Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
GARDENING is a moveable feast and depending on your specific interests, there will be times when it will need your full attention. If you are into vegetable growing then you cannot leave your crops unattended for too long during the growing season so holidays are out of the question during late spring until the autumn. If, on the other hand, you have a relatively trouble free garden with a mixture of trees, shrubs and a lawn then you will not have travel or movement restrictions.
People who are into gardening simply do not head off on holidays when there is so much to enjoy in the garden. They just work around it by having holidays out of season such as from October until the following spring but of course there is always room to take a few days off to enjoy a garden show during the growing season. The coronavirus has encouraged many newcomers to garden and a good proportion will continue this popular hobby as it has already given them so much pleasure.
Gardening can be as simple, difficult or confusing as you want but if you take a relaxed attitude to this hobby, you will not have any great problems. There are some plant groups which contain those that are just annuals and last the one summer while others of the same name are hardy perennials which continue growing for years. You might think why grow annuals when you can obtain long lasting plants but it happens that annuals flower profusely all summer whereas perennials are more subdued and flower for a shorter period of time and, therefore, both are needed in many planting schemes.
Here is a case of a group of plants called African Daisies or Osteospermums that have specific end uses and the first are the very popular annuals that flower continuously from early summer right until the frosts and they will still thrive if neglected a little by missing some watering or feeding.
The varieties are fantastic and come in a huge range of colours and shades and are suitable for tubs, containers, window boxes or in the ground. There is a second group with the same name and they are much hardier and are considered perennials when planted in coastal counties where they are useful as evergreen ground covering plants and come in three main varieties such as ‘Juncium Compactum’ (pink),’ Lady Leitrim’ (pink and white) and ‘Tresco Purple’ . There are many examples of these plants on the roundabouts in Tramore, cliff road and along the coast to Dungarvan. There is another ground covering plant in the same area with pink flowers and a yellow centre called Erigeron ‘Sea Breeze’. All these plants will meet if planted 1m (3’) apart and the availability is limited so you may need to search to obtain supplies but it is worth the effort.
While the season for sowing wild flowers can be carried out for several months, the prime time for rapid germination is from April until the end of June. Outside these months it may take much longer
to establish but many wildflower seeds can remain viable for years and will germinate when conditions are suitable so surprises can occur years after they are sown such as the red poppies and cowslips whose seed can be over 50 years old. A typical wildflower mix should contain up to 45 different varieties and it is best to scatter it on bare ground and rake it in.
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Water can be limited and, therefore, should be used wisely and the best time to water plants is in the evening. Watering regularly with a small amount is the best method whereas pouring large amounts at a time simply will mean that the surplus will run away. Water used for washing vegetables, showers and other mild uses are also suitable for outdoor flowers and vegetables.
Vegetable growers have sown all they can at this stage and if space allows they will plant small amounts of cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leeks or spinach. Salad crops can be sown continuously until the end of July. Individual early potato plants can be dug up and the tubers enjoyed fresh from the ground as and when required for a meal.