With all the freshness of spring and the promise of summer to come, many gardeners regard May as one of the best months in the garden. Make the most of May’s warmer weather to start getting ready for the summer months. Just taking a leisurely stroll through a garden can lift the spirits. It’s a great time of year to visit some of the many gardens that will be opening up to the public to glean ideas and inspiration.
Between visiting flower shows and other people’s gardens, there’s plenty to do in your own. You can now begin harvesting the first delicious early vegetables, planted out earlier in the year. To guarantee a regular succession of young vegetables throughout the summer months, sow seeds at weekly intervals so you don’t get a glut all at once. Although it’s a bit of a chore, hoe in between plants and vegetables as the weeds start to spurt in the warmer weather. Keeping on top of the weeds at this time of year will pay off in the long term.
Plant Summer Bedding
A wide variety of summer bedding plants are now available to buy from nurseries and garden centres. However, if late frosts are forecast those tempting tender geraniums and other non-hardy annuals are best left to plant out until about the middle of the month. Containers can be planted up with summer bedding plants from about the middle of May. It’s worth removing the old compost if it has been in your container since last year. The new compost will give your plants a better start. Add water retaining granules and slow release fertilizer to keep the container fed all summer. Remember containers dry out very quickly so if you’re planning to keep a dazzling display going for the whole summer – keep watering or set up and irrigation system.
Lightly trim formal evergreen hedges, such as box, even if it hasn’t grown very much yet. Box doesn’t take kindly to being cut back hard, so the sooner its trimmed the better it keeps its shape. Although it takes more time, this job is best done with hand shears, as opposed to a mechanical cutter, for a better finish. You can also take cuttings from any shoots about 8cm (3 inches) long. Trim each cutting just below a leaf joint, pot into cuttings compost, cover with clear polythene and leave to root in a shady corner of the garden. In a few weeks they should have rooted so you can pot them up to plant in another part of the garden.
Prune Spring flowering shrubs once they have finished flowering. Examples are things like Kerria Japonica, Forsythia, and Spirea. Also, if you have one, prune the glorious Clematis Montana after it has flowered. This beauty is a very fast growing climber that can easily get out of hand unless pruned hard every year. It’s a good choice of plant if you have an ugly wall or fence that you want to cover quickly. Finish planting new shrubs if you possibly can this month, before it gets too dry.
Continue to deadhead spring flowering bulbs that have gone over, this allows the bulb to store up more energy to produce flowers next year. You must leave the foliage intact for at least 6 weeks after flowering, but simply snap off the flower heads with your fingers or a pair of secateurs. Use a general organic fertiliser around the base of the bulbs to encourage the development of new flowers for next year.