It’s the International Year of Soils. So eat some dirt.

This time of year there are only two things to do: Catch up on your reading from this last year. I myself have just finished my gardening magazines from Summer 2014 which means some of my thoughts might seem a little out of season BUT it takes me to the only other thing that you can do this time of year which is: Plan your garden for 2015!!!

So here a couple of things to consider for the upcoming year

1. Eat more dirt. It’s the thing to do in the International Year of Soils

My biggest pet peeve, BIGGEST pet peeve, is sand in my food. I just can’t continue once I crunch down on even one grain of sand. ESPECIALLY in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I have almost learned to get on with it when eating greens and there is that horrendous, unexpected granule discovered mid chew. But, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with just one grain of sand are revolting. I can’t even consider eating one at the beach. The thought is revolting.

BUT, dirt is a whole other story and now, it’s actually being proven (again??? wasn’t this a key element of colloquial, indigenous wisdom until about, oh maybe ten years ago when anti-bacterial EVERYTHING became ubiquitous?) that eating dirt might even be actually kind of good for you.

Dirty Carrots

Check out this video produced by GIY:Ireland to see people eating dirt. Klaus Laitenberger imparts invaluable information on planting and growing carrots and eating dirt in the process.

Take away info on sowing Carrots in case you don’t watch it:

1. Don’t sow carrots on the surface. Make the trenches for the seeds deep, much deeper than you would think. About 2cm deep or 8″.

2. Use a peaty growing medium and they will grow straighter

3. Sow outside towards the end of May to avoid rootfly

Once you’ve grown them, here is my FAVORITE carrot recipe

2. Think about how you are going to improve your soil

Your garden, both plants and lawn, are telling you a story about your soil. Have a look, reflect back on the year that it was in your garden and try and determine what your soil is telling you. Then plan for the new year. 

3. Plan a destination in your garden

We have become more and more and more urban.  Which means we are more and more surrounded by urban surfaces. For years and years we have been focusing on the integration of buildings in the gardens: the seamless transition from kitchen to patio, vegetable gardens that are accessible so that we don’t forget to get in there and take care of them. And while I still think these are very, very important when planning the layout of your garden, how about a destination in your garden?

Is there somewhere you can create a space away from all of those things…away from the kitchen, away from chores, away from the internet, away from it all. A rooftop, a corner, heck I would even set up a chair behind the shed and try and make it nice back there if that was the only space in the garden. Winter is a good time of year to stretch those creative fibers and plan a new space in the garden:

A little secret hiding place where if you’re lucky, no one can find you.

4. Lastly, did you know plants KNOW??

As in, they can see, smell and feel.

To summarize the fascinating book I just finished What Plants Know by Daniel Chamovitz

Don’t worry too much about them feeling those sharp pruners and shears (another GREAT thing to be doing right now: sharpening tools) as they don’t feel pain but yes, they do respond to light, touch and smells more than you might realize.

And despite what we all may have heard: There is no scientific evidence to prove plants respond to sound. Not to Mozart, not to Talking Heads. You can sing all you want but don’t expect your plants to care.

My knowing Plant of the Month Nomination goes to: Persicaria amplexicaulis

Why? Because it is mildly invasive (not too bad really but it can fill some sizeable holes if you have any), pest resistant, likes damp clay soils, takes a bit of shade and blooms from about July through to December.

Who has it: Mount Venus Nursery, Dublin

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Hardy Geraniums: An unsung Hero

‘Saying you don’t need a geranium because you already have one is like saying you don’t need another book because you just read one’

Gert Stam, Caherhurly Nursery, Clare Ireland

I have to love them, those gaudy purple-blue Rozanne dangling over the stone wall in January, as my love for flowers has been redefined over the years.

Beginning as a love for all flowers begin, a love that bestows all it’s praises on beauty and fragility. As I worked more with plants and flowers and love became muted by the humdrum of working with flowers every day, my infatuations turned their attention to rare plants. The ones that were so difficult to come by and served as wonderful little surprises in gardens where you thought you knew every plant there.

But as I have wizened and wisened over many years gardening, my love for certain flowers has become deeper and more meaningful. Sheer beauty means almost nothing anymore. The rare plants I have forgotten to love because I forgot where I  planted them and then forgot about them completely when they never grew again, the infatuation is over.

The plants I really and truly love are the survivors. The ones that, against all odds continue to thrive and to bloom. The Berberis (that is definitely love-hate), the Geraniums, Euphorbia, the St Johns Wort and the Hawthorn. Astilbe, Filipendula and Black Eyed Susans.

You can’t kill them, you rarely have to worry about them. Thriving on neglect.

But back to Geraniums. What amazes me about them is that hey have no obvious coping mechanism. They are soft and lack spines, their roots are not particularly invasive, they self seed a bit but not overly so. The only thing I can conclude is that they have evolved to understand that gardeners are loathe to cut back plants that still have flowers hanging on, even moreso as the season comes to end. I have tried to cut my Geraniums back on three separate occasions but, inevitably, there are always a handful of blooms. In November. In December. I just. can’t. do it.

And so, I suppose this is how they spread and thrive and turn into wonderful, heaping mounds of messy, beautiful, delicated survivors.

My favorite is Geranium Dilys. The color is gaudy but the way it trails over walls is spectacular.

Geranium 'Dilys'

I hate to love Rozanne but it is always a winner in the garden.

Other favorites are the delicate maroon black flowers of the upright Geranium phaeum Samobor or Mourning Widow. To contrast the deep color and upright nature of the Samobor I also love Geranium sanguineum v. striatum. It is pale pink and delicate and wonderful and just keeps blooming and bushing out. How could you not fall in love.

Another winner for those appreciate that flash of gaudy pink in mid summer is Geranium Patricia below:Geranium Patricia

My final words of advice are just to remember that Geraniums are always a good answer to a plant choice dilemma. You will never have them all and don’t feel like a sell out. Geraniums are survivors. Very, very colorful survivors, that are well worthy of being showcased in any garden.

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