Blooming brilliant ideas for little green fingers

Now that the school holidays are upon us, the time is ripe to get your children hooked on the joys of the room outdoors. The cool, wet, month of May this year has meant that the growing season is running a few weeks late, which means there’s still plenty of time to start growing flowers and vegetables. This summer could be your chance to help the younger members of your family develop a love affair which could last a lifetime.

“The trick is to start small,” says Paddy Cunningham of Dangan House Nurseries. “The concept of tackling a whole garden can be very daunting to an adult, never mind to a child. You could allocate a small piece of space, maybe around the size of the kitchen table. Get them planting a wide variety of vegetables and flowers, while keeping the quantities small.”

The availability of bedding plants and vegetable plants which have been grown locally by the staff at Dangan House gives young gardeners a head start as the plants have already been hardened off locally and will thrive in Galway gardens. There are special offers every week in both the nursery and garden shop, staff are all fully trained and are more than willing to give advice and help the children (and adults ) to plan their mini-gardens. In fact, Paddy’s three daughters are seasoned vegetable growers at this stage and could give advice to lots of grown-up gardeners, if only they weren’t so busy! Maria, aged nine, is growing her favourite corn on the cob, Jenny (10 ) is growing her granny’s favourite sweet pea and Alice (12 ) helps her dad in the family vegetable patch, which can be viewed with Paddy on any quiet morning in the nursery.

The move to growing vegetables at home has been quite dramatic this year with demand for vegetable plants more than doubling since last year. This trend is reinforced by reports from libraries throughout the country, as they find a dramatic increase in demand for gardening and horticulture books and tutors. “It is more important than ever in these uncertain times that the many skills involved in growing vegetables are passed on to the next generation,” says Paddy.

Another topic which has seen a huge increase in popularity both in libraries and nurseries is organic growing. What had been a relatively obscure area of interest has gained popularity over the past decade, due to the easy availability of organic seeds, compost, soil enricher, fertilisers (seaweed ), and many organic pest control methods such as special organic slug pellets and products such as Enviromesh which keeps carrot root fly and caterpillars off carrots and brassicas. The full range of organic products are available at Dangan House Nurseries.

The trip to Dangan is a particularly interesting place for young visitors at the moment as some newly hatched chicks have taken up residence in the pets’ corner with the resident hens, budgies, and guinea pigs. Chicken runs are another growing trend in Galway’s gardens this year, according to Paddy. Demand for chicken houses for two, four, or six hens has been very strong since early in the year.

Finally, in case anyone gets the mistaken impression that gardening is all about work, work, work, Dangan House has a huge range of beautiful and comfortable garden furniture, because as every gardener knows, the most important thing is to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

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