Garden Diary - May
With May here now we’re really starting to get into Spring! Which means your garden is going to experience a boom of both plant growth and new wildlife. Which all together culminates into a concoction of new jobs you can be doing! Startings with maintaining and protecting the work you have already put into your garden.
Maintenance & Protection
During May there are plenty of maintenance jobs you can be doing starting with the removal of any faded spring bedding, which can be added to your compost bin. Bird feeders will need to be kept topped up unless you are going to clean them out, as this is also important for your wild bird's health. Warm days are going to get especially hard for your plants this time of year, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the heat. Like putting up shading to lower daytime temperatures or keeping doors, windows and vents open on hot days. Although keep in mind that at night it can still get cold, so you may need to close them again before nightfall. May is a great time of year to apply wood treatment to your garden furniture or fences, this will help to condition it for the summer. You can also expect a huge uptick of growth and life in your garden, so it can be a good idea to set up another compost bin, this will allow you to recycle more green waste.
Your plants can experience a number of different pests at this time of year, as all wildlife is thriving and eating a lot more food. Pests to look out for especially include scarlet lily beetles which can be found on lilies and other similar plants. Snails and slugs can also pose a threat to your plants and can either be treated with a pellet bait or a hand tool. Fruit trees, such as apple or plum, can benefit from pheromone traps to help keep pests off of their fruit. Although if you are using fruit cages then you will need to open their door or lift the netting to allow pollinating insects to gain access to the flowers. When checking plants for pests, pay special attention to their shoot tips and the underside of leaves. Any pests can be effectively treated with pesticides as well. It is important to find a balance with the creatures living in your garden, as they are still an important part of the ecosystem and help to degrade plant and food waste.
A lot of the new, young plants growing in your garden will need a little help to thrive. Start by tying any climbing plants you have to a suitable support, this includes clematis, wisteria, etc. The stems of plants such as tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and top heavy perennials will also need to be attached to canes to keep them growing healthily. Climbing crops need to be tied to supports or wigwams for them to grow, these plants include sweet peas, runner beans, etc. Finally it is a good idea to put rubber stoppers on the tips of your canes or other supports you are using to help prevent any potential injuries.
Finally for your maintenance jobs there are a number of things you can be doing to help prevent weeds from growing, including using an effective weed killer. You should hoe bare soil or hand weed your beds weekly, to stop any weeding seeds establishing themselves. If you have a pond, water feature or other body of water, then you can avoid clogging by pulling out any weeds you find, this includes algae, pondweed and blanketweed.
Encouraging Plant Growth & Flowering
Your plants are really going to thrive in May so there isn’t a huge amount you need to do apart from make sure they are getting enough sunlight and water, that being said there are still a few ways you can enhance your plants growth. For starters some plants, such as daffodils, tulips and other spring bulbs can benefit greatly from a nutrient rich liquid feed, this will help them to give a great bloom in the coming year. Young plants that you are keeping inside can be hardened off by taking them outside in the day and returning them inside at night. Annuals can also be helped to achieve a bushier growth by pinching out their shoot tips. Lawns can also use a little bit of attention in the form of some nitrogen-rich lawn feed, which will promote a vibrant leafy growth!
When it comes to growing vegetables and fruit bursting with flavour, there are a few plants you want to pay extra attention to in May. Starting with potatoes, you will want to earth them up and then cover their shoots with soil as they appear. Next on to rhubarb, now is also a great time to be picking any rhubarb stems as they develop, while watering the plant with a liquid feed. Other crops that require a lot of liquid feed watering this month, include tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers, these will need to be watered regularly, even more so if you are having hotter weather.
With all the growth going on with your plants in May, there is some pruning needed to be done to keep them in check! Start with your spring shrubs such as forsythia and chaenomeles, once these have flowered they will need cutting back to keep them neat and compact. Other topiary will also need to be regularly cut back to promote a bushy, abundant growth, you can use a long handled shear to do this more easily and safely. Howether before you start pruning back any shrubs make sure to check them over for any nests first, as this is a vital nesting period for most birds. If you are growing strawberries then you will want to cut off any runners, so that the plant can use all its energy on growing the juiciest, tastiest strawberries possible.
For planting in May there are plenty of options to choose from, especially after all the risks of frost have passed. Planted cannas, dahlia tubers, summer bedding and tender annuals will thrive especially in this month, when there is no further risk of frost. Gaps in borders can also be sown with annuals, to add a depth of colour into your garden. If you want an area of shaded borders, then plant a selection of hostas and ferns into the specific border area. Finally grass seed can be sown to create new turf or repair patchy areas, which will grow quickly at this time of year.
When it comes to crops you can be planting, there are a variety of different vegetation you can choose from. Beginning with batches of salad plants, such as salad leaves, which can be planted every few weeks to provide week after week pickings. If you have been growing any tomatoes in smaller containers inside over the colder months, these can be transplanted into grow bags or larger containers. Similarly with climbing french beans, dwarf beans and runner beans you can plant these outside once the weather has begun to stay warmer.
Furthermore there are bound to be plants needing to be replanted in larger containers. Such as houseplants that have become top heavy or that have outgrown their pots, these will need to be repotted into large containers with added high quality soil or compost.
While a lot of your small container plants are now being moved outside or being hardened off, there are still a few things that you can be doing to create plants for the coming seasons. For starters you can be planting up hanging baskets that you will keep inside until they have established themselves enough to be moved outside in the summer. To prepare for planting in summer you also want to harden off any summer plants or bedding that you may have, by placing them outside during the day and then bringing them back inside at night. Mature fuchsias, pelargoniums or dahlias can have cuttings taken from them to be made into new plants. If you have any seedlings then you are going to need to prick them out as soon as their first leaves appear and replant them into larger containers.
Secondly if you are growing crop plants, sweetcorn can be sown into pots and kept somewhere warm to then be moved outside into the garden come June. Other crops that you have been growing in earlier months can now be hardened off outside, to make them ready for when they are replanted outside. If you have some earlier sowings of seedlings then it is time to thin them out, giving them the best chance of growing into strong, healthy plants. Fully grown woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme can have cuttings taken from them, which should then be planted in pots or trays of nutrient rich compost.
That concludes all the gardening jobs that we have for May! Why not sit back and look around your garden at a job well done. At least until June comes, which we have a handy gardening diary waiting already for you to get your green fingers stuck into.
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