Firstly I would like to mention that in last weeks article on climbing plants a little type setting mistake or do they call it a ‘typo’ sneaked a letter ‘E ‘ into where there should have been an ‘I’ making my climbing Bignonia into the little bedding plant a begonia unfortunately with a picture of the begonia which of course made utter nonsense of the whole paragraph. My sincere apologies for this typo, it left my computer as Bignonia but appeared in print as Begonia. My garden is still full of such climbing plants that take over when not kept in check which was the point of reminding all gardeners what some plants can do, especially in this climate which seems to have a growing season all year round and especially this February during which we have been enjoying some really lovely sunny days that entice one out into the garden to get it planted up for the spring.
So get planting up, where shall we start? Mosquitos are not simply a summer menace , they can bother some people all year round so one suggestion could be to plant something aromatic that the mosquito supposedly doesn’t like. In the flower border marigolds are a suggestion, not exactly a perfumed aroma but something mosquitos and other pests do not like. It is suggested that marigolds can be planted in odd spaces in the vegetable patch as well to keep away the unwanteds. The herb garden, either in pots on a terrace or in the garden itself has always been considered useful not only for the cooking pot but to keep mosquitos away. We could start here with an annual that is very easy to grow in a pot, sweet basil, frequently found on supermarket shelves costing well under a euro for a pot with a dozen or more well established seedlings. Re-pot these seedling into individual pots or one much larger pot for them all and you will find you have basil for the rest of the summer. It does need frequent watering and frequent cutting back, naturally for the cooking pot but also to avoid it producing flower heads that will go to seed. Peppermint as opposed to just ordinary garden mint is another good deterrant as is citronella , here again either in pots or directly in the ground. Best of all must surely be those lovely aromatic shrubs, lavender and rosemary.
I frequently mention them but in this case they are included in the list of herbs that mosquitos do not like. Both of these lovely shrubs can go on forever either potted or in the garden and need little or no special attention once established. Both can look really lovely as a low hedging or left to their own devices will bush out into whatever size you want or have room for. On top of all else they are so easy to propagate from a simple cutting just popped into the soil, at least so I have found. In both cases, pull off a piece of the plant about twelve inches long, even better if it comes off with a bit of a heel on it, rub off a few of the lower leaves to obtain a clean stick and bury this part in good soil, even pop a few in together surely at least one of them will take root and if you are lucky they all might. At this point they will of course need regular watering even though as mature plants they can easily survive drought. It is such an easy way to obtain new plants at no extra cost. When you have been lucky with too many such cuttings, there you have the ideal gift, a pretty potted plant is always welcome.
Having mentioned one menace in the garden, there are others that I really hate, slugs and snails! One tiny snail has eaten its way right through the outer petals and into the trumpet of my first Daffodil about to come into flower in my garden leaving an ugly brown hole and deformed bloom. There is nothing more exciting that watching for the early flowers to appear in the garden, even if not intending to work it is still fun to walk around the garden just looking, but disappointing to find that the slugs and snails have been there first. They frequently leave their silvery trail where ever they have been so don’t hesitate in putting down snail bait, in Spanish they are all classed as ‘Limacas’ which is the name you can use in the garden shops or Co-op if you are looking to purchase some deterrant. Wood ash from logs in the fire place or from the garden bonfire is also known as a help to keep slugs and snails away so sprinkle wood ash around any vulnerable plants. We are still allowed to light bonfires in the garden for some time yet so put the ash to good use, as well as adding potassium an essential mineral needed in the soil. And to think, an article I read in this paper a few weeks ago mentioned that Russia was being invaded by a Spanish slug so we are not the only ones that suffer from slugs and snails.
And now, here is a fun way to make a hanging garden specially for those summer herbs. Find a pallet from the builders yard, they always seem to be dumped at the garbage bins. Stand it on end and along below each of the slats, nail a horizontal slat to form a little trough. There could be about five little troughs once filled with soil, plant them up with herbs or some such, strawberries do really well planted up this way and there you have a hanging garden to lean up against any wall. Another recycling option is to keep all toilet roll cartons. Stood on end and filled with soil makes them ideal little pots for starting off seeds. The seedlings ones a few inches high can then be planted into the garden without removing them from the carton, in this way without disturbing the roots, the thin cardboard carton will simply rot away and in any case, roots often just push through this light cardboard. There are many ideas for recycling in gardening, let’s see who has other suggestions to make.