April / May
As bulbs fade and herbaceous borders grow in leaps and bounds, it is now clear that summer is approaching. Sowing and planting out bedding can begin, depending on regional weather variations, and you can take softwood cuttings. It's also time to get back into the lawn mowing regime, as the lawn will be loving the warmer temperatures this month brings. Early flowering deciduous shrubs such as Forsythias, Weigela, and Spirea should be pruned back when they have finished blooming. Cut back a third of the oldest canes to ground level, then cut back one third of the remaining branches by one third of their height. Remove the wilting seed heads from Rhododendrons and Azaleas so that the plants energy can go to foliage growth and next years flowers, rather than seeds. Work lime in the soil around your Hydrangeas to produce pink flowers or Aluminum Sulphate for blue blooms. Remove any sucker growths from fruit trees as soon as they appear! Keep a vigilante eye on the roses. Keep them sprayed for aphids and other pests and diseases such as black spot. Pines and other conifers can be kept to a compact size by pinching off the new growth 'candles'. Lilacs should be pruned lightly after they finish blooming, removing sucker growths and dead blooms. Feed lilacs in May with a good all purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer after they have finished blooming. If your soil is acidic, work a little lime into the soil as well.
Caring for your Annuals, Perennials and Bulbs
Dahlias, Gladiolas, Lilies, Cannas and other summer flowering bulbs can be planted this month. Gladiolas bulbs may be planted at 2 week increments until the first of July to provide you with cut flowers until the first frost. Delphiniums, Phlox, Daylilies, Carnations, Aubrietia, Candytuft, Basket of Gold, Primroses, Coral Bells and Saxifrage and other summer flowering perennials may all be set into the garden any time in May.
Break off wilting Tulip or Daffodil heads but continue to feed and care for the plants until the foliage has died back naturally. Old plantings of Daffodils may be divided and moved when they have finished blooming, but treat them as growing plants and use care to protect the foliage and roots. Water them thoroughly after transplanting. It is best not to dig or move other spring flowering bulbs until their foliage has ripened and died back. Pansies, Snapdragons, Dianthus, Petunias, Geraniums, Fuchsias and Impatiens should be ready to plant by mid month. Toward the end of the month, it should be warm enough to plant out the more tender annuals like Salvia, Zinnias, Marigolds and Cardinal Flowers. Lightly side dress perennials with an all-purpose 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizer. Avoid spilling the fertilizer on the plant, and use care not to damage the shallow roots when you cultivate it into the soil. Setting the stakes next to your taller flowers early in the season, will help to support the plant against winds as well as making it easier to 'train'. Promptly remove spent flowers from any plant unless your intent is to harvest the seeds. It consumes the plants energy to produce the seeds, and in many species of plants, especially annual plants, removing the dead flowers will promote further blooms.
Now is the time to cut away the leaves from Hellebores so that the flowers can be seen in all their glory. Cut the leaves down to ground level - this makes room for new foliage to develop and also helps to control hellebore leaf spot. If you feel like braving the elements, now is the time to tidy up around trees and shrubs where unwanted seedlings and ivy are sprouting. The dead stems of perennials can also be cut back now and you can fork lightly around the plants which will loosen up the soil. This will help aerate the area around the plants. All of these cuttings can be put into the compost heap.
Autumn Tips (Ann O'Dowd)
Autumn has arrived in earnest and the days are shortening by about 2 hours. This brings cooler temperatures and of course frost, so we must prepare for Winter. Lift and store very tender perennials. Use some insulating material to cover borderline hardy perennials - fleece, compost and cardboard are good. I use straw as I have it available. You could also use dry leaves covered with a plastic cloche, which I think is a great idea. Rhubarb can be forced using this method. Check stakes and ties before breezes become winds. Cut back herbaceous plants and remove summer bedding. Raise your landmower blades. Gather the fallen leaves and compost them. The above makes very good soil conditioner in about two years and it is free! Keep up the battle against the weeds as this will help next Spring. Yes, preparing for bed is a busy time indeed. P.S. Don't forget to plant the tulip bulbs!
