Christmas is over and the New Year is approaching. With all the excitement of the festive season, the garden is often forgotten about. But it is a great time to start making some garden resolutions for next year.
Looking back on 2017 it was another good year for the garden, the summer had occasional rain to keep plants moistened but also enough sunshine to aid growth, the mild weather of September and October extended the gardening season, the variable November and December have had both mild and chilly days. Aside from storm Ophelia which battered parts of the country, but which fortunately wasn’t as intense here in Limerick, it was a good year for trees and shrubs.
This is an ideal time to sharpen and repair lawn mowers, secateurs, shredders and other garden equipment. The seed catalogues are starting to arrive, so it is a good time to settle down in a comfortable chair and choose something new to grow in 2018. Read the descriptions carefully in order to select the right seeds for the right area of your garden. Get your order in early so you will not be disappointed if something is out of stock. Most seed suppliers are now on the web and if you want their stocks you can see the popular ones sell out very quickly.
January is a good time to do some serious garden planning. What new projects can you plan for next year? A garden pool, new herbaceous border, rock garden or start a vegetable garden. A statue or pot can be used to focus the eye on a particular spot in the garden.
Take a walk around the garden and see what needs to be improved. Make a list as you walk around and when you get back indoors mark off the most important jobs that need doing and when they should be done. Do not be surprised if the list is long, gardening is a past time that is never finished.
Use a diary to record when seeds were sown, how well they germinated and when they flowered. Make a note of any trees or shrubs planted, writing down the full name of the plant from the label on the plant and any details about soil requirement and time of flowering. It can be very useful in later years to find out the names of plants that did well.
This is the time of the year when temperatures drop down to freezing point and tender plants need some protection from the frost. We put a layer of compost around our tender plants to give them extra protection. The compost will prevent the soil around the roots freezing.
Cloches are ideal to cover plants with. In recent years any unused hanging baskets from around the garden have been converted into a home-made winter cloche that looks like the traditional Victorian bell cloches but costing a fraction of the price. Cover the hanging basket with clear plastic or cling film and attach it at the rim with double-sided tape.
Use a hairdryer to warm the plastic until all the wrinkles disappear and it fits on tight. Use wire pegs, made from a clothes hanger to anchor the cloche to the ground.
Herbaceous plant of the week
Aurum Italicum is a tuberous perennial that is a native of the Mediterranean, often found growing in the wild in Italy, Spain and Southern France. It has beautiful spear-shaped green leaves with white veins that appear in the autumn and last all over winter. In late spring it flowers with green and white bracts.
The foliage withers in the summer when spires of bright orange-red berries appear, which last until the new leaves appear again. It may be grown in herbaceous borders, under trees and shrubs and will tolerate partial shade.
Jobs for the week
January is a great month to prune most deciduous trees and shrubs. Fruit and flowering trees can be pruned now before the sap starts to rise. Do not prune spring flowering plants like forsythia or quince. These plants flower on growth produced the previous year. Take a close look at the branches of apple trees and it should be possible to identify any flower buds present. These form in clusters, called spurs, along the branches. Avoid cutting any of these away during winter pruning. Cut out any damaged, crossing or badly positioned branches and congested growth to improve air circulation around the tree to reduce diseases.
Happy New Year and Happy Gardening to all our readers.