Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre

THERE are about four weeks of a quiet time until the gardening season takes off. Therefore, anyone with an interest in gardening should use the time to plan out what you would like to do for this growing season. Generally the weather is not the best for encouraging much outside activity but there is a need to do so to stop getting cabin fever.

Jobs on hand

I am obviously into gardening and never (I think) refer to the words ‘jobs to do’ in the garden.

I consider all aspects of outdoor garden activities as a pleasure and I am not a slave to it either as I go with the flow of whatever I feel like doing. In our leisure moments there is a large space for gardening, which includes vegetables, fruit, flowers and ornamental gardening with a wide variety of interests including a fish pool and a wildlife area with pond. I feel that if you think that gardening is just another round of jobs to do then perhaps you will not feel it is a pleasure and should therefore re-evaluate what is the point of gardening activities if you do not enjoy it.

Fun mix

I should imagine that most gardens or outdoor space has a limited size in which to decide what to put there, not forgetting a shed to store stuff, a bin area and perhaps a place to air clothes. After that a range of plants could be grown to give maximum pleasure, such as an apple tree, some herbs, early potatoes, salads, flowers including an exotic one such as echium.


There is one fascinating plant that grows well in some locations with its tropical appearance and that is the tall Echium pininana, originally from the Canary Islands. In Ireland it thrives in selected mild coastal areas where its huge bluish flower spikes can reach 3m (9’) high and is a bonus for pollinating insects as the plant is rich in nectar and pollen. They die after flowering but if suitable conditions allow, it will self-seed itself freely and thereby have a continuous population. They can be discovered in Dunmore and small populated areas all along the south coast where seedlings have spilled out from neighbouring gardens onto the road verges where you could acquire a small plant to bring home and try to establish a population yourself. There are many other types, including a pretty bedding one called Echium vulgare ‘Blue Bedder’ growing to 390cm (1’) – it has beautiful attractive blue flowers from June until October.

Early potatoes

Growing some potatoes is popular, even with some people who will not grow other food crops.

The simplest and easiest way to have a variety of types is to grow 3-4 in a container larger than a bucket or a broken fish crate or refuse bin. You just fill in 10cm (4”) of compost, place the potatoes on top and just cover with more compost so the tubers are hidden. When the plant shoots grow up around 15cm (6”) above the compost you fill to the top of the tips and continue the process until the plants have reached the surface and you stop filling 5cm (2”) below the rim. For an earlier crop the pots can be placed in a tunnel or similar or outside for a later crop.


Many people miss out on garden supplies each year and more so last year when even experienced gardeners could not obtain their gardening needs and had to go without. The virus and also Brexit have made conditions worse so there will be limited supplies from Easter onwards. If you want to do gardening then head out to see what is available from the garden centres and start gathering supplies. If you have any queries or comments you are welcome to share them with me on [email protected] or 051-384273 and if of general interest I will include it in a future article.

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By Melanie Dool
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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