Holiday Preparations in the Garden

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For the serious gardener going on holidays is a bit of a curates egg: obviously getting away for a week or two, lolling around in the sun doing nothing but read and swim and a change of environment is heaven, but leaving the garden gives us great cause for anxiety. Who will do the watering? Who will mow the lawn? Who will take care of the slug problem? These are all vexing problems and that I without factoring precious, choice plants that need serious TLC.

Here a few tips to lessen the stress and cause the least damage brought on by absenteeism:

  1. Give the grass a really good cut and water if necessary and add a lawn weed and feed product (though don’t do this if you have just re-seeded). The grass will be longer when you return but you can zap the weeds will be zapped by the time you get back. Re-seed any bald patches left where the weeds were.
  2. Dead-head and cut back anything that will be gone over by the time you get back. Cut down to the base and the plants will regenerate and grow fresh new foliage and may even give a second flush of flowers.
  3. If you are fortunate enough to have an irrigation system in place good for you. For those of us who don’t, check the weather forecast. If a hot, dry spell is forecast (and typically it is just as you are about to go away) you may think about installing one or arrange with a neighbour to water. Mediterranean type plants will be fine; as will pelargoniums but other container plants really need water. Get some large, plastic (not terracotta, it dries out too quickly even though more aesthetically pleasing) and fill with water and plop the containers into the. Also invest in some water retaining crystals and mix into the compost in your pots. Water really well before you go. The rule of thumb is to water once, then when that has soaked in water again and a third time to ensure the compost is fully wet. Water around greedy plants and mulch on top around the plant. Give plants a good feeding too.
  4. Lay slug traps and pellets before you go.
  5. Spray roses and other aphid prone plants too.
  6. Edge the lawn and beds and have a really thorough weed and tidy.
  7. Stake plants that grow tall and put bamboo canes and wire or string around clumps liable to flop.
  8. Go away and forget about the garden and enjoy yourself – it will survive without you.
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Sunshine, Baldy Lawns and Bare Bottoms

tumblr_lhsbn20Cb21qexk0bo1_500What on earth is with this temporary memory loss? I mean forgetting really obvious things which I know well – my back is giving me real trouble at the moment so I was unable to weed or do any heavy work so I decided to make an inventory of all the plants growing in the garden at the moment. This is something I used to do all the time and had got lazy latterly. It is a very useful thing to do as it reminds you a. of what you have, b. what you have lost and c. it concentrates the mind on what is and isn’t working. Anyway there I was pen and paper in hand and I couldn’t dredge up the names of half the plants from the recesses of my soupy brain. Oddly enough difficult things came to mind, but fairly obvious things had me flummoxed so I resorted to writing things like ‘big hairy leaves, white flowers’ (Bergenia ciliate), ‘tall yolk with purple and white flowers’ (Galega officianalis) and ‘little strawberry leaved plant like geum’ (Potentilla ‘Miss Wilmott’). One thing this exercise reminded me of is just how great the perennial geranium family are. They come in all sorts of sizes and colours and habits, are hardy, self-propagating and hold no charm for slugs and snails or aphids. There is a geranium for every situation in the garden and if I lost them all tomorrow there would be huge gaps everywhere at almost every season.

The amazing weather this month has meant that I still have baldy patches on the optimistically named ‘lawn’, the muddy puddles have now turned into cracked, parched, grey patches of desert but with the sunshine and daily swims, really who cares? Having abandoned the Forty Foot for the summer because of the massive influx of teenagers and serious hard chaws with ghetto blasters ad cans of cheap beer and alcopops, my pals and I have been taking our dips in the Ramparts. Like the Metals, the Green Walk and Dillon’s park the Ramparts is another bit of Dalkey esoterica. Formally called the ‘Vico Men’s Bathing Place’ this is a little slice of heaven off the Vico Road in ‘Dublin’s Bay of Naples’. It is a rocky outcrop overlooking beautiful, deep, clear blue sea. No matter how low the tide you can always have a great swim.  The cliffs surrounding it and the bay make it feel, on a sunny day, as if you were in the south of France. With typical cheek and arrogance 20th century men annexed this spot along with the Forty Foot and women were banned. For many years after feminism finally took root women still tended to avoid these spots because modesty prevented them from swimming and getting changed amongst the aggressively naked men. Thankfully today we no longer have any blushes we feel bound to spare and lots of women and children are happy to run the gauntlet of flaccid willies and saggy testicles and just get on with it. Some women just strip off and go for it themselves.

Another reason to visit the Ramparts is the really stunning flora – a mix of garden escapees and native wild flowers. As my friend Rocky pointed out last week, the vertical cliffs look better than anything you would see at Chelsea and are a naturally stunning hanging garden. Wild grasses, silver grey senecio, frilly wild carrot, foxgloves, crocosmia, pink geranium sanguineum, valerian in red, pink and white, daisies and buttercups jostle for space in the crags and it is beyond lovely.

The weather is set to break at the end of next week so make the most of it now. Save the weeding and hard work for the evenings when the weather is cooler and just get outside and take some inspiration from Mother Nature.