Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
THERE is a long held tradition of ‘Spring Cleaning’ once the winter is over. I guess it is based on the fact that we had spent most of the duller months indoors and then, once the warmer comes around, we give our homes a good clean out for the summer.
The spill over of cleaning up and preparing for the summer also applies to our surrounding areas where we want to clean the shed, paint outdoor wooden fences and furniture and, of course, all the other activities associated with gardening. Trouble is, with the coronavirus still around, any DIY home and garden improvements and maintenance could be hampered by a lack of places where you can obtain materials to complete the tasks, which is tough as many of us have the time and energy to get things done.
Now that we are encouraged or told to stay at home, we must find ways and means to keep occupied otherwise we will soon encounter ‘Cabin Fever’. We are in strange, unusual circumstances and hopefully will not encounter these times again so we must self motivate and with those who are isolated with us. Again, getting outside is as they say ‘like a breath of fresh air’ and will lift the spirits, and incentivise you to undertake projects, and again, your imagination can be a powerhouse to taking the first step.
Growing some of your own edible crops is an amazing experience and can be carried out by most people regardless of how much space you have. In practice in our own situation, we use raised beds, have a homemade glasshouse composed of Perspex for growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, and numerous containers of all sizes from old buckets, broken fish boxes, wheelbarrows and containers from packaging and they are all used to grow a selection of vegetables. Last year one of our boys grew a pot of peas by the back door and had a snack all summer long, so you see, even a small section can bring satisfaction. You can still grow nearly all types of vegetables and have a good harvest and that can continue until the end of June, after which the choice will be reduced every week.
Sunflowers are a fun plant and one of the easiest plants to grow and you can buy seeds or use some from the wild bird mix. It is quicker to start them in a small container or pot on the window sill and leave there until May when you can plant them out into the flowering position.
On a similar theme, there are many flowers that can be sown out direct into the ground, without the need for sowing indoors in trays. They include calundula, cornflower, godetia, larkspur, nasturtium, nigella, stock (night- scented) and sweet pea. All you have to do is put a layer of compost on the ground, sow the seeds thinly, rake in and water now and then if dry, until they have germinated but maybe put some slug protection until established. An added bonus is that the majority of these flowers are good for pollinators including bees.
TIP OF THE WEEK
In some years it is tempting to leave too many fruit on apple trees whereas they might do better if the numbers were controlled a bit. Apple trees have not flowered yet nor are they in leaf but you can look over the plants and see if they need a final prune to thin out, removing diseased or crossed over branches and then you can wait and see if the possible crop is in balance with the tree or does it need further attention.
Pears and plums are treated differently and have already flowered and as their cropping is erratic, it is best to leave them alone, as seldom do many of these plants have too many fruits.
Summer bedding and patio flowers are on offer in most garden shops now and can be planted up but protected and kept out of cold winds and possible frosts for another week or so. We place them in a group together in a sunny spot so they can harden off, be fed and cared for together conveniently and then move them into their final summer positions after the first week of May.