March is for Maintenance

March is for Maintenance

March is typically a very busy gardening month with a lot of gardening maintenance tasks that need to be done. It’s time to clear out the dead growth of summer, and make room for the new garden you can imagine! Raking up leaves, cutting back shrubs, feeding certain plants, dividing and garden planning will keep you busy all month! Let’s get to grips with why March is for Maintenance in the garden.

Clean lines and shapes and minimalist planting make this a dramatic garden!

Assessing your tools is also a good idea before you get busy in March and further into winter

Autumn has officially started…the breath of cooler air and darker mornings are the precursors to the rainy season that we are so eagerly anticipating. It’s a beautiful month with less wind, big blue skies and there is plenty of time to get your garden ready for the cooler dormant months of winter. Many gardeners are calling our team at Cape Contours Landscape Solutions to come and assist with taking stock of their gardens and in planning big garden design changes for the wet winter months. March is for maintenance and our teams are very busy cutting back and re-organising many of the gardens we maintain. Let’s learn from them and find out what we should be doing in this busy, maintenance month of March.

Cutting back

It’s time to cut back many of your summer flowering indigenous shrubs if they are finished flowering. Tecoma, Leonotis, some indigenous Salvias, Hydrangeas, Hibiscus, Abelia, Bougainvilla, Pelargoniums, Buddlejas.  By doing it now, you give the plant a nice long time to recover, grow new shoots and leaves and still flower for you again in spring and summer. Don’t cut back your Hypoestes and Plectranthus yet even though some of them may be a little long and leggy as some cultivars are still yet to flower this month. Trees and hedges can also be cut back now or you can wait a little more till the winter once all the leaves have dropped to be able to clearly see the tree shape and branches. Remember to gently taper the sides of your hedges, smaller on top and bigger at the base, to allow the base of the plants to get more sun and even-up in thickness as a result.

A beautiful roof garden for night-time entertainment is dramatic and low maintenance.

Leaves, leaves, leaves! Raking up leaves is the task of the month.


Leaves are most definitely starting to fall! Plain, Oak, Poplar, Gum, Dombeya, Jacaranda and trees everywhere are shedding up a storm and carpeting everything with their golden hues. Leaves that fall are the most wonderful, natural mulch and compost and should definitely not be carted to landfill. If you don’t like the look of the leaves in the beds, then rake them up and add them to the compost, or turn them gently into the soil, but don’t dig too much around your plant’s roots as that will disturb the natural balance that exists there. Make a leaf-mould cage, by creating a circular ‘bin’ or ‘cage’ from chicken wire. Fill it with leaves every week, keep it moist with a plastic covering, and turn it regularly to make nutrient rich leaf-mould to use as mulch or as a natural soil fertilizer.


Now is the time to take hardwood cuttings if you want to multiply your garden plants. Shrubs like Viburnmum, Abelias, Solanum, Hydrangeas, Tecoma, Coprosma work well. Use well matured wooded cuttings and keep them to the thickness of a pencil. Snip them at an angle with clean garden secateurs, so you can tell the top from the bottom. They should be about 15cm long. Cut the base just below a node and remove the leaves from the lower 2/3rd of the cutting. Remove any flowers or berries as well. Dip the bottom in rooting hormone and plant around the edges of pots or in a seeding tray. Make sure the cuttings don’t dry out by watering every couple of days and pot on after the summer in about 9 months’ time. Semi-hardwoods like Plectranthus, Salvias, Hypoestes can be taken after they have finished flowering at the end of Autumn.


Green walls, glass, steel and architectural styling are elements in the contemporary garden

Taking cuttings can be very easy. They can even be rooted in water like this.

Divide perennials

Now is the time to start dividing your perennials including grass-like shrubs like Dietes, Agapanthus, Clivia which have finished flowering for now. Take a clean, sharp spade and divide the plants you are willing to sacrifice. It’s best to replant the divided plants as soon as possible, or pot them up to grow through the winter and spring.

Feed your roses

At the end of the month it’s time to feed your roses with a high-potash fertilizer like 3:1:5 or 2:3:4 to sustain them through the winter months. Keep a look out for blackspot, a fungal disease that often starts this month and spray regularly to keep it under control if your roses are prone to it. When deadheading, remove the finished flowers, but keep as many leaves as possible to help build up their food reserves.

Edgy rusty steel retaining and hardy succulent planting around a circular lawn

Dreaded ‘Blackspot’ on rose leaves should be regularly treated to prevent plant loss

In the Vegetable Garden

Now is the time to feed your citrus trees with Magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) and 3:1:5 or 2:3:4 fertiliser. Sew seeds of roots crops like Onions, radishes, carrots, parsnips and beetroots in situ now as the cooler weather improves their germination. Thin out young plants over the next six weeks so there is sufficient space for each one to develop. A rule of thumb is to keep 3cm between them if you are going for dense coverage. If your root vegetables begin to show their ‘shoulders’, mound up a little more soil around them to keep them covered. Prepare beds or pots for strawberries by digging in lots of compost and general fertilizer, then plant out rooted runners. Garlic and strawberries are great companions in the garden. Cut back and remove any finished summer crops like squash, spinach, lettuce, mustard greens or any that have gone to seed that you don’t want again for now. Many of them can be replanted from seed now for the winter round.

Colour in the garden from hardy perennials, succulents and grasses in a cohesive design

Simple pleasure of gardening in the vege garden is on the list this month


It’s a great time to order the bi-annual truck-load of compost for putting onto your whole garden. It can be pricey, so team up with a neighbor and order 6m3 of good quality compost, bark or wood chip to put down about 15-10cm thick if you can around all your plants, trees and in pots too. Water is still very scarce and a thick covering around all your plants will help them retain for longer any first rains that do fall. Mulching in autumn is a natural process that happens now with leaf litter, and adds a huge nutrient and mineral boost to your soil as it slowly breaks down during the cycles of hot, cold, dry and wet during the days and nights. So keep the leaves if you don’t mind the look of them and add in more mulch as needed.

Colour in the garden from hardy perennials, succulents and grasses in a cohesive design

Mulching paths and garden beds at least twice a year is a good garden maintenance practice

Take stock

March is a good month to take stock of your garden. Assess the bare areas that the summer drought got the better of. See what is still thriving that you could add more of into your garden. A good design tip is to add more of what you already have that is growing well. It creates cohesion and simplicity in the outlook of your garden space and this in turn brings a sense of calm and peacefulness. Cut back groundcovers that have grown too bushy into bare areas, assess where you need to add in more in other places and use the cut back plants to make cuttings. Add in areas of interest with sculptural water wise plants like large Aloes, Strelitzia or add textural interest with beautiful blocks of water wise grasses. Decide if the lawn needs to be so large and consider removing some to widen your beds or to create areas of gravel or groundcover that are not nearly as thirsty.


South African Garden and Home, March 2013

Cape Contours Landscape Solutions

Image sources:

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My free textures


Conneticut Garden Journal


Learning herbs

By |2017-03-29T11:37:08+00:00March 22nd, 2017|DIY Garden Guide, Garden Design Tips|0 Comments

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Landscaping Solutions from the team at Contours Landscapes. We are always looking for garden design tips and tricks that we can share with our followers.

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