What Jobs to do in the Garden in May
“Cherry pink and Apple Blossom white”
As April comes to a close, we enter what is possibly one of our prettiest months.
The first of May in the UK and most of the West is known as May Day and marks the end of cold winter.
Hopefully we will have seen the last of the frosts but the weather can still be sneaky and catch us out.
An old saying my Grandma used was –
“cast not a clout, till May is out”.
For centuries May has been celebrated as the long awaited start to summer, bringing with it a more productive, brighter, greener season.
Celebrations usually include, feasting, drinking, music and dancing. Which is all well and good, let’s enjoy this fun time, but afterwards there is work to do in our gardens.
There are plenty of gardening jobs in May for us to get our teeth into, everything about the garden is growing on a pace. Lush greens and foliage are filling the borders, so we gardeners have our work cut out keeping on top of it all.
Remember though to take time out just to sit, breathe and enjoy your time in the garden as well as working to bring your outdoor space to life.Gardening for Well-being, Why Gardening is Good for your Health.
There are a lot of jobs to do in your garden, be it in the borders, greenhouse and/or vegetable gardens.
Let’s get out and about in the garden and the great outdoors, make the most of that is on offer this month
What Plants Are Flowering in May?
Hawthorn and Blackthorn smother the hedgerows along with cow-parsley. In the fields here there is Rapeseed, adding a glorious gold to the mix.
Rhododendron and Azalea are in flower now.
These beautiful shrubs put on a magnificent display usually from Mid-April to early June, depending on the region and climate they are in.Plants For Spring Colour
Peony are starting to flower too, again depending on which varieties, area and their situation. On a sheltered site they will flower as early as April, through May and June.
Both Peony shrubs and tree Peony offer big, beautiful, blousy, colourful blooms.
Deutzia, Viburnum plicatum, Wigielia, Cornus, Apple Blossom, Cherry blossom along with other fruit trees too, are all putting on a lovely show, filling the air with fragrance and generally looking marvellous, filling in any gaps.Trees for Small Gardens.
Beds and Borders
Deadhead spring bulbs, leaving all the greenery to die back naturally, this will feed and strengthen the bulbs ready for next year.
Add a liquid fertiliser to the clumps of bulbs.
If bulbs are planted in containers you can simply put the whole thing in a storage area out of the way, or if you want to use the containers for summer planting, then lift and store the bulbs.
Plant out summer bedding towards the end of May in warmer southern areas after all risk of frost. In more Northern areas, ie Northern Scotland and Highlands this can be as late as Mid-June.
Plant up hanging baskets, window boxes and summer containers using good quality compost and add feed granules and water retention gel for long-lasting summer displays.
Thin out direct sown annuals
Start to harden off half-hardy plants by placing outdoors in the day time, bringing them back indoors at night for about a week to ten days before planting out.All Summer Blooming Flowers
Perennials and Summer bulbs
Harden off Dahlias, Cannas and other half-hardy perennials before planting out in borders.
Some of the Dahlias in my garden are left in the ground from one year to the next but the success of this does depend on climate and weather conditions in your area.
It is recommended to lift them and store over winter and re-plant in spring.
Divide herbaceous perennials to maintain plant health and to provide new plants to fill any gaps or share them with fellow gardeners. Plant swaps are a great, cost effective way of obtaining new plants.
Split Hostas as they start to send up new shoots.
Cut back last years’ growth on Penstemon down to the ground, new growth can be seen coming through at ground level. If there isn’t any new growth yet then cut back the stems to their lowest leaves
Take cuttings from tender perennials such as Fuchsia, Penstemon, Salvia, Gaura and Pelargoniums.
What Should be Pruned in May?
What is the Chelsea Chop?
So called because it is done at the end of May which coincides with Chelsea flower show…Gardens to visit near you
Use shears to chop back about a third of growth. This serves to make the plant bushier, neater and will encourage more flowering at the end of summer, thereby prolonging the flowering season. You can prune all of the plant this way or in part.
By pruning part of the plant you will ensure early flowering as well as later flowering.
Plants suitable for this method:
- Hardy geranium
- Phlox paniculata
- Sedum ( upright varieties)
By cutting back early flowering perennials, such as alpines, hardy geraniums, you will get a second flowering later in the summer
Prune spring flowering shrubs.
Pruning out spent flowers on Choisya which helps to keep it tidy and will encourage a second show of flowers.
Trim lavender to new healthy shoots.
Prune out any diseased, damaged or dead wood from winter and early spring flowering clematis such as Armandii, Alpine and Cirrhosa.
Climbing Plants in May
Tie in new shoots on climbing roses and summer flowering clematis to their supports.
Check all roses for black spot and if present treat accordingly with systemic fungicide.How do you Grow Roses?: Secrets to Success
Check for aphids on roses, you can simply rub or hose them off.
Also a weak solution of soapy water used in a spray bottle will clear them too.
Tie-in sweet peas to their supports, this will encourage them to climb.
Pots and Containers
Drop dress any permanent pot plants with fresh compost
Feed with a liquid feed to encourage strong, healthy plants and all summer blooming flowers.Best Plants for Hanging Baskets
Keep containers and baskets well-watered. Water mornings and evenings.Flower Garden Colour Combinations
Inspect all plants for disease or pests to catch any problems early.
Treat as necessary. This is essential so as not to spread to other plants.
Collect rain water to use on the garden.
Continue to weed borders and all garden areas so that your plants are not competing for nutrients and water.
Weed paths and patios.Electric Weed Burner
Keep the greenhouse aired to prevent disease and pests. Open doors, windows and or vents in warm weather.
Continue to mow lawns and trim the edges.
Feed with a high nitrogen feed to maintain healthy lush growth.
Water newly seeded or re-turfed areas.
Summer Annual Flower seeds to sow now.
- Sweet peas
- Welsh poppy
- California poppy
- Morning Glory
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Jobs in the Vegetable Garden in May
Pumpkin, Squash and Courgette seeds can be started under cover. Ones started earlier can be hardened off ready to plant out
Thin out lettuce, spinach, carrots.
Continue sowing salad vegetables at 2 week intervals to give all year ready to eat veg.
Protect strawberry plants with straw, this lifts the berries off the ground and controls weeds too.
Protect soft fruits with netting to stop the birds eating them before you have the chance to.
Erect supports for runner beans.
Heap up early sown potatoes.
Salad Seeds to sow now
Veg to Sow Now
Naked Gardening Day
Oh and before I forget to mention, the first Saturday in May is World Naked Gardening Day, so you all need to make an important decision, are you going to join in and garden naked? My recommendation if you are, is to stay well away from nettles, thorns or any prickly plants. Be very careful with secateurs too.
Personally I don’t know why we can’t have naked gardening day in Summer when the weather at least is warmer, far too chilly for me to contemplate in May.
I’m sure you will finds lots here to keep you busy in your garden during one of our loveliest months.
I would love to hear your views and thoughts or any question on what to do in your garden in May or indeed about any of my previous articles, please use the comments box below.
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Thank you for reading.