Gardening Tips September/October (Ann O'Dowd)
Autumn has arrived and it is time to put away the straw hat and pull out the woolly one. The Summer was grey and cool and this affected the quality of flower blooms and, of course, vegetables. But gardeners are full of optimism and now is the time to plan ahead. Look around your garden and decide what needs moving/dividing and select their new home. Order your bulbs for next year. A good nursery for bulbs, quality and value, is Peter Nyssen, www.peternyssen.com. For smaller quantities the local Garden Centre is perfect. For early colour Snowdrops, Crocus, Scilla Bifolia, Eranthis, Chionodoxa, Puschkinia will all oblige. Also Daffodils need planting about now. I favour the miniature daffodils as they suit smaller gardens very well. Good varieties that I like are Tete-a-Tete, Rip van Winkle, W P Wilner, Minnow and of course the Octaea for later flowering. Any bare patch in the lawn can be rectified now. Just sprinkle the patch with lawn seed and let nature take its course. Sow seeds! Cyclamen hederifolium, Lilies, Iris and Allium Purple Sensation are some that are easy to propogate and are ready for sowing now.
Gardening Tips June/July (Ann O'Dowd)
Cottage gardens feature in all the show gardens at the Garden Festivals this year. So to dress your garden fashionably plant some old favourites, like Phlox, Lupins (the in thing!), Digitalis (foxglove), Catmint (Nepeta), Delphiniums (shorter ones are now available0, Salvias, etc. Dead head the roses, spread a rose feed at the end of June. Also if spraying for black spot etc. incorporate a liquid leaf feed. The bushes will reward you. Divide Irises after flowering and give some rhizomes to friends. Now is the perfect time to gather seeds of Spring flowering bulbs. I have just planted some seeds of Galanthus (Snowdrop), Daffodil (Pseudo narcissus) and the miniature Scillas. The snake head Fritillaria seeds are just ripening. With the hot weather mulching is a great help to contain water in the beds and to help with weed control. Earthworms love mulch. It enriches the soil with organic matter and helps to prevent disease spreading. Trim box hedges towards the end of July. Finally and most importantly, don't forget to sit out in a deck chair with a little something and enjoy the Summer.
Gardening tips for June (Ann O'Dowd)
The Lily Beetle has arrived in Dublin. It will decimate lily bulbs by attacking the leaves and stripping them to the stem thereby weakening the bulb. This is a very visually attractive beetle being red in colour and larger than a ladybird in size. The preventative measure is to hand pick the beetle from the plant. It also attacks fritillaria. There is a spray available that should be applied in early spring to the ground around the emerging plant and eggs hatched in the soil. Early June is the time to start dividing bulb clumps - showdrops before they disappear from view, daffodils (the early ones). The later flowering daffodils should be divided around the end of June. Collect seed pods from spent flower heads and plant them in seed compost, leave them in a shady place and forget about them. You will have flowers in 3 years, of course repotting annually. Do remember that hybrid bulbs will not set viable seed. Gardening tips for March March is a great time for pruning back shrubs such as the late flowering Spirea (golden). The wonderful Caryopteris can be cut to about 2 ins above the ground. Dead head the Hydrangea. Before it is too late, remove the ivy and brambles and seedlings dropped from birds under hedges while leaves are bare. Established plants can be divided at this time. Gardens and gardening play an important role in Maynooth Flower and Garden Club. At our monthly meeting there is a plant competition which affords members the opportunity to showcase flowers and plants from their gardens. The club also has a plant sales table where members share with others little gems from their own garden. This is a great opportunity to purchase, perhaps a rare plant, which a member has split or has propagated. Generally the March meeting is dedicated specifically to garden interests.
A guest speaker is invited to give a presentation on gardening or a related topic. At the Annual Spring Show there are categories specifically for gardeners.
We have a minimum of one garden outing per year and often we have more. Our annual outing, which usually takes place in June, will include at least one garden visit. Not only do members enjoy the delights of the gardens but the gardens also provide ideas on garden design and suitable plants. On the homeward journey the luggage space of the bus is generally packed tight with newly acquired plant treasures, bought along the way. On occasions one or other of our enthusiastic gardeners opens her garden to club members, which is always a real treat for all. By careful planting, many members will have material for their floral designs.