Last week I wrote with great pleasure, anticipating the first of this years’ Garden Talks in the Castle. Alan Ryan of Colclough Walled Garden at Tintern Abbey in Wexford, was going to talk to us.
Unfortunately, as with every other event that involves the gathering together of any number of people, it has had to be postponed until after we get through the coronavirus emergency that we now find ourselves in.
In the meantime, as we socially distance ourselves, the hours, days and weeks stretch ahead of us. What can we do?
I have one friend who announced last week, before the closedown took hold, that she was going to the paint shop to stock up on emulsion and she would spend the time painting her house.
Others will undertake spring cleans, wardrobe make-overs, Marie Condo clear-outs and countless long finger projects as they tire of Netflix and scrolling on phones.
We gardeners are luckier than most. We should see this enforced solitary time as the opportunity to turn our gardens into Gardens Of Victory, the gardens we always wanted them to be but never got around to achieving.
I am worse than anyone when it comes to giving myself permission to not do a job. Usually any excuse will do me to avoid getting stuck into the harder tasks.
Now that excuses are dwindling fast, the rougher parts of the garden are calling, looking more doable by the day. I predict that by the time all this is finished, I might even be a little pleased with how sorted my 2020 garden is.
This is the opportunity to get our gardens looking good, keeping ourselves a bit fitter, filled with fresh air and occupied.
We can bring the children out, to play and help with the jobs.
We can shout over the hedge – from a correct distance – to our neighbours, if we are lucky enough to have neighbours.
We can embark on aspects of gardening that we never bothered with before.
But what about the people with no garden, only a windowsill, only a porch, only a yard or only an indoor window ledge?
No matter. There are aspects of gardening that even the flat dweller can do. There are countless little horticultural occupations we can busy ourselves with. We can grow herbs and baby veg. We can tweak and spoil our house plants.
While we are out getting the shopping ( and keeping our distance from the brave people working in the supermarket and nursery), we can buy a few seeds, maybe a few pot plants and some bags of compost suitable for container growing.
You could get creative when you look for pots in which to sow seeds: Punch holes in the bottoms of yogurt pots and sawn-off juice and milk cartons, bean and soup cans.
A few jobs to do:
For the garden owner:
Open up a new border in which you will grow vegetables starting next month.
Begin by using string and sticks to mark the shape and boundary. Take out the grass sods and pile these upside-down in a corner where they will compost down over the next few months for use later.
Then, dig down, taking out stones and the roots of perennial weeds. You can drown and rot the roots of perennial weeds in a bucket of water over a matter of weeks.
Once the bed is fully dug, pile on a generous amount of garden compost or farmyard manure at a rate of about a bucket-and-a-half per metre. In a few weeks you will be able to begin sowing vegetables into the bed.
You can buy those seeds now.
Cover the prepared bed with black plastic or unvarnished brown cardboard or weed suppressing membrane, held down with stones or weights. This will mean that the ground will warm and dry as the worms get going, mixing the compost and soil together.
For the gardener with just a windowsill, a yard, or porch:
Start by growing sprouting greens. Peas are obvious candidates but spinach, chard, parsley, coriander, dill and any number of lettuces can be grown as micro-greens.
Fill a seedling tray with potting compost. Firm it down. Then drench the compost. Sitting it into a sink of tepid water is the best. Once done, drain it for a bit. Then sprinkle the seeds evenly over the surface. Sprinkle a thin dusting of dry compost over the seedlings.
Set it on a sunny windowsill – with a tray underneath, so you do not have water draining out of the seed tray onto the windowsill.
Keep an eye on the growth, watering lightly just as the compost begins to dry out. Never let it dry completely. But make sure not to have it constantly damp as you do not want the germinating seeds to rot either. You might have to turn the tray around every day or two as the seedlings come up to stop them all reaching for the light and growing on their side.
When they are three to six centimetres tall, with the second set of leaves showing, you can harvest them for use in salads or sprinkling over different dishes. They are both tasty and very useful on the mineral and vitamin front.
Stock up now on seed and organic fertiliser, compost and pots so you will have a nice range of things to grow over the coming months - even if the garden centres have to close.
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