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Garden Advice Column – The Clare Champion

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This article was originally written for Carmen Cronin and The Clare Champion and an edited version of it published there October 3rd 2014. To be honest I had completely forgotten about it. Sorry ! Most likely due to creating and making gardens.

You may however remember the very lovely Carmen who is possibly better known for her amazing work at Clare Garden Festival ( you who travelled a long long way, bad joke ?, to hear me talk there would know) where I was an Expert Garden Speaker this year.

This below [below my business card that is] is the original, slightly longer version. Any Q’s ? feel free to leave a comment below or drop me a line.

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The Gardeners Guide For August 2012

peter donegan landscaping plants

The gardeners guide [podcast version] for the month of August:

The gardeners guide for the month of August will air live today, Friday @ 3pm on The SodShow, Dublin’s only garden radio show. Listen details for podcast and radio are as follows:

Other: The non-Gardener Group Gig with Trevor Sargent, Sunday July 29th. The Sodshow microphones will be in attendance.

You may find the podcast here after the weekend. In the meantime and for all your garden podcast needs, pop across to www.sodshow.com

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Your Garden Advice

I get asked a lot of garden related questions. Some, some may agree with, some there may just be a better way of doing it. I don’t mind that in so far as I know I will give my best at that time. I am also aware that some of my advice/ answers are starting to become patterns in that others are experiencing the same or similar problems, so this on the other hand is a little of a time saver for me. With that in mind and also that it may creat discussion I have decided to publish them. It won’t or may be a weekly thing. Just whenever there are enough to make it a post. I’ll even try and date them from now on.

These are just some that I could find to hand that I’ve replied to since Sunday.

Tree Advice:

I was just browsing your website and was admiring your work. I was interested in the trees you have planted in the image 63 of 140 in the image gallery. What type are they, betula utilis jacquemontii?
…… However, what safe distance from a 100mm solid block garden wall do you think is ok for the type of tree that you used.
I would have a distance of up to 900mm to the centre of the trunk from the wall.
I hope you don’t mind this random request for advice as a lot of advice on the internet is very conflicting.

To this I replied:

thanks for the compliment. The trees in question are indeed Betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’. Very well spotted.
My opinion on the distance is a firm no, in short. It can be done and might work out fine. I can also understand the varying answers, but without even seeing the garden or foundations for the wall – its the distance and the eventual height the tree wants to grow…. it seems to me a mild case of keeping a tiger in a back garden – as versus a poodle. I know, a very bad analogy, but you get my point. More than that it is a very tasty choice in tree and one that comes with a price tag to match. If the question be would I invest my money, to put it into a space [distance] of that you have described – then the answer would be no.
Re the internet, you are 110% correct re the conflicting advice.
But then my grandmother did grow a lemon tree from a pip in what I can only describe as the windiest courtyard walled in on all four sides on dublins southside. According to the rule books, that should not happen. 🙂
No problem re the random request.

I got this response:

Thank you very much for your prompt response. Says a lot about how you view your business.
Anyhow. I will take your good advice, although the wall is new and I witnessed the foundations being poured. They are over 300mm wide and deep. Would be planting between granite slabs and I know the roots of these trees can be shallow too.
Pity, as they are a very tasty tree, as you said.

I replied:

speaking as Peter… I’d love to see you not take my advice simply just to see a beaut like that planted.
Some will say its fine. Some wont. But, if I am being asked in writing [*coughs so it sound all very official] then I’d have to say no. And in writing I’d be correct.
I do agree though, shame.
On a seperate note: doing a garden recentlty and a clients son asked why I followed Arsenal. In a similar light, absolutely stunning, beautiful to watch but…. 🙂
Have a great day and sorry for the fact that you aren’t going ahead.

Plant I.D.

Hi Peter apparently a very old flower!! But we don’t know the name! Any idea? Cheers

I replied:

looks like aquilegia, i’m reckoning the Aquilegia buergeriana 🙂 http://bit.ly/muRmMe

Tree Advice:

last december i got a pine tree, i coulnt plant it due to snow and frozen ground, the pine was in the same pot as i bought her in till march gone,  i noticed a couple of the branches turning brown, and i figured its about time i plant the pine, so i did, and well watered it and gave the pine some tree food, and watered her every day, the last few weeks she is turning completely brown except for the inner middle, have u any suggestions as to what i can, can she be saved.

I replied

is there any chance of a few photgraphs. also i wonder if this recent spell of warm weather had brought on some buds. my own weeping ash has only started producing hers in the last week or so. Been a tough 18 months for the poor fellows.

Thanks for your reply, I have attached some photos, you will be able to see that the inside is staying green, which gives me hope, have you any suggestions.

