What to do in the garden this week

Don’t cut that parched lawn and resist the urge to sprinkle every plant in sight

It’s tempting to water everything in sight, but you need to prioritise. Photograph: Getty

It’s tempting to water everything in sight, but you need to prioritise. Photograph: Getty

 

Signs of the prolonged heat and lack of rainfall are showing everywhere in Irish gardens, from sun-burnt lawns to wilting foliage and drooping flowers. While it’s tempting to start watering everything in sight, this is unrealistic and unnecessary as well as terribly wasteful of water. Instead, try to prioritise the most vulnerable plants: polytunnel or glasshouse seedlings and crops; plants growing in pots and containers; polytunnel or glasshouse seedlings; and crops or any plants that have been planted in the garden/ allotment only in the past couple of months. These are the plants most in need of careful, regular watering.

Fionnuala Fallon in her organically managed Wicklow flower farm. Photograph: Richard Johnston
Fionnuala Fallon in her organically managed Wicklow flower farm. Photograph: Richard Johnston

Don’t worry about well-established plants whose roots are sufficiently large and deep to allow them to withstand the extreme heat and drought until rain eventually comes, even if they do look a little unhappy in the meantime.

Technique is really important when it comes to watering a plant properly. So resist the urge to gaily but ineffectually sprinkle water over the entire plant or flower/ vegetable bed from a distance and instead aim to slowly, gently and thoroughly soak the ground around the root system beneath the plant’s root canopy.

Always try to water in late evening so the water can soak deep down into the ground/compost and have time to properly refresh their heat-stressed root systems overnight. Any pots/ containers that have been allowed to dry out to the point where the plants look in danger of dying can be soaked in a large bucket or tub to revive them.

As for those sun-seared yellowing lawns, the very best thing you can do for them is to stop cutting them until the rain comes. If that sounds like a step too far, then raise the blades on your lawnmower to their very highest and cut only in the cool of the late evening to reduce plant stress. Remember that lawns are astonishingly resilient as regards doing without water. You’ll be amazed how quickly they’ll return to a shade of emerald green once the rain inevitably returns.

Finally, don’t forget to protect yourself from that extreme heat while gardening. Make sure to apply generously a waterproof sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 30 and with both UVA and UVB protection at least 20 minutes before you go out to the garden. A hat and sunglasses will also help to protect your eyes, neck, scalp and hair from sun damage. Drink plenty of water regularly and, last but not least, bear in mind that old saying about mad dogs and the midday sun . . .

Still time for biennials

There’s still time to grow sweet pea. Photograph: Getty
There’s still time to grow sweet pea. Photograph: Getty

There’s still time to sow seed of flowering biennials such as honesty, sweet William, foxgloves, wallflowers, Icelandic poppies and sweet rocket. Sown in the next couple of weeks, you should have young plants ready to transplant into their final positions in the garden by early autumn for flowering next year. Recommended seed suppliers include all good Irish garden centres as well as online suppliers such as mrmiddleton.com and seedaholic.com

Support your plants

Recent Storm Hector proved the damage that can be caused to garden plants at this time of year, especially the taller, more brittle kinds, so it’s well worth taking the time to stake/ create support for their fast-growing shoots. Some gardeners prefer to use bamboos to stake individual stems while others use a cat’s cradle of dark green garden string woven between vertical supports. You can also use purpose-made plant supports or plant hoops, which are available widely from good Irish garden centres while pea netting suspended between canes can provide excellent support. Whatever method you choose, the aim should be to make it as visually unobtrusive as possible.

Potato blight

Despite the recent dry weather, potato blight is always a risk at this time of year and can quickly destroy a healthy crop. Obvious signs of the disease include dark-brown patches surrounded by a pale “halo” clearly visible on both the wilting foliage and stems. If you do spot signs of blight on your plants, it’s important to cut all the stems back to ground level quickly and carefully dispose of them off-site so that the fungal spores don’t go on to infect the tubers themselves, rendering them inedible. Healthy potato plants can be protected from infection by using Herfomyc, an organically approved herbal-based treatment exclusively available from the Cork-based organic suppliers Fruithill Farm (fruithillfarm.com)

Dates For Your Diary

Saturday, June 30th, 10am-5pm: Newlands Garden Centre and Sunday, July 1st, 10am-5pm, Áras Chrónáin, Clondalkin District Horticultural Show (as part of Clondalkin Village Festival) with competitive displays, free demonstrations and plant sales, email clondalkinshow@gmail for details.

Saturday July 7th, 2.30pm-5pm: Christ Church Rathgar, Rathgar Annual Horticultural Society 64th Annual Flower Show with competitive exhibitions of flowers, shrubs, fruit and vegetables, roses, flower arranging and cookery. For entry forms and full schedule, email plantdesignbyhilary@gmail.com or call 086-8132433.

Saturday, July 7th, and Sunday July 8th, 11am-5pm: Claregalway Garden Festival, Claregalway Castle, Co Galway, with specialist plant sales, guest speakers and musical performances, see claregalwaycastle.com. Also Sunday July 8th, Chanel College, Coolock village, ‘Heaven Scent’, Dublin 5, Horticultural Society Flower Show, admission €5.

Tuesday, July 10th, 10.30am-3.30pm: Garden Day at Lodge Park Gardens, Straffan, Co Kildare in aid of Celbridge Multiple Sclerosis Self-Help group with talks by guest speakers Jimi Blake, Daphne Shackleton and Amelia Raben plus lunch, refreshments and plant sales, €75, email sarah@steam-museum.ie to book.

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