Make hay while the sun shines as the saying goes. This will be the motto for all gardeners and farmers this coming spring as we come to terms with the dreadful weather conditions. Having spoken to some older and wiser heads, they tell me this is on par to be one of the worst winters yet. Temperatures this winter gone, have been on the mild side, but we have had a lot of damage by winds, gusts and continuous rain. Soil conditions are preventing any garden activity at the moment. Looking forward though, Spring can be the most rewarding and exciting time of the year. Soil temperatures climb back up and plants begin to burst into growth. If you have planned ahead and planted some seasonal things, you’ll be making frequent trips outside to see the results. Many of the plants thatcome into their own now are subtle and not designed to make a big show.
The small and delicate bulbs such as Crocus, Narcissii varieties and all the other bulbs such as Hyacinths, Daffodils, Tulips. These were all planted last October/November for results now. Your garden Centre will have some of these in flower in pots available to add a bit of colour. You can also add some of the winter bedding plants such as universal Pansy’s and Polyanthus, Forget Me Nots, Sweet Williams, Wallflowers, etc. to brighten things up.
Some shrubs come into their own at this time of year as well, such as Viburnums, Cornus, Saroccoa, which is a beautiful shrub. It has shiny box type leaves with delightfully fragrant white flowers. Some other plants are in bid at the moment waiting to burst into flower, in particular the Forsythias, with their mass of fluorescent yellow blooms.
The traditional planting time for bare root trees, shrubs, conifers, hedging, etc comes to a close at the end of March, so get planting.
One of the cheapest forms of hedging is bareroot Griselinia, at ⅓ of the price bareroot as against potted plants.
The lawn will usually have its first mowing in March. The main factor involved is the state of the ground. If its dry to walk on, its okay to mow it. A lot of people ask about feeding the lawn. My advice would be to wait until there is more active growth and then feed it. I recommend the Golden Vale 3:1 mix, this has all the general fertilisers that will feed your lawn, two different weedkillers that will kill any weeds and sulphate of iron, which does two jobs, gives the lawn a dark green colour and kills any moss present. This should be put out at approximately 2 ozs to the square yard. We give spreaders out free of charge for spreading it, which makes the job much easier. For anyone with a very mossy lawn, I recommend hiring a scarifier, which is like a lawnmower, but roots out all old grass and moss. Collect this an apply your 3:1 afterwards. Scarifiers can be hired from a Plant Hire in Oranmore. Scarifying should only be carried out in the growing season.
In the vegetable garden, if soil conditions are right for sowing you can sow before the end of March. In particular, onions, parsnips and brussel sprouts benefit from the early sowing. Seed potatoes can be planted during March if the soil is dry enough to cultivate. If the ground is too sticky, then the seed potatoes can be put in trays and sprouted in a warm, bright place before sowing.
The greenhouse begins to be busy from March onwards. Many flower seeds can be sown during this month. It is also time to begin sowing greenhouse crops such as peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.
A lot of people are asking about Roses and what to do with them. Generally Roses in the Galway area should be pruned around St. Patrick’s weekend. Buds are forming and can be seen on the stems clearly. In pruning cut out old, dead or diseased wood. You can cut back the stems to within 6–8 in of ground level. When pruning, try and avoid having criss crossing branches or buds. Pick 5–6 stems with outward facing buds. Cut at least 1 in above a bud and at an angle away for the bud to prevent water lodging and damaging the bud. Renew old wood with new shoots coming through. Feed with a general rose fertiliser at a rate of 2 ozs to each plant. Scatter on the soil around the plants and scuffle it into the top surface of the soil. You could also give the roses their first spray for black spot disease with Roseclear or any fungicide. Mulching with farm yard manure can also benefit the roses if you wish, to do so.
Feeding trees and shrubs is best left until growth starts and the weather a little better. You can feed all established trees and shrubs with any tree and shrub brand name or with 7:6:17 at a rate of 2 ozs to each plant. Scatter this on the bare soil around the plant and scuffle in.
A lot of people buy seeds for planting out in the summer with images of beautiful colours as on the front of the packets. Some succeed, some don’t. The following are seven steps to succeed with seeds:
- Using a standard seed compost such as Shamrock seed and potting compost, fill a clean pot or seed tray with the slightly moist compost. Level and firm the surface using a presser board to 1 cm below the rim.
- Water the compost lightly before sowing.
- Sow the seed from the packet or hand as lightly and evenly as possible. Large seed can be placed by hand but small seed such as Lobelia, Begonias and Petunias are small and difficult. You can help the broadcast of small seed by mixing it with a small spoonful of fine san and broadcasting evenly.
- Lightly cover the seeds to a depth equal to their diameter with sieved compost or fine vermiculite. Do not cover Lobelia, Begonias, Petunias or Busy Lizzies.
- Label each pot or container with the name and the sowing date.
- Cover the tray with a sheet of clear polythene or glass to maintain even humidity and conserve moisture. This sheet should be turned daily. Some seeds particularly pansy’s, germinate more rapidly in the dark and so are best covered with black polythene until they germinate.
- Place the container in a heated propagator or in a greenhouse bench or window sill, ideally in a temperature of 16-20 centigrades. A few seeds such as Begonias and Busy Lizzies prefer a constant temperature of 21 degrees, while others such as primulas are actually inhibited by high temperatures. Shade the container with newspaper if it receives direct sunlight and do not allow the compost to dry out.
Glynn’s Garden Centre is re-opening on Sunday, March 14th—Mother’s Day and every Sunday thereon, from 2–6pm. There will be a range of fresh flower arrangements, bouquets, etc for Mother’s Day—don’t forget!
That’s it for now, happy gardening,
Bosco McDermott, Jnr, Glynn’s Garden Centre, Lydican.