Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
MOST people agree that we do not mind too much when it is cold and dry but we are not happy with wet or windy conditions. We tend to stay indoors and safe in strong gusty weather and heavy rains stop us from venturing out, unless we have no choice.
Frost or Snow
I love the novelty of frost and even snow and find the effects in the garden transports it into a new and beautiful dimension. This cold does draw more birds onto the feeders and we have to fill up the containers almost every two days. A surprise visitor to our birdfeeders was a Great Spotted Woodpecker. This was a first for us and we were able to photograph it when it returned to the feeder again a few minutes later. We knew of its existence in Co Wicklow and it has slowly increased towards Co Wexford with seven nests recorded in 2009 to over 40 in 2019 but did not expect to see one around here for some years yet. If anyone sees and can indentify unusual birds do let the biodiversity centre know and also Birdwatch Ireland.
There seems to be a perception that gardening should be low maintenance but I am not sure that is the case as each person’s needs and desires will dictate how much work they wish to do and that will change within their lifetime. My grandmother loved nothing better than spending all her spare time in the garden but sadly she cannot manage this anymore and sticks to a few pots near the front door while we all share in the maintenance of the rest to keep it looking beautiful.
Peat supplies around the world are huge and unlikely to run out for at least 200 years but Irish peat is limited and has not been harvested last year and while Irish horticulture only uses less than .5% of the overall volume it will become scarce resulting in Ireland having to import supplies from abroad which from an environmental point of view would be lunacy. Peat alternatives have been looked at for years with little success but growers continue to limit its use to vital aspects of the cultivation process.
Spring flowering bulbs are one of the easiest plants to grow and typically are planted between late August and the end of October but the odd thing this year is that people have been looking for them continuously ever since even as late as last week. This unusual demand is universal and not confined to this small corner of Ireland but leaves us and the suppliers puzzled as to the reason, maybe the virus and lockdown has encouraged this.
There is a small trend in the “No Dig” aspect of gardening whereby the soil is left undisturbed but nutrients, manures and compost are added by layers over the existing soil levels. I like digging as it warms me up and it is a form of exercise that is particularly rewarding when carried out during cold periods in winter. I like to dig in manures and homemade composts for vegetables which helps aerate the soil and this whole operation ensures a high level of fertility for future crops.
TIP OF THE WEEK
While it will be a quiet time in the garden for some weeks yet, it is always nice to get out there in the fresh air and have a look around and this simple action seems to stimulate the brain into planning or seeing something to do. We have and will continue to grub out spreading wild ivy and briars as well as pruning back into shape any tree or shrub which will encroach on their neighbouring plant.
Last year, I advised that vegetable seeds including potatoes would be scarce and run out before the spring and, likewise, the same looks likely to happen this year and therefore, start collecting for your needs before the middle of March.