Top gardening tips

Frances MacDonald | 10 May 2021
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Once again, we have enjoyed lovely weather in March and April, almost a compensation for the recent lockdown where our garden has become our escape. Now we can look forward to a lovely summer in our gardens.

Our Garden Tour Manager, Frances MacDonald from The Small Town Garden, has some fantastic garden tips to prepare your garden for Summer. Frances also has some handy tips for those who don’t have a garden and who want to make their home a little greener!

Top tips for weed control

  • As your plants start putting up growth at this time of year, so do the weeds. Annual weeds can be hoed on hot days but perennial weeds need more drastic action - either gently remove them, complete with all roots with a handfork or use a weedkiller, like Roundup, but remember this might kill your other plants too. Use safely and carefully and keep in mind that it will kill anything green that it touches.
  • Help to suppress weeds and keep moisture in your beds by mulching. Compost is available from many green waste centres like greenking.ie
  • Bring your clippings and weeds from the garden and purchase sterilised compost.

Geranium 'Rozanne'

How to improve your garden lawns and beddings

  • Fill gaps in the borders with long flowering herbaceous perennials such as the perennials geraniums. Geranium 'Rozanne' won plant of the century at the Chelsea Flower Show a couple of years ago. With regular dead-heading, it will flower from early summer to first frosts and come back each year.
  • Alternatively, fill any spaces with summer bedding for maximum colour. There is sometimes a danger of late frosts in May so 'harden them off ' well before planting out i.e. out during the day and then either in a shed or greenhouse or cover with horticultual fleece at nightime.
  • Cut your lawn regularly, adjusting the blades a little higher in very hot weather when growth slows.
  • If you have regular barbeques, pot up herbs to have nearby - Rosemary, Parsley and Thyme.
  • Give your permanent containers a top dress with a multi-purpose compost. Remove old compost from the top of the plant and mulch with a layer of fresh preferably soil based which will help to retain moisture.
  • Water your containers each week and give a liquid feed at least once a fortnight. Move regularly and sweep underneath and keep an eye out for vine weevil.
  • Have a walk around the garden at dusk armed with a pair of scissors, use on any slugs. Collect snails in a bag, jump on them and leave on the bird table...fast food for feathered friends!

Clematis viticella  'Etoile Violette'

How to keep your garden colourful

  • Tie in growing Clematis and Roses with green twine rather than plastic ties.
  • Dead-head all your fading flowers regularly to maintain continuous flowering and summer colour in your garden.
  • Even if you don't have a vegetable garden, use large plastic pots to grow your lettuce, carrots radishes and beetroot; it's an ideal way to get children interested in gardening.
  • Visit your local garden centre and buy one plant in flower once a month - this will ensure something in colour all year round.

Inspirational ideas for the Garden

How to get garden inspiration ideas

Best plants to keep indoors

Although some people are lucky to have gardens during these times - for many an apartment without green space is home but that doesn't mean you can't have something green and growing in your surroundings. We lack good light in our house so my concentration is on the outside. Any plants that I grow indoors have to thrive on neglect! House plants can be bought not only from Garden Centres but look out for them in your local supermarket.  Here are some easier ones to start with: 

Aspidistra: This was a plant found in pubs when smoking was allowed; it is one of the hardiest of indoor plants. No flowers but wonderful foliage and practically indestructible. 

Peace Lily: Most indoor plants rely on foliage for their beauty but this one also produces white lily like flowers sporadically throughout the year. 

Spider Plant: With its lovely variegated leaves, this is one of the most popular of houseplants so called because the main plant produces long stems which hang down and produce miniature plants. Ideal for a mantelpiece or shelf. 

Christmas Cactus: This succulent plant gets its common name for the numerous flowers that it produces around Christmas time. Coming from a desert location, it prefers a dry, gravelly compost mix and will tolerate a lack of water. It enjoys spending summer outside in a sunny spot but this is not essential.

Mother-in-Law's Tongue: Erect, strap-like variegated leaves make this a striking plant; it's neat habit makes it a good choice for a small space. 

Parlor Palm: For a larger more exotic indoor plant, choose one of the palms, if you have a good space for its elegant foliage. 

Best Care for indoor plants:

  • Most indoor plants are killed by overwatering, allow a plant to dry out almost completely before watering, then give it a good soaking allowing it to drain in the sink overnight before placing it back in its position.
  • Keep at an even temperature. If plants are on a window sill, don't close the curtain in front of them at night. 
  • Repot in a good compost in the spring. Mulch with decorative pebbles and co-ordinate your containers. 
  • Sometimes it works best to group your plants together. 
  • All of those mentioned will tolerate lower light levels.  
  • Feed during the growing season at least every two weeks with indoor plant food.  And always feed when the plant is moist. 
  • Refrain from feeding and cut back on watering during the winter. 

Frances has moved from a large 2.5 acre garden, The Bay Garden to a smaller one in town – The Small Town Garden and you can follow their progress on Facebook. If you have any gardening queries, contact Frances by emailing francesmacdonald2020@gmail.com

Also, you can check out our Garden holidays for upcoming trips to world-famous gardens.

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