Spring is well and truly underway in beautiful Ireland. With the longer days and warmer weather comes the opportunity to start preparing your garden for the fast approaching summer period. All parts of the garden have started to grow at this stage so this week Paraic discusses how to add some colour as well as taking care of existing features in your garden.
A lot of the Spring flowering plants are still in bloom and will be for several weeks to come. Early flowering plants such as the Senetti come in several different colours and are perfect for patios or containers. Senetti will stay in flower for most of the summer if you deadhead it on a regular basis.
These plants are not perennial, but they are quite cheap and offer a lot for their period in bloom. Another perennial bright flowering plant is the Europys often compared to a large daisy. Its bright butter yellow colour is a lovely addition and it will flower for up to ten months of the year. Other plants such as the Dianthus and Osteospermum or Cape Daisy are in flower now.
Plants such as the Geranium Orange Fizz, often called the Lemon Scented Geranium, has beautifully citrus scented leaves. It gives off a lovely bright scent, and they will grow well with very little care. They do not require much watering and they will grow well even left tin a bright sunny window box or container. It produces a lilac/purple colour during the summer months and when grown indoors it will help to deter any midges or flies that tend to be around in the summer months.
Taking care of your soil:
Now is the time to give all the plants and shrubs in your garden a feed. Paraic recommends Osmo Pro 6 fertiliser which is an excellent general fertiliser for all your plants. It will add valuable nutrients and keep your garden looking fresh and green. Simply sprinkle it around the base of the plant to encourage growth. If you are planting trees and shrubs, Paraic recommends adding some organic matter such as garden compost or farmers manure to enrich the soil. If you are not using your veg garden, a good idea is to sow some green manure. This is a simple seed that can be sprinkled on the soil. Once it germinates and grows it can be turned and dug back into to soil to act as a natural fertiliser.
All traditional vegetables can be planted now. Paraic recommends are variety of Brussels sprouts called Petit Posy. It is a new variety which is something in between Kale and Brussels sprouts. Rather than the traditional round balls associated with sprouts it actually has more of leafy foliage and a taste of spring cabbage. You can still plant potato varieties such as Cailín, Orla, Setanta and Red Duke of York. These will grow well from now on and will provide you with a rich crop come June and July.
Paraic says that size is all important when choosing a hanging basket. He recommends not choosing the smaller sizes to allow some rooms to place and plant whatever you want. 14 or 16 inch hanging baskets can be filled with good quality compost, a slow release fertiliser and some swell gel that helps to retain the moisture. Plant in your Petunias, Fuchsias, Geraniums, White Bacopa or Lobelias. Plant them up and pinch them back, let them grow for a couple of weeks in a sunny sheltered position and then hang them up. This will provide you with an early burst of colour for late may or early June.
A lot of people wonder what shrubs are suitable to take cuttings from at this time of year. Paraic says that lots of the common shrubs such as Fuchsia, Spirea and easier shrubs such as hydrangeas and soft wood cuttings can be easily propagated from cutting. Place the cutting in regular compost with added Perlite along with some rooting powder. The will root in a four to five week period.
We tend to over water our house plants in general so people often get frustrated when they are no performing as well as they should. Paraic suggests easy to care for plants such as the Boston Fern. This type of plant will help to control mould and moisture and humidity levels wherever they are placed. They also release oxygen into the air. Another plant that needs very little care is the Sansevieria, commonly known as the Mother in Laws Tongue. It is really simple to grow with very little watering and care, perfect for homes or offices. Another plant Paraic recommends is the Cast Iron Plant. As the name suggests it is extremely difficult to kill it so it may come in handy for people who are forgetful about plant care in general.
Keeping the kids happy
Nurturing an interest in gardening for your kids will serve the well in the long run. Around this time of year you can plant seeds such as Strawberries, Pumpkins, Sunflower seeds or Runner Beans. Plant them up in small pots of compost where they will germinate in a couple of weeks when left on a sunny window ledge. This will give you lovely Sunflowers during the summer and pumpkins at Halloween. Fancy some DIY? Get your kids to help you put up some nesting boxes. This time of year our garden songbirds are beginning to nest and it is a great way to get children involved with nature.