THE garden is looking at its finest right now, with flowers abounding and textured foliage plentiful.
The prolonged dry spell has allowed flowers to produce a marvelous display, and while some watering may be needed, particularly for any plants in pots, so far the predominant colour in the garden remains a lush green that promises to produce much more colour as the weeks progress.
The recent spell of settled weather is providing the days that we dreamed about during the winter months, sitting in our gardens surrounded by flowers, the buzzing of the bees and the heat of the sun on our skin.
We are a busy lot, us gardeners, and it is important to take time to enjoy the garden, smell the scents, notice the colours, notice the combinations of plants, and generally admire our own hard work at this time of the year, when plants are at their peak and the weather gives us a window to slow down and view what we have created.
Of course, while making all of these observations it can be useful to jot a few notes down regarding what might be moved in the autumn or divided in the spring — we are constantly reviewing, it is an occupational hazard!
Plants grown in containers benefit from regular feeding every week or 10 days during the summer months, and will get most benefit from liquid feeds if applied regularly and when the pot or container is already well watered and not allowed to dry out completely, as this causes stress in the plant.
Using a tomato food which is high in the plant nutrient phosphorus is beneficial for encouraging more flowers throughout the growing season.
The kitchen garden continues to produce steadily now and harvesting becomes key at this time to ensure that produce is picked at its best and stored or preserved.
Tomatoes got off to a slow start this year, but are now thriving in this sunny weather and higher temperatures. It is important to feed and water regularly to ensure continuous cropping throughout the summer, and also removing side shoots. The tying in and removal of some of the lower leaves, to allow fruit to ripen, needs to be done on a weekly basis when these plants are in full growth.
Regular harvesting of ripe fruit is essential as fruit remaining on the vines will split and become infested with flies.
Good ventilation in any protected growing space like polytunnels and glasshouses is key during warm weather, and growing plants at the correct spacing, removal of some of the lower leaves on tomatoes, and growing some companion plants will all help in the fight against aphids during high summer.
It may be necessary to water more than once during the day, and damping down paths and plastic or glass can be effective in lowering temperatures in protected spaces.
Temperatures can climb into the forties in polytunnels and glasshouses during the warmer days and a fan can improve air flow and help keep things cooler.
Shading can be put in place using a wash on glass or suspending netting over plants. Watering at strategic times can be helpful, doing so early in the cool of the morning or late evening will ensure less water is lost to evaporation. Also, targeting the roots of plants rather than splashing the foliage will ensure that water soaks right down into the soil around the roots, eventually entering the roots as they need it.
Wilting plants indicate there is not enough water in the soil to satisfy the needs of the roots, so attend to these immediately to lessen water stress in the plant.
It is best not to undertake any drastic cutting back of herbaceous plants while it is very sunny and dry as they will not have the resources to grow back quickly and may become burnt up and somewhat stressed.
Wait until the soil moisture increases before going too mad with the secateurs in the herbaceous border, and during dry and sunny spells be content with a little light pruning! Hedges are starting to look a bit fluffy, and from now on hedge cutting can be considered as this will give these living screens some time to grow back and fill out a bit before the end of the summer.
With every week that goes by, there seem to be more gardening events taking place. The Carlow Garden Festival is happening currently and runs until August 1, with many well known gardening personalities giving tours and workshops at different locations throughout the county. Check out www.carlowgardentrail.com for more details of events and speakers.
Plant of the week
I have come to the conclusion that some of the best plant combinations are happy accidents. We can plan what will look good together, work on heights and spreads, textures and colours, and then plants just do their thing and produce amazing and sometimes surprising results.
The Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ and Hordeum jubatum, pictured above, have done just that.
This very useful herbaceous geranium has gently threaded its way through and around this adorable grass to wonderful effect.
This grass is also known as foxtail barley, or squirrel grass, and it is a short lived perennial that seeds itself after flowering, so dead heading is advisable to keep it contained.
It gets to about 60cm in height and does best in full sun with a free draining soil. The most difficult thing about this grass was not weeding it out, as before flowering it looks very much like a weedy grass, so it is advisable to stick a label in when planting to avoid disappointment!