then cut a fruit in half and look at the pips inside. If they are brown, then I will pick them. Remember that pip fruit will continue to ripen after they are picked, so if you are going to store them, it is better to pick them just before they are fully ripe.

Many of the pests and diseases of our plants are most prevalent now, so a timely treatment after fruit is picked will help to reduce any carryover of these problems to the next season. Citrus plants can have their last feed of the season; this will help the developing fruit. Also, look for signs of scale and whitefly, which cause the black mold on the leaves, and treat with conquer oil or an insecticide.

The flower garden will still be in full bloom with Summer flowers. Keep deadheading as the Autumn plants gradually take over. Spring bulbs are available in retail outlets and mail order; only buy those that are firm and healthy and plant from now on. The bulbs that I lifted and stored have been sorted out and cleaned up. I kept only the very best for planting. Some have been planted into pots to flower early in the greenhouse, providing color in the Winter. The rest will be planted into pots and placed around the terrace and the front door for a Spring display.

The perennial primulas that I divided up last month are growing well and will be ready for planting in April. The Dahlias that I grew in pots have been great, putting on a fantastic show. Only now are they showing signs of mildew, which I will treat when I spray my show Chrysanthemums, which are just forming flower buds now.

This month is the harvest time for much of our fruit and vegetable crops, giving us the opportunity to judge our success and decide what we could do better.

Enjoy the time in the garden, Michael Coulter

The CHS are working with the Southern Seed Exchange (SSE) to bring you a range of fabulous seed packs, for big and small gardens alike Take a look here.

Remember: questions can be posted on HortTalk our online facebook group or you can email Michael directly at: