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May is with us, the day length is increasing and hopefully, the late spring will set us up for a great summer in the garden. It’s a busy time, so without more ado, let's have a look at our gardening tasks for May.
It’s time to think about feeding the grasses in your lawn. Choose a slow-release type high in Nitrogen for summer long fertilizer support.
Maybe your lawn has been invaded by broad-leaved perennial weeds? You may want to purchase a combined weed & feed product from the garden centre to solve the problem. Apply on a dry day, but make sure there is rain forecast in the during the few days to avoid ‘scorching’ the grass.
Adjust your mower blades to their regular summer length for established lawns, though leave newly sown lawns till the grass reaches 8cm to begin with and lower gradually on following cuts.
It is now too late to sow many of our traditional ‘half-hardy’ annuals to flower this year, but ‘hardy annuals’ that have a shorter life cycle such as calendulas, cornflowers and nasturtiums can be sown direct outdoors where they are to flower.
So called ‘half-hardy annuals’, such as pansies, antirrhinums and begonias grown in the greenhouse in trays or pots should be placed outside to ‘harden-off’ - though be prepared to bring them in if a frost is forecast.
Hanging baskets and containers can now be planted up. Mix some slow-release fertilizer in with the compost prior to planting to feed your plants right through the summer. You can also incorporate some water storage crystals to save watering so regularly. Choose large flowered plants for the centre of your container for maximum colour impact with smaller flowered trailing types around the basket edges.
May is the time for sowing biennials such as sweet williams and wallflowers for flowering next year. Sow these in a ‘seed bed’ in a spare corner of the garden as you will be transplanting them to their final homes in the autumn.
The herbaceous border will need attention with the plants making strong new growth. Apply fertilizer around the plants and use canes to support growth where needed.
Plant any remaining summer-flowering bulbs, tubers such as lilies and dahlias etc. You can now cut back the withering foliage of spring flowering bulbs as they will have built up nutrients for next year.
Have you started your runner beans yet? If not it’s time to get moving! There’s still time to dig out a trench and lay some newspapers in the base. Add a layer of manure or garden compost and back-fill with soil, incorporating some vegetable fertilizer. You can then sow your seed or plant up pots sown earlier.
It’s high season for sowing salads in raised beds or garden soil. Lettuce, beetroot, radish, spring onions and carrots are just some examples. Make sure you thin out crowded seedlings to ensure good crops.
Remember carrot fly will soon be a problem, so protect your carrots by covering with fine netting preventing the flies from laying their eggs in the developing carrot roots,
In the greenhouse you can be sowing sweet corn in pots and there is still time to sow cucumbers and courgettes for outdoor growing.
Now’s the time for planting main crop potatoes and make sure you are earthing up early varieties as required.
To keep healthy plants and bushes it’s a good idea to mulch with farm yard manure, garden compost or bark around the stems. Nutrients will find their way down to the roots and it will reduce your watering requirement.
Remember to spread straw around your strawberry plants lifting fruiting stems above the straw. It will prevent fungal diseases and promote fruit ripening. Protect fruit from birds with netting above the crop.
Trees & Shrubs
Tie in vigorous shoots on climbing/rambling roses and wisteria.
Prune spring flowering shrubs after they have finished blooming.
Mulch around the roots to add nutrients and maintain moisture.