This month, I’m not mentioning certain other things going on in the world, I am just going to focus on one of the most exciting months of the gardening year. Once we reach May, spring really is here and our gardens are bursting with colour and scent. It is just lovely.
Gardening advice and helpful tips
Your garden in May
Gardening tips and advice each month from Will Clark, our Plant Area Manager
There is, of course, lots to do but with the days much longer now, we have more time to keep on top of things. Let’s start with general maintenance. Everything is putting on lots of growth now and that includes the weeds. Hoe regularly between plants to keep smaller weeds at bay, then hand weed larger culprits and dig out roots of perennials like dandelions.
Your spring bulbs will probably have finished now. Deadheading daffodils not only looks neater but also means that the plant’s energy is returned to the bulb. Leave foliage to die down naturally, again strengthening the bulb for next year. Divide any congested clumps, moving some to a different part of the garden.
Spring flowering shrubs like Ribes, Forsythia and broom should be pruned once the blooms have faded. Cut back stems which flowered to strong, young shoots lower down, removing any dead or damaged stems. Older plants that have become congested can be rejuvenated by removing up to a third of the oldest flowering stems.
Inspect plants closely for pests and diseases, as early prevention is easier than curing an infestation. Pick off larvae of rosemary, viburnum and lily beetles as soon as they are seen.
Look out for signs of blackspot on roses and treat with systemic fungicide if discovered.
Plant up summer containers this month. Add moisture-retaining crystals to the compost to help reduce the amount of watering needed and feed every two to four weeks to promote healthy growth. Towards the end of May, you can plant out summer bedding in the borders too, making sure first that no frost is forecast.
May is a good time to trim evergreen hedges, such as lonicera, box and yew, as well as the ever-popular semi-evergreen privet. Small hedges can be trimmed with shears, but larger ones are best tackled with a hedge trimmer. Remember to check the hedges for nesting birds before you start.
If you want to add something new to the garden, why not think about those traditional ‘English garden’ plants like lupins, foxgloves, poppies, roses and lavender. Between them, at this time of year, they’ll reward you with colour and scent, and will create a soothing, relaxed feel. It’s looking like we’re still going to be spending plenty of time in our gardens, so we might as well make them a lovely place to be.
May on the Veg Plot
Whether you have an allotment, a veggie patch in your garden or just a few containers for growing your own, Ruth McNamee from our Plant Area can guide you through the edible gardening year.
Another busy month on the plot. The weather’s getting warmer but keep fleece handy and watch the forecast for overnight frost. Be prompt in removing any frost protection by day as temperatures can rise quickly. For the same reason, remember to ventilate your greenhouse and cold frames.
After risk of frost, plant out climbing and runner beans, one plant to the base of each support. Or direct sow 2 or 3 seeds to each support and thin to strongest plant when seedlings develop.
Plant out Brussels sprouts and use spaces between them for fast maturing radishes, lettuces or salad leaves. These crops will have been used before the sprouts need the space.
Earth up potatoes, leaving 5cm of foliage exposed. If frost is forecast cover row with fleece. Pinch out the tops of broad bean plants once the first mini bean can be seen. This will help to avoid black fly who like to feed on the tender young top shoots.
Plant out tomatoes in the greenhouse. Erect strong supports before planting as mature fruiting plants will be heavy. Start feeding when the first flowers appear. Put netting over strawberries to protect emerging fruit from birds. Check all crops regularly for aphids and slugs, using your preferred method of dispatch if discovered.
Check out the garden centre for a wide range of vegetable plants. Perfect to plant out now. Try something new or something you have forgotten to sow.
Keep using that hoe!
Gardening Jobs for May
Harden summer bedding plants and plant out. Remember to provide temporary protection, with newspapers or fleece, if frost is forecast
Thin out hardy annual, vegetable and other seedlings sown outdoors
Sow fast-maturing and late-flowering annuals, herbs and vegetables including parsnips, early carrots and runner beans
Stake tall growing perennials
Set out dahlia tubers which have been over-wintered in a frost free environment
Note any gaps in the border which could be filled by bulbs for next year
Maintain a programme of weeding and checking for pests and diseases
Prune spring-flowering clematis after flowering
Finish planting up containers
Plant onion sets as soon as possible
Earth up early and maincrop potatoes
Prevent your greenhouse from overheating by providing adequate shading and ventilation
Trim ornamental hedges
Control algae on pondsinfo