Tuesday, June 21, 2022


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


WE have come a long way from when our ancestors foraged for food in the wild. As we know, for convenience and ease of acquiring food, humans evolved to grow crops and domesticate animals near to hand and so the first farming operation came into being.


‘Chives are so versatile and have a mild onion taste, which is good for salads, omelette and sandwiches’


Leap forward

From those humble beginnings the range of foods in our diet moved slowly along and even in the 1960’s the choice was fairly limited for a number of reasons, including a lack of refrigeration and availability from abroad. In the last 50 years we have seen a huge leap forward in available foods and, if we bypass the period of seasonal fruits and vegetables, we are now in a situation where food of all types are available all the year round.


Great expectations

There was a time when we had a choice of two or three TV programmes and found it amusing that our friends and relations in the USA had a choice of a few hundred but complained that there was nothing to watch on the box. The same applies to the choice of food in our shops now with people saying the choice is sometimes boring as they look for something different. That might be why there are so many food programmes and articles on how to make food more interesting and exciting.



There are some basic foods that are a carryover from our childhood, which bring back fond memories. It is usually what might now be considered plain but good quality, and into this category I would include cabbage, turnips, carrots, parsnips and, of course, home grown potatoes. It is for the sheer pleasure of the taste and being transported to the past that I would grow some potatoes – even if it means having only a large container.


Spiced up

Now that we have been spoiled for choice and still need something to stimulate our appetite, it is to additives that we go to help spice up our foods. Herbs are the first port of call as we can grow them here, whereas spices have to be bought in as they need tropical conditions to grow. I usually buy a basil plant and leave in the kitchen windowsill, which is handy for picking a few leaves when needed but for other basil flavours and others, like rocket, I sow a few seeds directly in a 15-20cm (6-8” pot) and repeat the process every four weeks to endure a constant supply.


Life cycle

I find parsley a hit and miss on germination and, therefore, I sow a few pots and then just scatter a few seeds outside and let nature germinate them for me. They are usually the ones to come up and will provide a long lasting supply. Chives are the next important one for me as they are so versatile and have a mild onion taste, which is good for salads, omelette and sandwiches. One bay leaf bush makes a nice specimen and is useful for many dishes, including curries. Dill is an annual and tricky to grow so I use the perennial Fennel instead.



We like to keep our plants healthy and free from pests and diseases, and believing that prevention is better than the cure, we look for possible dangers before they are expected and then apply one of our organic cures, which we started this week and will continue every two weeks until the end of August. We find a few drops of washing liquid in 5 litres of warm water and then watered over plants keeps pests away and if you add 3 tablespoons baking powder and 1 of vegetable oil, diseases such as mildews will not take a hold. For Blackspot in roses add a tablespoon of Jeyes Fluid to the mix.

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.

By Melanie Dool
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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