May Essential Jobs Checklist
- Mow and feed your lawn
- Clip and feed hedges
- Harden off summer bedding
- Control garden slugs and snails
- Treat roses for pests and diseases
- Plant flowers that are bee friendly
- Harvest Rhubarb
- Sow herbs and vegetables
- Sow annual and biennials flowers
- Plant up containers and hanging baskets
- Feed fruit trees and bushes
- Plant strawberries
- Plant up your grow-bags
Your lawn should need regular mowing by now. If you applied a lawn treatment at the start of last month you should consider feeding your lawn again towards the end of May.
Make the application of granular products easier by using a mechanical spreader; hand-held spreaders work well on smaller lawns. We have a wide selection available in the garden centre, as well as Scott’s weed killers, moss killers and lawn feeds. If you applied a moss killer to your lawn last month you should now scarify it to remove the dead moss and open up your lawn. Bare patches can be reseeded.
Persistent broad-leaved weeds, such as dandelion, and small-leaved weeds, such as white clover, can be controlled with a spot weed treatment like Verdone.
Generally do not use your lawn care products when the grass is wet or if you’re experiencing drought conditions since you could end up with scorched grass. Always remember to read the label of any products you apply and if you tend to compost the clippings avoid adding them to your compost bin just after the application of any chemical treatments.
The Flower Garden
Support your perennials, especially the floppy types. Perennials that grow tall may need a little extra support and now, when the plants are still low, is the time to install the support. Although the supports will initially be visible they will eventually be hidden from view as the plants grow around them.
You can buy attractive ready-made supports or use canes, stakes or pea-sticks. If you use canes remember to get cane caps or toppers for your own safety. To tie-in the stem use a soft twine in a “figure-of-eight” to help prevent the stem rubbing against the cane.
With spring being late this year you may still have young shoots coming through in May, providing a feast for slugs and snails. If you did not take preventative measures last month do so now. Many gardeners use slug pellets and liquid slug killer but there are alternatives if you want to keep your chemical use to a minimum. If you spot any snails pick them off but remember to use garden wildlife as your allies. Blackbirds, robins, thrushes and starlings will devour snails and slugs so help them by placing some flat stones in the garden that the birds can use as anvils to break the snail’s shell. Place frog and toad boxes in your border to encourage the amphibians into your garden since they are an effective predator of slugs and snails, as are hedgehogs.
Although it may not always be possible, chemical insecticide should be avoided if you want to be “green”. Although sprays may eliminate the pests you are targeting you may inadvertently also be killing beneficial insects and creating further problems.
Containers & Hanging Baskets
Containers can now be planted up with tender summer-flowering plants for masses of colour on your patio.
Put some broken pot or stones over the holes in the bottom of your container to help with drainage then fill the of the container with a potting compost, leaving enough room to put in your plants. Remember you will also want about an inch (2.5cm) between the final compost level and the lip of the container. Finally water well, if air pockets in the compost cause the level to fall too much top up with a little more compost.
Start planting up hanging baskets and summer containers but keep them in a greenhouse for a couple of weeks to help them get established. Fill them with a Hanging Basket and Container Compost that contains water storing granules to increase the water-holding capacity. After about a month the feed in the compost will be exhausted and you will need to start feeding the plants.
Protect both your containers and hanging baskets from any late frosts. If the weather forecast indicates any overnight frosts transfer your containers and hanging baskets into the greenhouse for protection or wrap them up with some garden fleece.
In The Greenhouse
Fuchsias and Pelargoniums should be growing strongly now. Once your Fuchsias have reached about five inches or 12.5cm they can be pinched out.
Harden off your bedding plants by moving them out of the green house during the day but return them by night until the risk of frost has eased. Grow bags and vegetable planters can be planted up with tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, peppers and melons. If you are going to grow tomatoes install supports before planting up the grow bags to avoid damaging the growing plants later on. The compost in grow bags and planters will contain enough plant food for around six weeks after which you will need to use a liquid feed such as Tomorite.
The Vegetable Garden
With the growing season delayed this year you may have been late getting your seed potatoes planted. Normally your young plants should be well above the soil surface and needing earthed up but do not worry if your soil was too cold for early planting. If you still have seed potatoes chitting plant them as soon as possible, you can help warm up your soil by covering it with a horticultural fleece before planting. As an alternative to growing them in the vegetable plot use potato planting bags or sacks. Plant 3 to 5 seed potatoes in about six inches of compost, when the potato leaves show through gradually keep topping up with more compost until the shoots reach above the top of the potato bags.
Runner beans should be sown in the second half of May but you can prepare the site in advance.
Even if you do not want to grow brassicas, beans or root crops ensure you sow some salads. The pick and come again mixed leaf salads are a superb choice for sowing in pots and containers. Other varieties should be sown a little at a time every couple of weeks to provide a continuous supply.
If you did not sow your own vegetables or want an easier route to growing your own choose the ready grown “teenage” plants now available in the garden centre.
The Herb Garden
This is a good time to propagate some of your garden herbs. Take cuttings of rosemary, sage and thyme from the previous year’s growth. Strip off the lower leaves of the cuttings, dip into hormone rooting powder and put them round the edge of a pot filled either with Perlite or Sharp Sand. To prevent the mixture from drying out you can use a clear plastic band.
If you do not have room for a herb garden many herbs can be successfully grown in containers or even in pots on a kitchen windowsill. Examples that can be grown this way are parsley, chives and sweet basil.
The Fruit Garden
Strawberry plants are available right now in the garden centre and can be planted in the ground, in planters or in hanging baskets. If you choose a few different varieties you can stagger the fruiting period and so avoid a glut, albeit a delicious one.
Start spraying your apples, pears, gooseberries and blackberries with a systemic fungicide to control common diseases like mildew and scab. Make sure you follow the manufacturers instructions.
Start harvesting your rhubarb and do something a little different with it other than the traditional crumble. If you fancy it sweet cut the stalks into three inch sections, sprinkle with brown sugar and orange juice and put in the oven to roast. Serve it the way you would stewed rhubarb but adding a little stem ginger gives it a bit of zing. Alternatively serve the roast rhubarb along with some pan fried mackerel.
Bees and other pollinators are vital for food production, without them many crops would be drastically reduced. Even in our own gardens our tree and soft fruits would suffer without pollination. Bees collect nectar and pollen to feed themselves and their larvae and in inadvertently pollinate the blossoms that leads to the development of the fruit. Unfortunately bee populations have been falling but it is a trend we can counteract by doing a number of things in our gardens, including providing useful flowers from February until November.
Look for plants in the garden centre featuring the “Bee Friendly” logo and plant them in clumps in a sunny spot. The flowers will provide bees with nectar (an energy source) and pollen (a source of protein). Try to avoid unnecessary use of pesticides but if you do have to spray do it in the cool of evening when bees are less active. You can also provide bee logs or nests for solitary bees, they normally take the form of bamboo canes held in a log or wooden frame. You could also become a beekeeper and locate a couple of hives in your garden. It is a fascinating hobby that can provide you with an annual harvest of about 30lbs of honey and be beneficial to the environment. As a bonus to boosting bee activity in your garden you should also be rewarded with fruit trees and bushes that set more fruit.