Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
IT is a busy time for gardeners and normally there is some catching up to be done as weather conditions can disrupt the best of plans but so far this year I would say it has been fantastic, in that we have been able to set our own pace without the pressure as it has been warm and dry for weeks.
One of the most popular fruits is the strawberry and, more to the point, it is nice to know that they are easy to grow at home in a number of ways. Before refrigeration and transport fruit and vegetables had to be grown near to where they could be sold. In Dublin there was an area on both sides of the River Liffey from Chapelizod to Lucan where the strawberries were cultivated in the 18th and 19th century and the name ‘Strawberry Beds’ still remains to this day.
While we can now buy fruit of almost any kind all the year round, there was a time when they were only available in season and, therefore, strawberries were eagerly awaited as the first fruits of the year. I think they are best planted around now as they are into growth and, surprisingly, many of these will produce some fruits by June this year but a decent crop will be next year. The plants can be planted in the ground, hanging baskets and containers of all kinds and 10-12 plants will give a good taste of what can be achieved in a small space but go for good tasting varieties like Symphony or Everest.
I like cool colours and shades of blue are scarce enough in plants so their inclusion is a welcome addition to any garden. Lavender comes to mind as being a typical blue colour and it is easy to grow provided you give it a free draining and sunny position. Growing in raised beds or containers will provide this if in doubt and I recommend Lavandula angustifolia types as best suitable for Irish conditions with varieties such as ‘Hidcote’ or ‘Munstead’ two of the best. Avoid the French lavenders like L. stoechas as they are short lived unless you are happy with a throw-away plant after a season or two.
For more blue shades you might see this small spring flowering plant sprawling over a stone ditch or wall and might think it flowers all summer as it is succeeded by another similar looking creeper but that is a different plant called campanula. Both plants are perennial which means they can live for years with little attention if given a good start at the time of planting. These plants are best planted within the next six weeks so they become established before the really dry weather comes.
There are also a number of herbs with blue shades and worth incorporating close to hand such as a patio area and these include borage, chives, hyssop, rosemary and sage. All herbs need the same conditions as lavender.
TIP OF THE WEEK
The mild weather means that the grass is not growing strongly so, if needed, it gives an ideal opportunity to treat the areas for weeds, moss and to sow any weak or bald patches. In the garden general weeding is easier if you simply hoe or dig out any weeds they will wither and die off in the sun and then they can be composted. Do get planting onion sets, salad crops and general vegetables and also plant out annual and perennial flowers for colourful summer displays. 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 newsletter.