[note: I cannot locate the images but suffice to say it was entirely brown]

I replied:

I dont know if I’ve replied to this – but you are still in my inbox. this is the second time – would you believe to answer almost the exact same question. And sorry for the delay but the sun shine was keeping me quite busy 🙂
So here’s what I said and the exact same story applies to you too…..
In short, the tree may come back and there may as it seems be signs of life within. The key would be to remove all dead wood – or wood that is brown the entire way through. If you are unsure simply cut back until you hit a point of where the wood will not snap as versus bend and also there should be some signs of sap or green within. The tree may look disastrous after as a result but – the tree shouldn’t be trying to put energy into what is dead wood.
The reality is that the trees have simply had a double bad beating of the minus celcius elements over the last 18 months and some have simply suffered badly or just passed on. Would I fertilise ? No.
This is, based on the images the best advice I can give having I suppose not really seen the tree in person. that said, based on what you’ve told me I’m not far off the mark.

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If any more come in and are answered between now and Saturday night. I’ll update the post and simply pop them in here.

Brown & Black Leaves ?

In north Dublin last week I recorded temperatures just over -8 celcius and although the wind chill factor was something a lot greater than that, with the recent weather and the subsequent thaw….what one can see now is [maybe] mildly uncertain regarding what plants have survived the minus temperatures due to the fact that a lot are at present leafless and dormant.

A plants cells are made up essentially of water and in extreme conditions that water in the plant cells expands resulting in the cells bursting. The bit that’s important to you, the plant owner, is that once the plant cell has burst it is dead – and – put very simply beyond resurrection.

The question is how far or how much of the plant is actually dead, if it has just burnt some of the leaves or it has actually made it’s way into the ‘heart’ of the plant. For this there’s really no one definitive answer, but [for example] for my own bay laurel hedge [above] I’ll simply cut out the brown and work my way down the stems until I can only see green. It may well look a bit sparse and patchy after, but it’ll come back for next season. Smaller and younger plants may not have been so fortunate.

My advice is to get out into the garden and have a good rustle through the aftermath and give each plant a good close up inspection. In fear of a frost return you may consider mulching around the base of your plants which will aid them that little bit better – and – they will thank you for it come the new year.

Unsure if one of your plants has survived [?] you can contact me in the following ways…

See the image above…. this is [image below] the exact same hedge plant just 7 days ago.

March In The Garden

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I haven’t done an ‘In the garden‘ session so far this year. Mainly because, well… I guess the snow, the rain, the cold and in such abundance just got a bit too much for me. Anyhow, that aside, it’s time to get grooving and moving and here is why and what  I will be doing in the garden this month.

The lime trees [image 1] are the greatest sign for me that life for this year is almost there. The burning red new stems and buds are so pretty. Loosen the straps, check the stakes and remove all the dead or diseased wood. This goes for all trees including the fruiting varieties. As you can see from my olive tree [image 2] that simply needs a little tidy and some select pruning but its not until we get to the smaller plants that some real work is required. The large window box which fed me with salad for all of last year [image 3] needs a total clean out. Very simply grub out all the old plants, but don’t throw out all the compost. Simply replenish.

The easy plants are the 3 just above, in order, rhubarb, sorrell and chives. Not a whole lot for me to do here just yet. They come up year after year. I may decide at a later stage to divide the chives and the rhubarb, but for the moment it’s simply a little taster of what nature is going to give me to eat this season.

The greenhouse has been pretty much empty since last year. It’s got a little grubby. The 2 dogs use it as a sun trap type conservatory and its very quickly transformed. Then its to my store of seeds to figure what I wish to grow for this season.

Potting table at the ready… this one above I made myself from an old pallet. It’s really durable and well able to withstand the elements. The window boxes are refilled. I’ve sown some spinach in here direct, which is not my usual way of doing it…. but lets see how they get on. The seed trays [my preferred method] are washed and filled, pre-soaked and in here I have sown coriander and chives.

That’s not all I have sown…. there are also some broad beans in liner pots [image 2 above] and anything else you can think of. There’s probably too much of everything in fact but, I live in a rural farming village so a lot of this will be bartered for bags of potatoes and other veg that I won’t grow 😉 All things in order I just need to keep my eye on the max min thermometer for very low temperatures [early frosts] which may affect. As a by the way, I’m going to give it a little longer before I go and mow that lawn of mine.

Now I’ve got to go and give my chicken run a lick of paint. But that should easily keep you going for the next 3 weeks or so. See how you get on, any problems or queries you know where to come. Of course in gardening, there’s always an alternate 😉

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