Choosing and growing climbers 0Climbing plants are an excellent way to increase the planting in a small garden, as they take up so little ground-space. They are also great for softening the look of a house or shed, for covering unattractive walls and buildings, or for covering a pergola, arch or arbour. Climbers can seem a bit daunting to newer gardeners, but if you make the right choice for you and your garden, they are pure joy.
There are several types of climber – self-clinging climbers like ivy, climbing hydrangea or Virginia creeper; climbers with tendrils or twining leaves or stems, like sweet pea, clematis or honeysuckle; and scramblers like climbing or rambling roses. The first group climb without any assistance from you, but some sort of support is needed for the others. This could be strong trellis, horizontal wires firmly attached to a wall, or a tree or shrub; you then tie in your climber to this support.
- Alan Taylor
Choosing and growing water plants in a wildlife pond 2
Even the smallest garden can accommodate a small pond, and if you have a large garden, the possibilities are endless. You can do nothing better to encourage wildlife than providing it with water, and you will be amazed at how quickly wild creatures – birds, small mammals, amphibians like frogs and newts, countless insects, molluscs and water-creatures – will visit or colonise your pond if you provide them with water, and the larger the pond the better. Mid-spring to early summer is the perfect time for planting up a pond, but now we’re all in lockdown, you’ll probably have time to make the pond too.
Be aware that small children can drown in just a few inches of water, so you will need to place a grid just under the water if children under about six are to use the garden.
If you want to keep fish such as koi carp in your pond, it will not be so good for wildlife, as fish are predators. They are much more suitable for a formal pond, nearer the house; this will also make feeding the fish easier in bad weather. Unfortunately, koi and other fish attract herons, so you may need to take preventive measures if these are likely to be a problem. (Herons will also prey on amphibians in a wildlife pond, but there will be far more opportunities for them to escape.) Fish-ponds are also better fitted with a filtration system, which is not necessary in a wild-life pond.
In larger gardens, first choose a site for your wildlife pond. Some people feel that a pond should be sited at the lowest part of the garden, as a natural pond would be, but this is not written in stone, and you may know exactly where your pond should go – it’s lovely to be able to see the pond and the wildlife from the house, where you will not disturb it. Choose a sunny spot, or one where most of the pond is in sun for most of the day; shady ponds are not good for wildlife generally, although small mammals and birds are unlikely to mind. That is not to say that the water should be exposed to the sun’s rays – you want 65-75% of the surface covered in water-plants, to keep the water cool and provide a refuge for the pondlife. Overhanging trees not only over-shadow the pond, but fill it with fallen leaves in autumn, which increases the nutrient level and means more maintenance. It’s also important to choose a level site, to prevent nutrient-rich run-off into the pond.
- Alan Taylor
Gardening with children - Deborah Ballard 0With the children off school and confined to home, why not encourage them to grow flowers, or better still, vegetables? It’s a great way of inspiring a love of nature, understanding how plants grow and where your food comes from (and for older kids, food security) – and children will usually eat something they’ve grown themselves. It’s also highly educational. You can get anything you need, as many garden centres will prepare an order for you to collect, or despatch an order.
No space? Sacrifice part of a flower-bed, dig up a corner of the lawn, or buy a small raised bed and some compost, which will mean fewer weeds for them to cope with. For those with only a sunny balcony, invest in a few pots, some slow-release fertiliser granules and some potting compost. Only give a small space to little ones, and expand later if they are really keen. The bed does need to be in full sun.
- Alan Taylor
Choosing and growing wildflowers in your garden 1Growing native or long-naturalised wild flowers in your garden is a wonderful way to support pollinators and the other creatures who are part of the ecosystem, and add to Ireland’s biodiversity. Some wildflowers are edible, some can be used to make wine, some can be used to scent presses, and all are perfectly adapted to our climate.
You may have native plants in your soil that you don’t know about. Lawns are a sterile desert as far as wildlife is concerned, and by simply stopping mowing, you will do wonders for birds, bees, butterflies and other insects, hedgehogs, and other small mammals. And you may be amazed at what comes up – maybe even native orchids. Cut down the long grass and mow when the flowers go over, as late as early November if you can bear to leave it that long.
- Alan Taylor
Starting with fruit - Deborah Ballard 0
Starting to grow fruit sounds daunting, but fruit-growing is less demanding than growing vegetables or annual flowers, and most soft fruit is really easy. If you have the space for a couple of trees, fruit trees have two seasons of real beauty – in blossom and when the fruit is ripening – and make lovely specimen trees – you can plant spring bulbs underneath. Because fruit-trees are grown on rootstocks that control the size of the tree, there are ones for even the smallest garden, or even for a patio. Strawberries can be grown in the smallest bed or in pots. And nothing tastes as good as fruit from your own garden!
I’m going to give an outline of what you have to think about when starting to plant fruit, and from there, you can check out the various cultivars (named varieties) on the Future Forests website to find the cultivars that are right for you and your garden; you will also find there more information about rootstocks, onto which most tree-fruit is grafted. (When you plant your fruit-tree, be sure to leave the graft-union – the swollen-looking bit on the trunk where the cultivar is grafted onto the rootstock – a couple of inches above soil level).
When it comes to tree-fruit, beginners often worry about pruning, but it’s easier than you might think, especially at the important stage, when the tree is young. If it really spooks you, ask an experienced gardener to come and show you how.
To start with, think about your micro-climate and soil. Fruit generally prefers a deep, fertile, slightly acid to neutral soil, but most fruit will tolerate an alkaline or poor soil if plenty of organic matter – well-rotted manure or compost – is added to the soil. Also important is a reasonably sheltered site, and plenty of sun, although some fruit – gooseberries and sour cherries, for example – will tolerate some shade. Frost pockets should be avoided if possible, as a late frost can destroy the blossom.
- Alan Taylor
Planting bulbs 'in the green' 0Some bulbs, tubers and rhizomes are better planted ‘in the green’ – in spring, when they are still in active growth – rather than as dry bulbs in autumn. These include winter aconites (which are particularly hard to establish from tubers), snowdrops, bluebells and lily-of-the valley. Future Forests stock these ready to send out in February and March. Plant them as soon as you receive them, preparing the soil beforehand if necessary so they can sprint away happily.
- Alan Taylor