Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
WHILE our memories can fade faster than we would like to admit, we do recall the scorching hot summer last year when growth stopped dead and the grass burned with even many established trees and shrubs dying with the drought. In this train of thought we might be almost glad of the quantity of rainy days we have had so far this month.</span>
High levels of moisture coupled with warm temperatures, has resulted in rampant growth and it gives us an idea of what it must be like in those far off tropical forests. It is a busy time in the plant nursery and our garden is a bit like the expression of the cobblers shoes, where weeds have taken over as we cannot manage to spend time there but, cutting the grass has helped make it look sort of respectable and if anyone asks we can always say we are leaving our garden grow to help wildlife!
I suppose from time to time I will again refer to pruning and in this respect, if you see plants already heading out of shape, why not prune as and when you see the need and in that way you will not let the plant waste its energy growing just for you to prune it away later in the year. In the last few weeks I have been pruning back the spring flowering clematis, magnolia, mahonia and brooms to name a few plant types.
The old fashioned wallflowers have just finished flowering, and they are usually removed to allow for some new summer plants. If you don’t need the space they can be left there to flower next year and all you have to do is clip them down to about 30cm (1’) and give them a once overall feed and they will begin to grow again to produce strong plants for next year. If you do this it is possible to have wallflowers there for years to come. If you wish to grow some of your own, there is still time to sow within the next week or two and they are good for pollinating insects during their flowering period from March to early June.
Hardy plants can grow well in containers and they just need some regular watering when required and then a feed from spring until the autumn. After a number of years they may become very pot bound and will need to be potted into a larger size container or alternatively they can have their roots trimmed back and potted back in the same size pot using some fresh compost. By the way, the same treatment can be undertaken with any of your house plants.
One fruit that has become hugely popular is the blueberry and of course many people want to grow them and produce their own home grown fruit. They were always a more tricky fruit to grow but, as they are planted in large numbers I sometimes wonder if they give the results that people expect from them. They do need an acid soil or compost and this makes it impossible in limey or alkaline soils and the only solution is to grow them in containers with acid soil and water them with rain water and feed them with an acid food during the summer months. After that, as with many other fruit, the birds will devour them if they are not protected.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Some people have been enjoying their early potatoes already and if you are unsure if they are mature enough, just dig up one plant and see if there is a decent crop there. When the plants have flowered and start to turn yellow there will be almost no further growth so you might as well continue to harvest those as and when you need them for a meal. Also do keep an eye out for blight which is around and if any leaves become infected, they can be cut down immediately and the disease will not infect the tubers underground. If you wish to grow a few potatoes for Christmas then you can use some of the potatoes or old ones and start growing them in old pots or containers.