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Gardening Advice & Tips for Irish Gardeners

The oncoming cold snap will have one silver lining

Over the past few days we have all been paying particularly close attention to the weather forecast. With images of snow covered fields coming from England and Met Eireann suggesting that we could be next in line by the middle of next week; many of us will be holding our breath.

As a gardener I am obviously at the mercy of the weather, but being Irish it would be wrong of us to complain about a bit of cold weather in winter and a bit of rain in summer. But what can really start to tug at the stress levels is the abnormal and severe weather that is becoming more prevalent of late.

We’ve had a mild time of it so far this winter, and last year too. But it seems that the odds were severely stacked against us and it looked as though Ireland was about to escape a serious chill. It seems as though our time is up and the chill is upon us.

So what is this silver lining that I am talking about? Well it seems us gardeners aren’t the only ones who don’t like the -14 degrees of weather! Slugs are, no doubt, also complaining about the weather as many thousands of them are likely to perish when the freeze hits or shores. That will certainly bring some good news to those of us who fear the worst for our tender, half hardy and in the midlands; even or ‘hardy’ garden shrubs.

Slugs thrive in warm, damp conditions and will reproduce the most at temperatures of around 18 degrees Celsius. At around 5 degrees Celsius reproduction ceases and temperatures below 0 degrees and the slugs are on the run. In winter 2010 and 2011 temperatures were as low as -17 degrees Celsius and the cold prolonged for at least 3 weeks or more. These conditions helped to reduce slug numbers significantly the following spring and allowed us all a bit of respite from the war on slugs.

This war is fought on many fronts and in many ways. Every gardener has his or her own remedy to their slug problems but after trying most I still find the only solution is to pick them off the plants at night and put them on the bird table. That and surrounding brassica crops with a coarse grit, sand, ashes or eggshells is the most effective control against the gardens number one pest.

In all gardening often requires comprise and trying to see the good things from the bad. So if and when the snow touches down don’t see it as the beginning of weeks of hardship for you and your plants, but see it as the beginning of the end for your garden slugs.

Ways to protect your plants from the oncoming cold snap:

  • Move tender and half hardy plants indoors or not greenhouse
  • Likewise cover any overwintered crops on your vegetable plot with a garden cloche
  • Dahlia bulbs, if not already lifted, should be lifted, cleaned and stored indoors
  • Any tender shrubs in the ground should be covered with a frost fleece or horticultural fleece
  • Mulch up around the base of tender and new shrubs with bark chippings, grass cuttings, straw or old leaves
  • Avoid doing any pruning until just after the heaviest of frosts
  • Move indoor plants in from the windowsill at night time
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