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Diarmuid Gavin: Storm damage has forced some repairs, but also a useful rethink of what needed attention in the garden



Birch in the wind

Birch in the wind

Birch in the wind

My gardening year started off on a high because of a television appearance. Last summer Dermot Bannon came around to see our garden and Room To Improve filmed the visit for the episodes where he was doing up his own home and garden.

It was a lovely day, the sun shone, Dermot liked what he saw and once I'd bribed the cameraman to avoid untidy or unfinished areas, we were all happy. And after Christmas it looked good on his show.

In January we had a couple of bright, warm and dry weeks so planning on improving my plot, my friend Paul arrived with a mini-digger. I'd resolved to remove the lawn and to replace it with pollinator plants - bright, flowering species which bees and insects would love. Paul dug up the boulder-infused soil and my plan was to condition it with compost and manure so that it'd be ready for planting.

However, since then storms Brendan and Ciara arrived and caused havoc. And rather than developing the garden, I'm repairing damage.

Water-proofing felt has been ripped off the roof of the shed, fertiliser has been soaked and labels washed away. My garden tools, including shears and secateurs, are being annoyed by the beginnings of rust. A quick brushing with wire wool and oiling with a smeared cloth sorts this.

The main damage is with mature planting and the garden's infrastructure. We have a large pine tree that came with the new garden, a remnant of a nearby grand garden from which the land was carved up for housing. My neighbours and I benefit from a ribbon of grand trees - pines, monkey puzzles and the odd beech.

Some green-pine foliage has ended up in the ponds. Depending on how long the needles have being soaking, they could alter the pH of the water, making it too acidic for the fish we plan to add. So it's time to fish out all the dead leaves.

My pond was only planted last year but if yours is older, you may need to lift and divide congested plants, just as you would in your herbaceous borders.

A wonderful, five-year-old acacia which was about to display sulphur-yellow blossoms was snapped in half. This is really disappointing as it was framing a set of steps leading from one garden terrace to the next - and in an instant it's completely disfigured.

Unfortunately, sometimes that's gardening. I'll make a clean cut with a saw and hope it will regenerate.

The garden fences which were exposed to the full blasts of winds coming from the coasts are beyond saving.

Some of the wooden panels themselves are grand, but the posts have been either removed clean from the ground or snapped in half.

So, I called Paul again and this time we really took the plunge. New fence, new garden gate and three wonderful big wooden bays for compost making has been the result. None of this would have been achieved without being forced to examine what needs doing after the storm damage.

So, every cloud and all that.

What fared well in the challenging weather? The veg plots are raised in low, wooden beds, perfectly drained, so no damage there. I have the seed potatoes chitting, so they're ready for sowing next month. The soil was sufficiently drained meaning that after a bit of weeding I was able to plant some onion sets - Red Baron.

I'm going to plant carrots next to these as they're good companion plants as the smell of carrots deters onion flies, and the smell of onions puts off the carrot-root fly. I've also put in some rhubarb crowns (Timperley Early).

However, let's not get lulled into a false sense of security by the sunshine. I had to take the frost off my windshield the past couple of mornings with a kettle of warm water.

The lack of cloud cover at night means the sky isn't providing any duvet for our gardens so make use of horticultural fleece or cloches if you are starting something early and don't be tempted to add any instant colour to your beds as it is certainly too cold just yet.


Top Tip

The wind brought a few boughs down, and left others in a perilous state in my garden so it's safer to get these removed. If it's too high or too big a job always hire a qualified, recommended and insured tree surgeon.

Irish Independent