WE haven’t really made any plans for the summer, we will try and get home to my parents in Sligo for a while but specific plans seem like such a fickle thing this year.
I am nervous of organising any great escapes and telling the children, because it feels like I have made various plans over the last year or so and they have changed for one reason or another (OK, one reason — Covid!).
Anyway, the one saving grace is that our garden has become a really rewarding project over the last year, but in particular in the last few months. We are not experts, that is for sure, but maybe that is half the fun, we are learning constantly how to manage our outdoor space. It is slow going because, of course, growing takes time, but year on year it improves so we must be doing something half right.
So if your plans for the next few months don’t involve a huge pile of adventure, here are some things that are really working in our garden that might give you some inspiration for yours.
I have written before about our raised beds, I absolutely adore them, it is so satisfying being able to go out and pick vegetables from the garden, I think it is probably my favourite thing about the garden.
The first signs of life began peeking through in ours during the last week and have yet to be dug up by the dog so that’s good. I have planted less variety of vegetables this year and more of what I know we will eat, lots of dwarf French beans, salad leaves, peas, courgette, carrots and parsnips. I do like to experiment a little so this year I am trying cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli. I also have some salad leaves planted inside in a window box in the utility room, which are just about ready to start picking from, I find those so handy for such a small effort and space.
Something I tried this year that I haven’t done before is edible flowers in pots and baskets. I harbour grand notions of inviting friends over this summer to eat outside so I thought edible flowers would not only give a burst of colour in the pots and baskets they have thrived in, but they will make a very fancy addition to a summer salad or dessert. I have nasturtiums, marigolds, pansies and violas growing alongside a handful of strawberry plants and herbs.
Herbs are also easy to grow, no matter how much space you have, I have pots with mint, chives, parsley and rosemary which are great for dinners and drinks. Two other really nice things to plant in a garden that function as well as looking nice are lavender plants and bay trees. The lavender is great to add to a bath or dried, they provide decoration in vases all year round. The bay tree is handy because you can pick the leaves and add them, either dried or fresh, to your slow cooking foods like stews or soups.
We upgraded our back patio this year, which is such a joy because the kitchen sink looks over it and suffice to say, with four small children, I spend a lot of time at that sink looking out. We replaced 20-year-old dark, moss- covered cobble blocks with a mixture of grey sandstone slabs and very light-coloured stone around the edges with plants growing out of the stones in the parts, and all things being equal, the light it reflects back into the house is incredible. So for the next six months if anyone is looking for me I will be out there.
I would not consider us very green-fingered, but we are eager to learn and over the last few years there are few things that have really worked in terms of getting the garden to thrive.
We are lucky enough to live rurally and have been kindly gifted bucket-loads of old cow manure, which has composted down to a fine soil-like texture, and it is great to mix into soil under hedges and into flower beds.
Pruning is another thing we are finally understanding the benefit of, we had previously been reluctant to prune but last autumn we really went for it and it really brought an old hydrangea plant and a rose bush back into full bloom this spring.
The lovely thing about gardening is that we have years of learning in it. We are still trying to figure out how to get colour in our flower bed for as many months as we can, we have lots of colour at the start of the spring but now there is a lull so that’s my little tweak to make for next year.
And then, all I can hope for is some good weather so that we can enjoy relaxing in our outdoor space with friends and family over the summer months, catching up after so many months apart.