Posted by on May 7, 2019

To start our Gardening Club blog series we asked local blogger, Charlotte The Gardener what her tips are for making the most of May.  

I love May – it’s when the garden really starts to bloom – no wonder the most popular RHS Show – Chelsea – is this month.  So it’s the perfect time to start a new project, or simply get into your garden and look around to see what’s happening.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to cut back the dead growth from last year, on any perennials, to tidy up and allow the new growth to come through. It’s also a good time to hoe your beds to keep on top of annual weeds that have seeded and remove weeds such as dandelions and docks, before they get so big that they’re a nightmare to remove.

Another thing to be on the lookout for in May are pests that will feast on new growth. Key areas to check are the new green leaves appearing on plants such as Lupins and fresh Rose buds, which greenfly in particular just love– remove with your fingers or spray with a mild solution of household detergent and water. Check your Lilies for Lily Beetles – these are quite large red beetles that can strip your Lilies in a matter of hours leaving behind black slime – these can be removed by hand and squashed. Of course there are also slugs EVERYWHERE. I manage the slugs in my garden with beer traps – these are environmentally friendly and work brilliantly – just plunge a yoghurt pot with beer into the ground and make sure you regularly empty them as otherwise they begin to smell…

You may be thinking it’s too late to be planting seeds for summer flowers, but it’s not – I always plant Cosmos and Zinnias at this time of year and once the risk of frost has passed, they can be planted outdoors, either straight into a prepared bed (and then thinned out) or into seed pots to be planted out later, wherever you have gaps in your borders. I also always keep a few Zinnias in pots, so that I can squeeze them between existing plants, with their prominent flowers poking out wherever I need an extra splash of colour. Zinnias are great ‘high value’ annuals as they produce a lot of flowers, if you keep deadheading them; they flower all summer long and are great to pop into a jug on your kitchen table.

On the subject of cut flowers – if your Peonies are about to bloom but it’s too cold to be in your garden to enjoy them, or it’s about to pour down for days on end, I would cut a few and bring them inside to enjoy. A few tips if you do want to do this – go out with your secateurs and a container of water first thing in the morning and choose stems where the bloom is still in bud, or just beginning to open. Leave one to three pairs of leaves on the stem, and don’t cut more than one third of the blooms, as you risk damaging the overall health of the plant. As soon as you’ve cut a stem, remove the lower one third of the leaves and plunge it into water, almost up to the neck of the flower until you’re ready to arrange them in a vase. If you keep the flowers out of direct sunlight they should keep for around a week. Then just admire and enjoy!

There’s plenty to keep you busy in the garden in May, but here are a few key things to remember:

  • Keep on top of watering in dry spells – particularly with young plants in pots and containers.
  • Plant summer bedding once the risk of frost has passed. Now is a great time to choose your plants for hanging baskets and the front of borders for a colourful display come summer.
  • Remove the spent flower heads of Daffodils and Tulips, but leave the foliage at least 6 weeks to feed the bulbs for next year.
  • Prune Spring flowering shrubs, once they have finished flowering.
  • Plant out Dahlias towards the end of the month.
  • Deadhead, deadhead, deadhead to ensure longer flowering.

Most importantly, enjoy your garden coming into full bloom and relish in the fact that Summer is just around the corner!