Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
THEY say a week is a long time in politics but it can also be applied to some aspects of gardening and especially in spring. A few weeks ago there were very few small flowering bulbs above ground and no frogs had appeared in our pond but within a few days there were snowdrops, cyclamen coum and dwarf iris reticulata in flower and there were over 30 frogs all having fun in the pond.
Five a day
What is it about the “Five a Day” slogan where we are encouraged to eat a portion of five vegetables or fruit as part of a healthy diet? I guess it is a follow on from the old proverb of “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, which was one way of encouraging people to eat healthy food. Either way we have got the message that we should increase our consumption of plant foods, preferably in variety and maybe more than the symbolic five.
Now in our grandparents time or up to the 1960’s it would have been more difficult to achieve that healthy goal as fresh fruit and vegetables were seasonal and, in addition, limited in choice. Yet, people were fairly healthy although that could be attributed to less processed and convenience foods being available. Nowadays, it is quite tricky to avoid what goes into our foods to such an extent that I prefer to cook and eat at home but when eating out I choose those foods that are quite plain.
The answer is to grow as much as you can yourself but space or time or both might not be available to indulge in this type of gardening. There is probably scope for most people to grow some of their seasonal requirements and consciously buy the shortfall so that the “Five a Day” is maintained or even exceeded. While “organic” is better than the unknown it is not foolproof and not what we would consider 100% organic but is a % of that and can still be labelled organic.
There might be scope to grow a variety of fruit and vegetables in most gardens where they can be planted within the general garden without the need for a separate section. Fruit trees can be planted instead of ornamental varieties such as pears, apples and plums grown against a wall or a good eating apple as a standalone small tree. Other permanent fruit, vegetables and herbs might include rhubarb, artichokes, fennel, bay leaf, asparagus, chives, blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries. Growing a small selection of fruit and vegetables in pots and containers works well, using strawberries, salad crops such as rocket, spring onions, mixed lettuce and oriental leaves, salad carrots, small beetroot, peas and beans.
Growing the plants is a relatively easy matter with relatively few problems except birds like to eat your fruit unless protected and slugs and snails will eat small seedlings but less so if grown in containers. On the other hand, family members do like to browse on all the edible plants when out and about. This is a good way to connect with nature and the growing world and you have time to make a start now for the coming growing season.
TIP OF THE WEEK
If you get any prolonged dry spell use it to keep the grass at a manageable size and then your attention can be focused to other things such as making a start to sowing some vegetables or flowers.
Do not feed lawns or treat moss just yet but wait until the temperature rises a bit which will probably be from Easter onwards. Bare rooted roses, including climbers, could be planted for the next six weeks after which potted ones are necessary. 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.