Saturday 16 December 2017

Diarmuid Gavin's five top garden tips

Keep up with summer jobs and enjoy your own paradise

Diarmuid Gavin: a potted garden will work equally well on a deck or patio. Photo: Fran Veale
Diarmuid Gavin: a potted garden will work equally well on a deck or patio. Photo: Fran Veale

Diarmuid Gavin

We are mid-gardening season now so it's time to catch up with jobs that need doing!

The long, bright evenings have been a paradise for green fingers. And having been inspired by the myriad garden festivals and flower shows, it's time to get that look at home. And we have been so lucky this summer - there's nothing quite like tending to your garden when the sun is shining (even if it's between showers!). Here is my jobs list for garden maintenance and development this week:

1 Remember to water. This may seem like an obvious point and living in Ireland we always seem to have plentiful rainfall but we need to water to make sure we are giving our gardens a big drink once or twice a week. This will help draw plant roots deeper into the nutritious soil. Containers and hanging baskets will need to be watered once a day - twice if it becomes very hot.

2 Don't forget to mow. We use our gardens a lot more during the summer to host relaxing summer BBQs. One of the simplest ways we can ensure our gardens look tidy and kept is to regularly mow them. The lawnmower is the ultimate sound of summer; little and often is better than mowing once in a while. Try to mow the grass once a week and spread your grass clippings across the compost heap in shallow layers. A huge mound of grass might turn slimy and spoil the compost.

3 Look after what you grow. If you're lucky enough to have a greenhouse or a vegetable patch in your back garden, pay extra attention to it during the dry summer months. Again, water regularly and keep picking. Greenhouses can get too warm during dry spells. Keep them shaded on hot days and spray the floor with water in the morning to create a humid atmosphere. How- ever, do not do this at night as the humidity and lower temperatures can encourage pests and disease.

4 Watch out for pests and diseases. With the warmer weather comes more pests and insects setting up home in our gardens. There are many pesticides on the market which are in fact harmful and dangerous to our plants. Some more natural ways to combat pests include using fences, row covers, cloches, cutworm collars and netting. I also recommend giving plants space. Fungal infections need moisture to multiply, meaning tightly spaced plants give the infections more opportunity to grow and spread quickly.

5 Add colour to your garden. My final tip is don't be afraid to add some colour to your garden this summer. Once the frost and cold weather of the winter has subsided, you can really bring your garden to life and create a beautiful, colourful space to enjoy. Plants I would recommend planting during the summer include Dahlia 'Arabian Night', Heuchera villosa 'Palace Purple' and Asiatic lily bulbs.

And so to my species of the week: clematis (pictured) is a family of mainly vigorous flowering climbers and because they're such a popular plant, breeders and nurseries are keen to introduce new varieties to satisfy demand. Recent introductions which are ideal for the smaller garden have proved to be great sellers. Clematis 'Corinne' can be grown in a container or, better still, through an evergreen walled trained shrub on an east-, west- or north-facing wall. It also is a great clematis for using as cut flowers, as it lasts for up to 10 days in water.

C. 'Endellion' is a very deep pink, again ideal for a small garden, as it also grows to only 4-5ft. Mostly pink-flowered clematis are best planted out of direct sunshine, but this variety flowers very well in a sunny situation and does not fade at all.

Grow your clematis through other plant material - don't grow them just on a trellis; grow them with roses or through low-growing bushes. Always plant other plants around the root systems: this then gives them a cool root run.

Clematis love to grow in a microclimate with other plants, as they do in the wild, in places like China or Japan. Keep them well watered and feed them with rose or tomato fertiliser. Plant the deep-coloured flowered clematis in the sun, and plant the pale ones in the shade. The best blue-flowered clematis for any aspect is 'Diana's Delight', while the best red is 'Rebecca'. Always buy top-quality plants.

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