Whether you believe that May is a spring or summer month, we are sure you will all agree that it is a wonderful month in the garden. The bare winter and early spring patches are filling in with fresh growth as the perennials make their appearance and the amount of colour in the garden is increasing by the day. Below are some handy hints to help you keep on top of things over the next few weeks.
As your spring bulbs begin to fade, remove the flower heads to prevent them from going to seed. The stalks should be left in place to die back naturally; this allows for the bulbs to re-absorb any available nutrients which keeps them fed during their dormant period. The stalks can be cut/removed once they are well withered. This is also an ideal time to lift and divide any clumps of spring bulbs which appear to have outgrown their allotted space. They can be lifted and divided, withering stalks and all, and re-planted in their new position.
Early flowering clematis, such as the Clematis armandii, should be pruned now, if required, as they finish flowering. They are group 1 climbers which means they flower early and on last year’s growth. In truth, they should not need too much by way of pruning unless they are getting too big for the area they are in or they can be pruned to get rid of any old or damaged/dead wood. Always cut back to a pair of healthy buds.
As the temperatures rise, so do the instances of pest and disease in the garden. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure! A strong case in point are roses. Keep an eye out for aphids/greenfly on the new buds or black spot and rust on the leaves. Remove any infected leaves immediately and discard them. Treat any affected plants with Roseclear which can be used every two weeks to keep problems at bay. Remember, good air circulation around the plants is a must in preventing the spread of pests and diseases.
Other pests which are likely to cause havoc in the garden would be vine weevil and/or slugs and snails. The slugs and snails can be easily controlled with slug pellets on the surface of the soil or a liquid treatment, such as Slug Clear, watered into the soil.
Evidence of vine weevil (which usually occurs in pots and containers rather than in garden beds in general) would be angular notches on the leaf margins where the adults feed. These can be treated by spraying with a product such as Provado from late spring through summer when the adults are active above ground. While the damage to the leaves is unsightly it is not really dangerous to the overall health of the plant. It is the larvae in the soil which pose the most risk to your pots and containers. The eggs hatch from autumn through to spring in the soil and the young c-shaped larvae feed on the roots of the plant; in enough concentration they can kill the plant by destroying the entire root system. If you are not in a position to change the soil completely in a planted container, larvae can be treated using a drench of Provado watered into the soil in autumn and/or winter/early spring.
Patio pots and containers with permanent planting should get some attention at this time of year. Top-dressing is a phrase well used in gardening books and websites and simply explained, it means removing the top couple of centimetres of soil and replacing it with fresh compost.
Remember to use plant specific compost for your acid loving plants such as pieris, camelia, rhododendron or azalea. You should also use a slow release fertiliser, which will keep your plants fed for up to 6 months, working it through the new compost and watering it in well.
Whether in the flower garden or the vegetable garden, don’t forget to stay on top of the weeds. Keep hoeing between the plants to keep the beds weed free; with the increased temperatures in early May, weeds can quickly take hold unless kept in check.
May is the time when the strawberry plants begin to flower and set fruit. It is recommended to put straw or other protection on the soil around the plants to prevent the fruit being splashed with mud and rot setting in.
Don’t forget to ventilate the greenhouse or grow area as the temperatures rise this month. You could also consider putting blinds on the greenhouse windows or painting them with shade paint to keep a control of the temperature.
You should continue to harden off all the seedlings ready for planting out. Remember to sow small amounts successively in the vegetable garden to get a regular and continuous harvest during the summer and autumn.
Early May is your last chance to sow a new lawn from seed as we come into the summer months and the temperatures rise even further. Those who have already sown a new lawn should continue to ensure it is watered regularly. For those with an existing lawn, you should, by now, have lowered the blades on the lawnmower for a slightly tighter cut. Ideally the lawn should be cut once per week but the same rules apply as earlier in the year; don’t cut the lawn when its wet, wait for a dry day. Don’t cut the lawn too tight. And don’t forget to trim the edges with an edging shears; neat and tidy edges make for a neater and tidier lawn!