Gardening tips: Dig in and get back to basics

Gardening tips: Dig in and get back to basics
A productive garden needs healthy and rich soil. It's essential that we know what we are putting into it and the addition of organic matter and some liquid tonics is all that is needed.

With so many taking their first tentative steps down the gardening superhighway during the lockdown and developing a deeper appreciation for the natural world all around us, it’s time to have a look at some of the basics.

Firstly, the most basic building block of life is the soil. Everything that we grow depends on good quality soil so it’s essential that we nurture it. 

Without good soil, we have no food, no life so what we put into the soil is of paramount importance.

No point rushing to the garden centre or world wide web to purchase a van load of plants if your ground can’t provide the nutrients that they need. 

In short, the best thing that you can add to any soil is organic matter. This can be in the form of homemade compost, leaf mould, recycled green waste from the local civic amenity site, farmyard manure, composted bark, anything organic that will break down into the soil.

The magic all happens in that top 6-12 inches; all you need to do is provide the ingredients and let the earthworms and soil microbes do the rest. 

The addition of these types of materials will improve soil structure and texture, increase nutrient content and the ability of the soil to retain nutrients along with improving aeration and drainage.

None of this is rocket science, it’s as basic as life itself.

Chemical marketing companies have spent billions over the years trying to convince us that we need to purchase their products to have a successful garden when in fact the opposite is often the case as many of these chemical fertilisers actually damage the soil.

That’s not to say all liquid feeds are bad, far from it. If you can add a worm tea or a liquid seaweed tonic to your soil these will also have hugely beneficial results. 

There is a new range of gardening products manufactured in Galway under the Nature Safe banner which is organic and safe for vegans as there are no animal by-products used. 

These are based on seaweed, sustainably harvested from the Connemara coast and then cold-pressed so no heat or chemicals are used. The result is one of the best liquid additives that you can give to your soil.

Enriching soil like this will lead to healthier plants more resistant to disease and in turn, rich soil leads to better quality blooms and fruits. 

As I say, none of this is new information but perhaps we have lost sight of it.

The other factors to bear in mind when planting and gardening for the first time include aspect, exposure to wind and pH of soil and water.

Some plants will require full sun whilst others cannot tolerate the harsh rays and need a shaded or semi-shaded position. 

So too with wind, many will want to hide from it and too much exposure will lead to foliage drying out and curling up and others will thrive in a windy site and in turn provide shelter for their more tender garden dwellers. 

pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity and it is important to know the pH of, not just your soil but also the water that you will be giving to your plants for again different species will require different levels.

A lot to think about and if this is your first time venturing into matters horticultural I would advise a small bit of homework before you fill the shopping trolley be it a physical or virtual one.

Your questions answered

Question: Would like to know why my Irises have decided not to flower this year, plenty of healthy-looking leaves.

A: A feed with some of the Nature Safe Tomato Feed with added Atlantic Seaweed which I referred to above will give good results. 

It’s excellent at promoting flowers. Also, dividing the clump during the autumn into several smaller clumps will have the benefit of not just more plants but also reinvigorating the original plant.

Question: Two years ago I bought some canna lilies in Bloom. They were beautiful for two years, but this year there is no sign of them growing. What have I done to my lilies?

A: Most canna lilies are tender in this part of the world. 

They are at risk, if grown outdoors not just of our low winter temperatures but also are rainfall levels so, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it is likely that they are gone, as a result of our winter being either too cold or too wet.

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