Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
THE longest day occurs when we have the most daylight hours and it fell on the June 20, and what it means is that from that date gradually our daylight hours will be reduced until the shortest day, which is on December 21. This is just an annual cycle and nothing to get upset about but I have always felt that it comes too soon in our gardening calendar.
Gardeners, including farmers, have always known the importance of timing in the preparation, sowing, after care and finally harvesting of crops. In Ireland the preparation can be carried out during the autumn and winter and, depending on the crops, sowing begins around the end of April and continues until the end of June. That all important germination period is when conditions are usually warm, moist and there is plenty of light and, following this, there is a long enough time for most crops, such as vegetables and flowers, to grow to maturity.
These last few months have turned our world upside down in many ways and we still do not know what is going to happen but we are trying to get back to some sort of normality including our gardening calendar. The huge numbers who suddenly had time on their hands swarmed into DIY and gardening but this left traditional gardeners short changed and unable in many cases to obtain adequate supplies for the growing season. It means for this year anyway that it is a matter of making do with whatever is available and also, perhaps, trying something new.
The main thing to remember now is that there is still time for sowing some vegetable crops but the list of available types will be reduced as the weeks pass although it can be extended by planting out young vegetables from trays. Otherwise most of the input should be about caring for plants now.
The nice thing about the summer months is that you can see ornamental plants flowering in the garden shops and if you like the colour or variety, you simply can add it to your garden plant collection. Trouble is, I pick up new plants when out and about and don’t have a place to plant them. For ease of caring I leave them near the back door until they are planted into a permanent position.
The season is all about vibrant flower and foliar colours and, in the herbaceous perennial range, there are abundant choices. Three long flowering blue or lilac shaded plants include Nepeta ‘Persian Blue’, commonly called catmint, which is popular as an edging plant with its grey-green aromatic leaves topped with long tapering blue flowering spikes all summer and, the second is the widely available Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’, a long lasting wallflower with lilac flowers all summer which attracts butterflies. The third is the Verbena bonariensis, which is an elegant light structured plant with tall lilac blue flowers all summer and also attracts butterflies.
For spectacular foliar elegance go for some Heuchera varieties such as ‘Black Pearl’ or ‘Wildberry’ (dark purple) , ‘Silver Scrolls’ (silver), Marmalade (orange) and ‘Boysenberry’ (pink). For half hardy perennials you can try Pentas with a range of colours of star like flowers all summer, making them ideal for patio pots and containers.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Conditions were or should have been good for pollinating fruit bushes and trees but, mixed reports have been coming in about potential crops, with some saying they might have a bumper crop while others saying pollination was poor. Soft fruit such as strawberries etc have been good and need protection from eager birds but for top fruit such as apples etc, I would wait until after the first week of July to assess what the crops will be like before deciding what to do in terms of pruning and reducing excess fruit, if they occur. We started to enjoy eating our early potatoes without giving them another blight spray but main crops will need another one to keep them protected.