May is here in all its abundant glory. The grass and trees are greener than green and the carpets of wildflowers strike awe in all, with their stunning contrast to the fresh lime growth that surrounds them. Tulips, alliums and wisteria charm with their bursts of colour, birdsong echoes through the trees, and more flora is in bud ready to bloom; it’s just a wonderful time of year. The weather hasn’t been on it’s best behaviour so far this month, but rain means growth, and the temperatures are set to rise next week. Here’s a guide to making the most of your garden this month, whatever the weather brings…
Prune & Maintain…
Now is the time to prune out overcrowded and dead stems of early flowering clematis after flowering. Also prune penstemons by cutting old shoots back to the base provided there is new growth appearing. Also prune spring flowering shrubs after flowering, and make sure to trim back self spreading plants such as aubretia and candytuft once they have finished blooming to encourage more beautiful flowers. Also lavender can now be trimmed, taking off old flower heads and up to 1 inch of the current years growth.
Keep on top of weeding, which can seem like a pain, but will be worth it when it comes to planting out, and is always easier after wet weather. Also, be sure to tie in rambling roses to allow them to climb. Laying rambling roses stems horizontally will encourage them to flower. Also tie in sweet peas and garden peas, placing netting over them to protect from bird damage.
Keep feeding established fruit trees whilst in flower to help them set fruit- half a jam jar of liquid seaweed in a large watering can is good for one tree- try and feed once a week before they set fruit.
On the topic of which- although it seems completely counter productive- it’s a good idea to remove blossom and fruits from newly planted fruit trees as this will actually make sure they are well established for years to come and overall will produce more fruit by pouring energy into new root growth as opposed to making fruits.
Be sure to leave spring bulbs foliage intact until completely brown and withered, as the green leaves act as next years food. Taking these away now means a high chance that they will bear no flowers next year. It’s a great idea to fertilise them now with a liquid solution such as organic seaweed to really help boost those blooms next Spring.
Divide & Take Cuttings…
A great way of accumulating more plants for free is by dividing the herbaceous perennials that are already doing well in your garden, and taking cuttings. You can lift and divide spring flowering bulbs now, such as daffodils, and herbaceous perennials such as echinacea, lupin and rose campion. Hostas can also be divided as they come into growth, and are fantastic shade loving plants- invaluable in many gardens. Simply dig deep to lift the whole root system, gently pull apart, separating individual plants, and place in a good sized planting hole where you wish your relocated plant to continue its legacy!
Taking softwood cuttings from woody shrubs such as sage, and lemon verbena, is a great way to increase their presence in your garden, and do well from cuttings taken now. Also now is a great time to take cuttings from ornamental perennials such as pelargoniums, some varieties of which are very expensive, and fuscia.
Cuttings from the new growth of hardy perennials can be taken now too. Click here for a great, simple and informative guide on how to create plants for free successfully.
Sow & Plant…
May is the time to get sowing those Summer squash, gourds, cucumbers, corn, beans, pumpkins and courgettes if you haven’t already. It’s been unseasonably cold of late, so perhaps try a propagater on the windowsill to speed things along, and you should see the seedlings emerge in less than a week. Any plant from the squash family loves heat, and needs it to germinate. They hate getting soggy feet, and may rot in the soil if overwatered and kept cold: so be sure to place them in the sunniest, warmest spot you have.
If you’re looking for a showstopper of a plant to sow from seed, look no further than the echiums, notably Echium pininana, it’s huge purple or white spires will add incredible interest to your garden, the neighbours and pollinating insects. Sow now in a propogator or heated greenhouse and you won’t regret it.
It’s a great time to start hardening off indoor sown half hardy annuals and perennials, such as dahlias, achillea, zinnia and stocks. Take them outdoors and leave in a sheltered slug free area during the day, remembering to take them back in at night. Do this for around a week to ten days, and you will gradually accustom your plants to the natural air temperature, which sadly can’t always be as balmy as they’ve been used to inside! Plant out after the threat of frost and they will thank you for the gradual testing of the waters by adapting to their final planting position much better.