With spring truly breaking over the last couple of weeks, and Saint Patricks day around the corner, now is a great time to assess your garden and get it prepared for the summer.
The shamrock that we so proudly adorn at this time of year to represent our Irish heritage is called the Trifolium Dubium, a member of the clover family. The Shamrock we see for sale at this time of year has actually been growing indoors since July of last year. It comes into bloom from February onward and Horkans has sent thousands of vials around the world to the Irish Diaspora, all ready to be worn proudly on Lá Fhéile Pádraig.
The shamrock itself is a perennial plant that can be planted to return year after year so do not throw it out when the day is over. Your local garden centre will also stock seeds that can be planted in late summer or early autumn. They are best kept indoors during the cold weather, and they will provide you with a healthy bloom come spring.
This time of year everything starts to grow at around 10 degrees Celsius. This year has been unseasonably warm overall so there has already been some impressive growth with Roses, trees and hedging plants all starting to grow nicely. The soil conditions at the moment are perfect for planting. New roses to flower during the summer or hedging plants and shrubs can be planted now.
It may seem counter productive, but now is a great time to prune back your bushes and flowers – even discarding the new growth already visible. This will encourage more growth in the long run and ensure a healthy bloom. Put on a handful of rose fertiliser around the base then once they come into growth treat them with Rose Rescue or Multirose which helps to protect against pests and diseases. Climbing and rambling roses need to be pruned back as well at this time of year but not as severely. Take about 18 inches to 2 feet of the top of the plant and shorten back the side stems as well. Again, apply a feed and enjoy the new growth. The flowers and beautifully scented blooms will be carried on the new growth.
With mothers day approaching fast, now is a great time to redo window boxes, containers and pots with some spring flowering plants.
For smaller boxes or containers, Paraic advises completely replacing all the compost with a fresh supply. For larger containers, you can remove 6-8 inches of the original compost, replace it with a fresh supply and add some fertiliser. Paraic recommends growise compost, a rich, Irish made compost ideal for the purpose.
Hyacinths, primroses, spring pansies and tulips are all flowering at the moment. They can be bought at your local garden centre and transplanted straight in to your display. Primulas, also known as they mayflower add lovely colour to any display will flower right up until the end of May.
A lot of people always ask about growing edible plants. Herbs are primarily Mediterranean plants which will grow well in window boxes, containers or raised beds. You can plant some varieties straight out in the garden around your shrubs.
Rosemary, lavender, sage and thyme can all be planted now. Some herbs are perennial plants, but herbs like tarragon generally only last a year. Parsley is Biennial i.e. it will last two years so keep this in mind when purchasing your seeds. You can sow them from seed or baby plants a readily available at you local garden centre.
Plum and cherry trees are popular additions to people’s gardens. It is not unusual for them to take seven or eight years to come to fruit so do not worry if there is no fruit appearing. They tend to concentrate on growing for the first couple of years before they settle down to fruit later on in their lifecycle. If you wish, you can add some sulphate of Potash around the base of the tree. It counteracts the effects of Nitrogen and encourages the tree to bear fruit.
Varieties of tomatoes such as Ailsa Craig are hardy tomatoes that can be grown outdoors from May onward. As with many plants, they need to be potted indoors first to protect them from the weather. Simply plant them in a window box and cover them in cling film to keep the moisture in. They will germinate after a couple of weeks so take the cling film off then to let them grow out. They can be planted outdoors when the weather is suitable, normally around May or June. Transplanted plants do not need to be fed straight away, simply stake it well and let nature take its course.
As far as fertilising any food that will be grown outdoors, avoid using horse manure on any root crops. It will cause carrots to fork so keep the cow and horse manure for hungrier plants like potatoes, cabbages and Brussels sprouts.
As far as lawn care is concerned, Paraic recommends Osmo moss remover. As well as tackling the moss, it will feed the lawn and give it a nice healthy green colour.