It's a very busy time of year for gardeners - and one full of reward! Time to get your hands dirty with sowing, planting and potting but there are a few early morsels to be picked and eaten too. Here's your May garden to-do list...
It’s spring! The sun is out and the April showers have given your garden the boost it needs to get growing, so now is the time to do a bit of prep work to reap the benefits all summer, but with so much to do in the garden in May, what is top of the priority list?
Check your plants for pests and diseases and deal with them promptly. Look out for mites and whitefly on the undersides of leaves and on stems, and aphids on buds, and caterpillars on or near brassicas. Small infestations of aphids can be pinched off, and larger colonies can be sprayed with natural insecticides. Better still, introduce natural predators such as ladybirds you can buy these through shops such as The Organic Gardening Catalogue, and for slugs and snails, try natural biologicals such as nematodes.
What to do in the garden in May
Repot any plants that will benefit from being in a larger pot; some plants, such as bamboo and rhizomes, do better when their roots are constrained. Take this opportunity to use a different kind of planter, if you want to give your garden a quick new look.
Feed and nurture
Liquid-feed container plants once a week; a seaweed or comfrey tea solution is best.
Take care against frost
We can still suffer sudden frosts at night, so keep an eye on blossoming and nascent fruit trees, seedlings and tender plants; cover with cloches or fleece wherever possible to protect them.
Remember to prune
Prune early-flowering shrubs and early clematis after they have flowered.
Neaten the lawn
If you are not leaving it to grow into something more like an organic meadow, the lawn can be mowed now, but avoid doing it when the grass is very wet. Collect the cuttings and compost, or leave to rot back into the ground.
Set up support for perenials
Look ahead to the time when your perennials will be heavy with flowers and will droop, leaving open gaps in your border plantings. To avoid this, stake young perennial plants now; choose supports that suit the plant’s growth style: bamboo sticks for tall, straight plants, twigs for mound-shaped plants.
Acclimatise young plants
Harden off plants that have been grown under cover; do this by bringing them out into the garden during the day only at this stage.
Sow and plant
Continue to plant perennials, summer-flowering bulbs and pond plants, sow vegetables and herbs, and plant potatoes.
Plant out tomatoes
Plant out tomato plants, removing the side shoots of cordon varieties.
Pick the first fresh salads of the season
As well as rocket and lettuce leaves, throw in a few borage blooms, pea shoots and tasty baby rainbow chard leaves.
Plant dahlia tubers now for spectacular late-summer blooms
Dig a hole at least 15cm deep and enhance it with organic matter. Stake plants as they get taller.
Sow vibrant zinnias in a sunny spot
These flowers are easy to grow and there are dainty dwarf forms as well as taller double options, with giant flowers 11cm across.
Grow beautiful Foxglove
Tall, striking and graceful, foxgloves are the perfect plant for the back of a border in dappled shade. While they prefer moist soil, they will tolerate a dry spot, especially if you give them a generous mulch of dried bark in spring. Growing up to 2m, they look stunning grown alongside a hedge or in a circle around a specimen tree. Foxgloves are best for:
- Growing in containers. This 45cm plant has been bred to be sterile, meaning it wont set seed and instead puts all its energy into blooming for many weeks.
- Using as a dramatic cut flower. Just a few stems make an impactful arrangement and they will last for up to 10 days if you change the water every 48 hours.
- Attracting pollinating insects to a wildlife garden. The upright facing flowers are a perfect landing pad for bees and each bloom is rich in nectar and pollen.
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How to grow foxglove
These plants are generally biennial, which means they grow their leaves in the first year then flower in the following year. However, they set seed very freely, so new plants are likely to keep popping up in the same position. If seedlings appear where they’re not wanted, wait until they are around 10cm tall before you transplant them to a more suitable spot. The new plants may be different colours to the parents which can lead to some exciting discoveries!