Gardening with Shirley Lanigan

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Shirley Lanigan

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Shirley Lanigan

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news@kilkennypeople.ie

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Weather cools down. Work hots up. There are so many things to be doing right now. Bulb planting time is still with us: You should have planted daffodil bulbs by now, but while it is late, it is not too late. They will begin to put out roots almost immediately, s get planting and quick about it. While you will be running to keep up with yourself on the daffodil front, this is the perfect time for dealing with other bulbs such as irises, crocuses, chinondoxa and scillas. When it comes to tulips, obviously the earlier you buy them the better as the choice in the garden centres will be wider. But you can keep tulip bulbs in dry dark conditions for the time being and even up to the end of November is you like. But see to the others now.

Planted in the ground or in pots, buy as many as you can afford of whatever you like best. A big display of one or two varieties of iris or daffodil is more impressive than a mixum gatherum of three of these and two of those.

Plant them about twice the depth of the bulb and mark the place well. This year I am increasing the number of miniature daffodils in the grass. The natural look of those cheerful little yellow flowers in a scruffy  area of grass will go a great distance to making it look good next spring.

I found a lot of pots by the shed a few days back, full of dormant bulbs that flowered this year. Scraping down in to the compost I came across the little snouts already beginning to push their way up. But the labels gave me no idea as to what they might be. Once again I am reminded that most indelible inks seem all too delible when used on plant labels.  I pulled out the weed seedlings that were beginning to settle in on the top of the soil. With these gone, the pots have now been lined up and I will watch as they come into growth over then next few months.

The size of pot is a good indicator of the sort of bulbs buried in there. But whatever they turn out to be, they will be welcome, either to be displayed as potted bulbs, or sunk into a border or larger container later in the year. They will be the surprise spring treats.

On the subject of labels, the best labels for retaining script are aluminium tags. Pencil stays put quite successfully for a few years and it rubs off obligingly when you need the label for another plant. It must be said that aluminium is also more sustainable than plastic. Aluminium last forever. The plastic ones, while not single-use, do tend to deteriorate after a year or two. They snap and break. Note to self: Try to only buy metal tags in future -but not the expensive copper ones. They might look gorgeous in an expensive garden shop, all shiny and coppery and olde fashioned. However, they are invariably flimsy, bendy and rubbishy. I imagine that a more durable, heavier, copper label would be just too expensive to produce.

 

Leaves are falling now. So here is the annual reminder to get out and rake them up – while they are dry and easy to scoop.  It is an easy job at this point.  It is also nice to slosh about in all those piles of loose, floaty, multi-coloured leaves. Leave them on the ground too long and they get wet and compacted and the job is a lot less enjoyable. The bigger garden owners will have space for a leaf mould pile.

This can be made from chicken wire pinned to posts, or old pallets or even custom made in the guise of a bee hive as  seen in some smart gardens. But regardless of the structure, the business of saving  fallen leaves is both vital to the garden in both the areas of  health, recycling nutrients back into the soil – and keeping the place looking tidy. The smaller space owner can stuff them into a few black sacks with holes punched in the sides for aeration. Tied at the top and placed behind the shed or garage, they will rot down over the next year or so, and at that point the leaf mould can be used as part of a home-made compost or a mulch on a border. Waste not want not…

I have seen bags of leaves put out for the waste truck to collect and bring to the dump. Heart breaking.

One type of leaf that does not compost well is laurel. It is too leathery and slow to break down. Yet these too can be used. Swept up, and gathered together, they can be piled onto a mulched, woodland path. There they will continue to dry out and disintegrate slowly, while providing an alternative to bought bark mulch.