Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
WE are into a period of activity and none. When conditions were fine as what happened during February, it was great to get outside and start preparing the ground. When it rained or was stormy time was best spent indoors.
This stop and start activity will continue for the next four weeks at least but do not put off what can be prepared for the garden in advance. Planting can continue as we are relatively mild compared to other areas of Ireland. Sowing of early crops can be undertaken in crop modules or trays so they are ready for planting out in April.
There is an increased interest in planting native trees and shrubs, and many can easily fit into most gardens. Suitable small natives include birch, guilder rose, rowan or mountain ash, spindle, elder, crab apple and hawthorn but you can expand your choice by selecting varieties that originated from these native trees. Some mature even smaller than the native plant and this makes them ideal for the smallest garden.
The next step in going native is to sow some wild flowers. The big mistake is to throw seed into established grass and expect a flowering meadow to emerge. Starting with clean ground is the best way to have some success in the first season – it pays to take your time to prepare the ground and sow the seeds from Easter until August.
There are enough people growing a selection of potatoes and enjoying the taste of freshly dug tubers from June but many more can dip their toes into growing some by just planting 3-4 tubers in a container and leave them on the patio until harvest time. It is a rewarding experience, which can be enjoyed by young and old. Use ‘Homeguard’, ‘British Queen’ or ‘Sharpes Express’.
It is good to have some colour to carry us through until the main flowers become available from April onwards. I would not overdo it as the timeframe is short but one or two pots placed where you can see them is valuable. Polyanthus and mini daffodils among a flowering heather is a good start, and when all are finished flowering they can be planted out in the garden.
Flowering plants that last for years are known as herbaceous perennials or just perennials and, depending on the selection, you can have flowers from early spring until the autumn. An added advantage is that they can be lifted and moved during the winter months and even divided up into smaller pieces and then replanted. This is a great way to increase your number of plants.
I would say that the largest selection of plants available is from March until June and, therefore, I would encourage you to see the variety from now on. Plants usually come with information of height, time of flowering and some after care and, for most purposes, that is enough of an indication to make your selections. You can always go and explore your local nursery, take pictures on your phone and then do your choosing when back home.
TIP OF THE WEEK
The season for bare rooted (un-potted) plants will run out in the next few weeks so, if you need hedging, fruit, native and ordinary trees, I should advise you to complete this within the next two weeks. Suitable hedging plants include Griselinia, Portugal laurel, Cherry laurel, beech (purple and green) and hornbeam. Summer flowering bulbs like dahlias, lilies and gladioli can be planted out in about a month. 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.