Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
IF we wait to plant until we feel there are ideal conditions, then you can be sure that nothing will get done and we will have missed the boat for that season. Generally speaking, we know for each area what the average conditions are like and plan our gardening accordingly.
The worst weather tends to appear during the winter months and happily that is when we are sort of hibernating from gardening. The tricky part can be the few autumn months when it is traditionally a very good time to plant and I would agree with planting hardy trees, shrubs, fruit trees and hedging during September and October but leave out most other groups of plants such as perennials as they might not establish enough to survive the winter.
There are very few plants that like to be planted in winter and they include Rhubarb and Garlic, otherwise delay other plants until the middle of March. Now after that we come to the most difficult time of year which lasts until the first week of May. Because it is during these dates that we can experience frost, rain, wind and snow and if we have a few sunny days there will be vast numbers of people setting out delicate plants. It will work sometimes and you will be then considered a wimp for not getting ahead with your crops but if it goes badly wrong there will not be a whimper out of anyone.
These are fun flowers and a favourite for all age groups, especially young people who like to see things grow fast and give results in a short time. It is usually a guess as to how tall your plant will grow. At the end of the day you might end up with a giant flower which moves with the direction of the sun and later the birds will love to feast on the seed pods in the autumn.
These can still be sown or you can buy enough plants to fill a space where they can climb and provide scented flowers all summer. They can be grown in the ground 15cm (6”) apart or in a bucket size container which can take 6 plants. They can climb to 2m (6’) so need suitable supports to cling on to and we use long branched hazel twigs but trellis or netting will work too. Go for the highly scented varieties.
The sage family is large as it includes the herb of the same name, the popular red bedding plant, the blue perennials and, finally, the lesser known species of which I briefly describe two now. There is a range of scented foliaged plants with intense gentian blue flowers called Salvia patens and from that have come a beautiful selection of varieties that are good to look at but will also attract bees and butterflies. Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ is a scented foliaged plant with a fun name on account of the red and white flowers. Both are worth having in the garden and while half hardy they might not last after two years but I would not let that hold you back.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Tunnels and glasshouses can get too hot for plants so lower the temperatures by having the doors or windows open during the day and if in a sheltered garden they can be kept open all the time.
We are in the middle of potential blight on potatoes. If they appear on early varieties you can dig them up to eat or give a preventative spray if you have a main crop. Tomatoes can get blight too so keep an eye on these plants even if grown inside. 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.