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Summer has arrived and the cuckoo in a wood near my home heralds its arrival every morning with his call and so too in the garden centre, summer has arrived with people busy getting ready in the garden.

A lady told me recently that the most satisfying thing she did in the garden last year was sowing a vegetable patch. It is on this note we will start as I think there is nothing more rewarding than sowing vegetables, watching them grow and then harvesting them. They always tend to taste better when picked fresh from the garden.

The vegetable garden comes into its own now at this time of year. May is a good time to sow seeds of most herbs including parsley which requires high soil temperatures to germinate. Young herb plants are available now and will establish very quickly. Apple trees will need spraying for apple scab disease if they are not resistant varieties. Plant strawberry runners now in pots or in the ground. The rapid growth at this time of the year brings lots of weed growth which germinate along with the seedlings, so get out with the hoe and keep control of them. Pruning of plums and cherries is usually done this month. It is pruned now as the sap is rising and cuts heal quickly so as to reduce the chance of infection setting in. As soon as a new shoot has made six leaves in the spring, pinch out the tip. Then after you have picked the fruit, take out any dead or overcrowded shoots and shorten by half any of those you pinched back earlier. That’s all that’s to it. You can plant out main-crop potatoes now, varieties such as records, kerr pinks, roosters and golden wonders.

Mould up early varieties with soil to protect the tubers from frost. Plants available for planting out now in boxes are broccolli, cauliflower, cabbage such as greyhound duncan and stonehead, lettuce (iceberg, butterhead and lollo rosso), onions, sweet corn, courgettes, leeks, celery etc. I am glad to say that there has been a big uptake on these and more people are planting small vegetable gardens at home. Seeds of parsnips, carrots, swedes, can be sown out now. There are two new varieties of carrot seed available now for those of you who suffer from carrot fly—they have a good disease resistance, carrot parano and flyaway. Another unusual variety is ‘pamox’ a small globe shaped carrot. Lastly, in the vegetable garden is a tip, an organic tip I gave a few years ago. It regards a chimney soot which contains nitrogen, sulphur and other minerals. Both nitrogen and sulphur are used in the production of green growth. Traditionally soots was applied to the ground to be used for onions.

It can be applied by spreading over the surface or digging in it. Onions benefit from nitrogen and sulphur directly but also from increased soil temperatures. Being black in colour, soot radiates back the sunshine that falls on the soil surface which raises the temperature and this aids the onions development. It can be used on all vegetables, particularly leafy vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce and spinach. Another organic tip is to use ashes from the fire to prevent slugs as they don’t like trailing over it—scatter it on the soil surface.

The greenhouse should be emptied of all old plants and leaf debris. Bedding plant seed could be started in the greenhouse now. As space becomes available plant greenhouse crops such as peppers, parsley, lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs such as basil and dill and grape vines. Spray country grape vines against mildew. You can also use a smoke bomb to clear green houses of overwintering pests. Furnite is a good brand for this.

Lawns can be laid now, so prepare the ground seed with a No. 2 lawn seed mix at a rate of 1½ oz to the square yard or 35 gms per m². Rake in the seed lightly and if the soil is dry, lightly roll it, if not, roll when it is up in a couple of weeks.

A word of warning for this month on two fronts—one is to be wary of late frosts, so cover or bring in all the annuals/summer bedding that have been planted. Secondly, it can also be a very dry month, so don’t let plants or pots dry out, in particular newly planted goods. Finally, with the great burst of growth comes our foes in garden weeds and pests so keep your eye on them and keep them in check.

Bedding plants can be planted out now but be wary of frosts so harden them off to the weather and protect them from frost. Below is a guide for planting a hanging basket step by step.

Line the basket with moss or basket liner. Place a circle of plastic polythene (bin bag) in the bottom of the lined basket to help retain moisture.

Fill with compost to the top of the moss. Insert the first layer of plants, firming them in. You can add osmocote (a slow release fertiliser) and swellgel (water retaining crystals—prevents drying out) to the compost if you wish.

Make a small hole in the moss and gently guide the roots of the plants through from outside the basket. Remove a little of the rootball if too large to get through the wire mesh. Ideal for this is trailing Lobelia.

Insert the next layer of plants with upright plants from the centre out to the trailing plants on the outside, alternating the colours and positioning them to achieve maximum coverage of the basket. Water the basket thoroughly after and don’t let it dry out during the summer.

The following are a selection of plants suitable for baskets: bidens, geraniums (trailing and upright), trailing lobelia, fushias (bush and trailing), nemesia, diasena, petunias, surfina petunias (trailing), pansy, helichrysum etc.

That’s it for now, happy gardening!
Bosco McDermott
Glynn’s Gardening Centre & Fruit & Veg., Lydican, Oranmore. (Tel: 799135).