In May it is usually safe to assume that the risk of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up, so this is a busy time for gardeners. Jobs for May include:
- Plant out Dahlias and Cannas. If you’ve been over-wintering them for protection, they can now be planted out into their desired positions.
- Work on daffodil clumps. If flowering has declined then your daffodil bulbs may be congested, planted too shallowly, be in a position which is too dry, or be infected by pests or diseases. Now is the time to dig them up, check them over, and divide congested clumps. Any infected bulbs should be discarded. You can add any previously potted-up bulbs to increase numbers. Before planting ensure you alleviate compaction to aid drainage, and add compost and some general purpose fertiliser to give the bulbs a feed. Bulbs should be planted 2 or 3 times their depth.
- If you’re growing strawberries, then a high potassium feed (such as tomato feed), given every week or so will help to boost flowering and fruiting. Because of the late frosts in April, you may see signs of “Black Eye”. This is not a serious problem, but means that the flower has been damaged by frost and the fruit will not set. You can remove any affected flowers.
- Now that the ground is warming up, it is a good time to sow tender vegetables like runner beans direct into the soil where they will crop. Plant two beans per station and select the strongest plant once they are through. Tie them to their supports at first, and then they will climb away on their own. Runner beans love moist soil, so keep well watered and mulch in June. If you are wary of climbing beans, there is a dwarf variety called ‘Hestia’ which only grows to about 45cm and works well in containers. If early sowings of crops like carrots and parsnips have only given patchy germination, re-sowing now will still give ample time for the later plants to catch up.
- Late May is also the time for planting out the the tender members of the Cucurbit family (courgettes, pumpkins, squashes, marrows etc.) These don’t like going out when the ground is still chilly and are not frost hardy, but once conditions get warmer, they’ll race along as we discovered when we started growing them.
- Finally, with the Chelsea Flower Show coming up, the end of May is time for “The Chelsea Chop” on your late flowering perennials (for example Phlox, Helenium, Echinacea and some Sedum). Cut back plants by about half using shears. This will give you bushier, more compact plants and usually more flowers, that will extend later into the season.
As well as being busy in the garden, make use of the longer daylight hours to enjoy it. Sometimes, especially when you keep reading lists of jobs that you ought to be doing, gardening can turn into a list of chores. Don’t let this happen, take the time to sit, relax and enjoy looking at the results of your labours! Sometimes this might be the result of following earlier tips. For example, this is our Wisteria that we pruned back in February. what the picture doesn’t give you is the glorious scent that fills a warm evening. Perfect with a glass of whatever you prefer.