Tuesday, March 14, 2023


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


PLANTS grow with the seasons and, given sufficient time, can adapt and evolve so that they can survive and thrive. That is why plants have a longer growing season nearer the equator and, in the Arctic regions where the summers are short but intense, plants accelerate their yearly life cycle in a matter of a few months.


Irish connection

Even in a small country like Ireland, there are many climatic differences and the growing programme has to be adjusted to take account of local conditions. Simply put, Donegal would be very different than the ‘Sunny South East’. In every case if you want to grow vegetables for this season, you must start your preparations and be ready by the middle of April. There is not the same urgency with fruit and flowering plants as that can progress almost all the year round.


Slow movement

No one knows what the year holds for us but for gardeners it has been a great start with the six dry weeks and a huge amount of ground preparations completed. Of course, things can change overnight and we might get rain, snow and frost, but usually by mid-April we are on better ground and can progress with all sowing and planting outside.


Raided beds

A raised bed is just an area of soil and compost that is higher than the surrounding ground, kept in place with wooden boards or other materials. The beds are usually planted with vegetables, herbs and strawberries, which like a well drained rich soil and are easy to keep clean, tidy and more accessible for harvesting. As always, just grow what you like to eat and stick initially to easy to grow crops like herbs, beetroot, courgettes, beans, peas, radishes, spring onions and mixed salad leaves (cut and come variety).


Sowing flowers

If you want a few flowers for your garden it is probably not worth growing them from seed unless you like the idea or wish to grow some not generally available. I limit my flower sowing to Sweet Peas (like to pick better scented ones), Pot Marigold (old fashioned), Scented Stock (not common), Cornflower and Poached Egg Plant (pretty and good pollinators), Sunflowers (tall growing types) and Nasturtiums (like to choose my own mix).



Strawberries are one of the easiest to grow and produce fruit soonest and raspberries come second and are just as easy and best grown in a row 30cm (1’) apart. Both can be planted out from now on.  After that, apples are the easy ones, followed by plums and pears next in line but can be a hit and miss crop.


Fancy pants

Some plants grow so easily here that we sometimes take them for granted. It is all due to our lovely mild climate and soil in this part of Ireland. These beautiful plants include Azaleas, Camellias, Pieris, Rhododendrons, Daphne and Magnolias, and many have been in flower since January. Depending on variety, there will be flowers from some of these until June. That is about six months of glorious displays and interest, which makes it worthwhile having a selection of all of those if possible.



Sometimes we miss things or do not notice if something needs doing. In our case we cleaned gutters, cut ivy off buildings, repaired the shed and trimmed overgrown trees and hedges. It all started with one small job and then expanded into all the above as we saw what had to be done.

If you have the time, I would suggest taking a look around your area and do a spring clean up if needed while it is relatively quiet on the gardening scene. 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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