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This week on the Today Show with Sean O’Rourke Paraic talks about Spring Flowers, hanging baskets, planting herbs and controlling slugs.
April was a slow month for the garden. There was lots of cold weather with the northerly wind, rain, and even the occasional hailstorm! But May is well and truly with us now and the long, bright Sunny days, warmer temperatures and plenty of moisture make the ideal conditions for strong new growth on trees, shrubs and flowers. It’s time to take our patio furniture out of storage and check it over for signs of wear and tear, and time to dust off the barbecue and get ready for Summer entertaining. So lets all get out there and start planting!
If you’re looking to add some immediate colour to your garden then here are three of my favourite plants that are already flowering this May. Make sure to check your local garden centre for these wonderful plants.
- Chilean Lantern Tree – Crinodendron is an evergreen shrub that produces beautiful large red Lantern shaped flowers in May & June. This is a easy to grow plant which is simply striking when it flowers. It gives lots of colour, particularly at the early side of summer, and retains its dark green foliage throughout the winter. It generally grows to between 6 and 8 feet but can be kept smaller with proper pruning.
- Rhododendron Kosters Red – Spectacular large red blooms from early may, perfect in large pots or out in the border. Rhododendrons are full of colour during May & early June. These are coming into flower now and are absolutely perfect for anyone looking to decorate their home, perhaps for Communions or upcoming Confirmations.
- Pieris Passion – Masses of red bell shaped flowers cover this attractive shrub in May and June. This is an easy to grow, colourful shrub that is ideal in pots or in the shrub border. A beautiful feature of this shrub is that the new growth at this time of year is also red. This is a relatively small plant that will grow to around 2 or 3 ft in a pot, maybe 3 – 4 ft in the garden.
If you want to grow from seed, a great option is Night Scented Stocks. Plant Night Scented Stocks for a beautiful sweet scent. This is a hardy annual meaning it can be grown straight outdoors, and will germinate in about 2 weeks. They will flower from June right through to early autumn. Night scented stock releases its perfume during the evening and night time and are lovely to plant against a pathway or window for rich sweet scent all night long. This is a wonderful scented plant and it also has beautiful flowers. Night scented Stocks will generally grow to about 18 inches high.
Another scented option is Hesperius, also known as sweet rocket. This can be planted straight outside, you grow it from seed in May or June and it will give you wonderfully scented flowers the following spring.
May is also the perfect time to prepare for summer colour in hanging baskets, window boxes and patio planters.
Now is the time to sow hardy annual flower seeds directly out into your garden soil – lavatera, scented stocks, scented alyssum, English marigolds and poppies can be sown right now directly into your garden soil.
Now is the time to plant up hanging baskets for early summer colour – Petunias, Violas, Pansies, Fuchsia, million bells and white bacopa can be planted now for colour this Summer. For wonderfully full hanging baskets ideally you should use a nice, large basket about 14-16 inches in diameter and always use a good compost and some slow release feed to fill your hanging basket. The key to having a full flowing basket is to plant about 12 – 15 plants in each baskets. This may seem too much but is the real key to a beautiful hanging basket. All the plants will start to compete for space with each other and this means less foliage and lots more beautiful flowers. Also be sure to remember to water your hanging baskets regularly. By July we should be watering hanging baskets every day and feeding them once a week with a liquid feed, something like a tomato feed or liquid OSMO, and this will keep them flowering through until late September. If the conditions are right and you have fed correctly hanging baskets will often last up until November!
Right now is the time to plant herbs, they are so easy to grow! They will grow in pots, containers and window boxes. They actually prefer a sandy, gritty type soil. Place them in a sunny location in gravelly soil or a gritty style compost and they will do very well. People typically grow what they normally use but it is a great opportunity to try something new. The typical choices are basil, sage, rosemary, dill, mint, parsley (especially the Italian parsley with the plain leaf, this has a wonderful flavour), oregano, marjoram. If you already have herbs in the garden, now is the time to trim them back as this will stimulate new growth. Regular picking is the secret to keeping herbs. If you aren’t using your herbs as fast as they are growing a great idea is to freeze them. Simply wash them, put them into ice cube trays with water and then you can have fresh herbs throughout the entire year!
Warmer temperatures in May not only gets the plants growing it also encourages active slug and snail feeding. Slugs and snails are nocturnal and love to come out at night and feed on any new bedding you may have just planted. There are plenty of organic methods of slug and snail control available. You could use some organic pellets. These contain a mixture of iron and phosphorus and no nasty chemicals, and the slugs simply eat the pellets.
Another simple method, particularly effective for raised beds, pots or entrance ways, is slug tape. This is a copper tape that you place around wherever you do not want the slugs to enter. If a slug passes near the tape it releases a small electrical charge which turns the slugs away. The tape has a self adhesive edge so they are really easy to use, and are perfectly safe for organic gardening.
Another thing unfortunately growing at the moment is weeds. The dry weather right now makes it a great time to get out the garden hoe. Just scuffle up the weeds and they will dry out in no time. If you are using a weedkiller make sure to get advice from your local garden centre and get the correct weedkiller for the job.