May is one of the most exciting months of the gardening year with new plants rapidly appearing, flowers opening almost in front of your eyes and warmer temperatures bringing the chance to enjoy sitting outside in the evenings.
It can also be a month of weather watching - it is still too early in some parts of the country to plant out annuals and kitchen garden crops, with the risk of a late frost still a treat, but by the end of the month the corner will have been turned and our gardens will be starting to look their very best.
Although we’re all itching to get on and plant it pays not to rush - if the weather looks unpredictable, wait a few days and take some time to prepare the soil and clean tubs and containers ready for planting up with summer bedding displays.
Slugs and snails are particularly keen on the tender shoots of newly planted bedding and cops. Take precautions a week or so before planting out by placing Slug Traps in areas where they may be a problem.
Watch out for pests that emerge with the warmer weather this month - deal with early appearance of aphids by spraying with soapy water and gently wiping the affected buds and shoots clear of pests. Keep on top of weeding and hoeing - a daily task made easy with a Speedhoe. Dig up and dry tulip bulbs to make way for summer planting.
Trees, Shrubs & Climbers
- Prune Forsythia and ribes sanguieum after flowering - cut main stems back to a young sideshoot to maintain a good shape and encourage flowers next year.
- Tie in climbers and wall shrubs - they will be putting on a lot of growth this month and they will need anchoring to a structure or trellis now to avoid them collapsing under the weight of the mass of new stems. Tie in the shoots you want as a framework and cut back any that are growing away from the structure or wall, leaving the rest to thicken up and produce flowers later.
- Water newly planted roses, shrubs and trees regularly in dry spells and use fleece to protect young growth from later frosts - Easy Fleece Jackets are an ideal quick solution. In milder areas you can bring conservatory plants such as citrus outside during the day - wait until the end of the month before leaving them out during in the night too.
By now many Summer perennials will be growing well and the taller varieties or those prone to flopping over will need some immediate support to prevent them becoming damaged and interfering with neighbouring plants. Plant Supports can be ornamental and enhance your display - subtly coloured obelisks, decorative cloches and stem stakes provide interest in their own right as well as serving a practical purpose. Some areas of planting will benefit from more discrete structure such as Elegance Grow Through or Ripple Supports which will create a hidden and unobtrusive framework to ensure your display remains strong and upright.
Plant out Dahlias
By Mid May you can plant Dahlias which have been bought out of hibernation in pots undercover earlier in the season. Prepare the ground well and mulch after watering to allow them to establish quickly. Add support now to avoid damaging delicate young growth - the Quadrant Grow Through is a traditional design used by growers of show stopping blooms.
Sow Perennial Seeds
If you have a spare area to use as a ‘nursery’ bed then now is the time to sow Hollyhocks, Foxgloves and Verbena Bonariensis for displays next year. Alternatively use pots and trays which you can move around during the summer to wherever you have space to keep them watered and tended.
Plant and Train Sweet Peas
Grown on a tall Obelisk or Trellis in a border Sweet Peas reward with a spectacular fragrant display but they are also a great addition to the Kitchen Garden for use as cut flowers - grow on a decorative Elegance Tower or Bean Frame for a traditional cottage garden feel.
Plant Hanging Baskets
Use lobelia, petunia, verbena, pelargonium and trailing ivy for an eye catching addition to a doorway or fence - plant densely for best impact - or try an edible alternative of strawberries or tomatoes. A Basket Obelisk allows you to create the same effect on the patio or adding height to a border.
In The Kitchen Garden
- Start sowing in earnest - Peas, Lettuce, radish, beans and courgettes can all be directly sown this month.
- Plant out Leeks and Brassicas and use a Crop Cage or Cloche Hoops with a net to prevent damage from pigeons.
- Water crops regularly in dry weather, especially soft fruit bushes that will be forming fruit now.
- Protect Strawberries from birds using a crop cage or Easy Tunnel - lifting the fruit away from the ground on a Strawberry Grow Through will help avoid grey mould and slug attack - A Strawberry Table Top is a great way to guarantee a bumper harvest that is easy to look after and harvest.
May marks the beginning of the summer season with plant sales and flower shows in full swing - a time to enjoy working in the sunshine and to take a moment to relax and literally smell the roses!