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Wednesday 31 May 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# green fingered
Plant life: Gerry Daly tells you how get the most out of your garden spoke to one of Ireland’s favourite gardening gurus about how to get the most of your green spaces.

THE BACK GARDEN can very easily become an area of neglect.

Without any warning an old washing machine can take the spot where you thought you were going to put the magentas – and the square of ground you’d put aside for vegetable growing has been consumed by a load of old bin bags.

Does it have to be like this? With summer coming up, what better time to try and become a bit more green fingered?

To find out a bit more about the best way to get the most out of your back garden, spoke to the editor of and The Irish Garden, Gerry Daly, about what people should be doing to get the most out of their outdoor space.

So, it’s not great outside at the moment. Should people not wait a while to get started on the gardening? 

At the moment the priority would be to cut the lawn when the opportunity comes along. It has been very frosty and cold and wet. It isn’t really suitable at the moment but if there is a few dry days coming up in the next week or two, people should try and get the first mowing in. The earlier the first mowing is done the better.

Rose bushes should also be pruned. That should be done right away. People often delay that but they should remember that delayed pruning means delayed flowering. Another thing that people should try and do now is to get ahead of weeds in flower beds or on borders.

Rose pruning

Some thinking about taking up gardening as a bit of a hobby – how do they get started? Throw out a few seeds and see how it goes? 

The first thing people should do is just tidy the garden. Very often gardens, if they are not being looked after well can get untidy and have paper and debris in them. Back gardens very often can be used as a tillage or a storage area.

Gardening is something you need a lot of time to do though, right? Hence “gardening leave”. Are there low maintenance types of plants? 

There are three types of low maintenance plants. The main one would be trees. And every garden should have at least one tree. That tree will give the height which will contrast with the base of the garden. A small tree can make a huge difference. And of course trees need very, very little care once they’re established.

The other group of plants that needs little care is shrubs. Once they are planted and growing after a couple of years they don’t need any attention really. Except maybe pruning if they are getting a bit too big. But they are also very easy to look after.

The third group would be perennial flowers. They appear year after year and need very little care. Maybe to be divided if they spread a bit too much. But apart from that there is almost zero effort involved.

And what are some plants that you would prefer?

There are lots of plants. It depends on the situation. Obviously rhododendrons are very, very attractive. They come in different colours and sizes and shapes. The Sunrose would be a very good plant as well.

For other times of the year, Bergenia or Elephant ears. Bergenia comes into flower early and it lasts for quite a long time in shades of pink and red. Sort of a magenta red.

And what if someone doesn’t have that outdoor space? Are there things they can do indoors? 

Lots of people are growing herbs now on their windowsills indoors. They work out probably around the same price – very close anyway – as buying a sprig of herbs in a shop. The plants are growing in a pot that actually last a lot longer.

If you are growing them in the windowsill be sure to give them as much light as possible. The one thing you don’t want to be short of is light and herbs love lots of light. If you have a choice of where to put them put them in a good sunny window.

Vegetable allotments are very much in vogue. Is growing vegetables pretty difficult? 

Vegetable growing is easy enough. The main things I would advise people is to start very small. Even just a square metre or two square metres. Which is a very, very small piece of ground. You don’t need any timber or side to hold up the bed. You can start just with a bit of cleared ground.

Ideally putting it in sunshine with plenty of light. That is very important for vegetables.

Start small and learn some skills and it is amazing the sort of skills you can learn in a year or two. You can learn a lot about vegetable growing in a couple of years.

And what final piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of giving it a go? 

Basically start in good time – don’t put it on the long finger. And if you are going out don’t overdo it in the first. If you are not used to gardening, if you are not used to bending and lifting and stuff like that, you can have tired muscles and sore arms and things like that.

Gerry Daly’s top tips to making the most out of your garden

  • Start now to prepare your garden for the summer.
  • It is best to start by clearing any rubbish from your garden.
  • Shrubs, trees and perennial flowers are low maintenance.
  • Vegetables and herbs require plenty of light.
  • Start small to avoid injury.

Read: Could shared ownership help to solve some of Ireland’s housing problems?

Also: The one empty building in the heart of Times Square