In the garden: Pick plants to lure in birds and the bees

Olive Ryan shares advice on the jobs that need doing right now in your garden, in her weekly column
In the garden: Pick plants to lure in birds and the bees

Tagetes ‘Golden Gem’ produces yellow single flowers up to autumn.

THE air and soil temperatures are heading in the right direction, and finally growth is abundant.

It seems like we wait patiently for months and then all of a sudden... boom... everything launches into overdrive, there is a surge of long awaited growth, and we are considering jobs like the ‘Chelsea Chop’ to stagger flowering later in the summer.

The ‘Chelsea Chop’, usually carried out at the end of May, coinciding with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, is a pruning method by which you limit the size and control the flowering season of many herbaceous plants.

Getting beds and borders weeded now and a generous mulch applied to the surface will save on watering and weeding over the summer, giving cultivated plants an opportunity to provide a colourful display over the coming months.

Garden show season has begun in earnest and there is much to look forward to, with Bloom, Mallow, Carlow, Laois, Limerick and Galway Garden Festivals, to name a few, to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.

These offer plenty of opportunity for inspiration and plant purchases over the summer, and it’s great to get out and see what is on offer and happening in different parts of the country.

It’s time to consider seasonal bedding with the improvement in night-time temperatures, and it is a good idea to consider plants that provide value for wildlife as well as giving a colourful display over the summer months.

Double flowered plants tend to be not as good for nectar and pollen production and generally single flowering plants are more wildlife-friendly.

Bidens is one of the best for hanging baskets and window boxes, with its trailing habit and single yellow, orange, pink and white flowers that flower repeatedly right through the summer months.

Tagetes are a good choice for pollinators and choosing a compact variety will work best where space is limited, ‘Golden Gem’ is a good compact cultivar that produces yellow single flowers up until the first frosts in autumn.

Bacopa is a good one, with its trailing stems flowing out over hanging baskets and containers, and its white flowers attract all kinds of pollinators.

Sweet alyssum, with its honey scents emitted from frothy white flowers, is great for attracting hover flies. Snapdragons are a big hit with bumble bees with their riotous colours and they self-seed throughout the garden also.

It is interesting to observe what plants attract insects and birds into the garden and try to plant more of these as they make our gardens a more valuable ecosystem as part of a chain, supporting different wildlife as well as looking good and lifting our spirits.

It is a great time to increase the stock of some favourite dahlias. The fresh new foliage is emerging at a pace now and softwood cuttings will root very quickly in compost at this time of year, flowering later this summer.

A busy time in the vegetable garden direct sowing seeds outdoors in drills.
A busy time in the vegetable garden direct sowing seeds outdoors in drills.

It is also a good time to sow seeds of dahlias, which mature and flower in the same year - an exciting prospect if sowing your own seed saved last autumn as you never know what will emerge!

Of course, with the flush of growth comes the flush of pests also, and creating balance in the garden is a continuous task. Slugs are lurking, particularly after a night of rain, and they will feast on fresh new growth of vegetables and tender annuals and perennials, setting them back several weeks, if not killing them outright.

Some measures that can be taken are setting up beer traps using plastic butter containers buried at ground level, so that the unsuspecting slugs fall in and end their lives in a container of beer, happy!

Crushed egg shells or sharp sand will slow slugs down, but this does need to be renewed regularly to be effective.

Mulching with sheep’s wool is also a good deterrent for slugs, but again this needs to be constantly topped up to be effective.

Transplants recently planted out in the open may need to be protected from birds and later the cabbage white butterfly and enviromesh can be reused year after year and is a great investment. Fruithill farm stocks a range of options for crop protection.

Direct sowing in the soil outdoors is an option now too with the soil warming up. If you’re creating a fine tilth seed bed and then a drill to sow seeds in a row, it is a good idea to water the drill before sowing so that the moisture at the bottom of the drill will draw the emerging roots of seedlings downwards, getting the seeds off to a good start as they reach downwards for moisture, which encourages their independence at an early stage of growth.

There are many vegetables that can be direct sown outside now, including beetroot, carrot, parsnip, turnip, peas, runner beans, french beans, radish, lettuce and spinach. Label and date when sown and water well after sowing the seeds. Then observe over the following week or two for emerging seeds, watering as needed.

The carrots will probably take the longest, up to three weeks before germination, and sowing a few radish along the carrot drill is a good idea to mark the location, as the radish emerge and mature quickly so they will be harvested long before the carrots are ready.

Iris confusa’Martyn Dix’ is looking great at the moment.
Iris confusa’Martyn Dix’ is looking great at the moment.

Plant of the Week

Late spring and early summer is a time for Irises to shine and looking good right now is Iris confusa ‘Martyn Rix’. The Bamboo Iris, as it is also known, has elegant fanned foliage which gets up to about a metre in height and beautiful pale blue orchid like flowers throughout May.

It will grow best in sun or partial shade in a free draining but moisture retentive soil. A very desirable garden plant that has worthy foliage apart from the attractive floral display.

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