Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
FOR the greatest enjoyment in gardening, I would suggest that this popular hobby be undertaken seasonally. In this age of numerous alternative leisure activities it is quite possible to manage gardening on a part-time basis along with other interests as it is just a matter of being organised.
Ebb and flow
There are going to be extremes at either end of any activity but I feel that the period of major input in gardening will be around the end of March and continue more or less constant until the middle of June and then ebb and flow at a slower pace until October after which any gardening can go into hibernation over winter, only venturing out when fine weather conditions allow.
The Arctic has an extremely short growing season so animals and plants have to explode into action in order to complete a life cycle before the winter comes round. We are not that far behind that and have to do likewise but it can be achieved at a more leisurely pace and, in order to have flowers and vegetables, we must have the majority of plants in and growing away between April and June.
Many plants can be grown from seed and this can be carried out by anyone but stick to the easier types if there is a lack of experience or know how. Anyway, if only a few plants are needed of any type it is just as easy and cheap enough to buy a starter pack with about nine plants and get a multiple number if a greater variety is required. As we progress to June and onwards the plants have to be larger to give an impact as small plants or seedlings will just not progress to a mature stage in time.
There are always going to be situations during the summer where plants have failed or there is a sudden need for an instant display, and, in that case, you can take the last bus and buy some instant filler plants, which are a great way to save the day. In all cases, summer plants, whether vegetables or flowers, will need basic care such as protecting from slugs and snails in the formative weeks and thereafter a watering when needed and every third week a weak liquid feed. If you carry out this minimal attention the plants will reward you until harvesting or until the autumn frosts come.
The choice of what vegetables to grow is fairly static but the variety within the crops has expanded so there is a good range to choose from. If you have a tunnel or similar you can extend the possibilities further. For flowers, the variety of plants on offer is overwhelming and it would be difficult to choose but the nice thing about any containers, pots, window boxes and hanging baskets is that you plant them close together in a ‘mix and match’ fashion and that works. Bacoba and Bidens are great, as are Begonias and Fuchsias (bush and hanging types) which last through all weathers, whereas geraniums and bedding petunias will struggle in wet weather.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Rain is good but too much does a bit of damage and stops gardening activities, and the weeds then have a field day. Suddenly, almost overnight, they have become unmanageable. Quite simply, I cannot get round to them but you might be able to and I suggest if the weeds are too strong to just cut them down with a clippers or hedge trimmers and at least this will give you some breathing space as they will take a few weeks to recover and you might be able to tackle it in the meantime. If you have any queries or comments you are welcome to share them with me on 051-384273 or [email protected] and if of general interest I will include it in a future article.