May – month of blossom and morris dancers!
May is a fabulous time in the garden. It’s as though someone has hit the turbo button. New leaves unfurling, lots of flowers and everything looks fresh and vibrant. The swallows usually arrive at the yard at then end of April/early May and set about renovating the previous years’ nests ready for this summer’s brood.
The garden centres and nurseries are full of bedding plants and it is tempting to rush out and buy some. However, the nights can still be quite cool so unless you have somewhere frost free to keep them resist temptation for a couple more weeks until the frosts have finished and they can go outside. It is usually the middle of the month down here in West Kent that it is reliably safe to put tender plants in the garden but keep an eye on the weather forecast.
Plants that have spent the winter in the greenhouse, or new seedlings will need to be hardened-off before being planted out for the summer. Stand them outside during the day, or open your greenhouse, but provide protection overnight and beware late frosts. Plants that are planted out directly from a nice cosy greenhouse to being outside in one go without hardening them off go into “shock” and can stop growing. Cuttings can be taken from the new growth of Pelargoniums and Fuchsias to increase the number of plants you have.
Deadhead daffodils as they finish flowering and give them a feed but leave the leaves for 6 weeks. This allows them to store food and create a new flower in the bulb ready for next year. Don’t be tempted to tie them up as this damages the leaves preventing them from photosynthesising (creating food). I grow mine in amongst herbaceous perennials. As the perennials come into growth they hide the old bulb growth.
Plants in pots now need watering regularly and can dry out very quickly on sunny, breezy days. Permanent pots will also benefit from a feed and top dressing. Top dressing is changing the top couple of inches of soil for new.
Early flowering perennials such as primulas and pulmonaria can be divided once flowering has finished. Tidy up the plants by removing the old, tatty leaves.
Prune early flowering shrubs such as Forsythia and Kerria japonica (or yellow pom pom bush as I called it whilst growing up!) as they finish flowering.
As everything begins to grow unfortunately so do the weeds . Keeping on top of them now is key to preventing them from taking over.
Lawns can now be mowed regularly, ideally weekly. Giving them a spring feed to encourage good strong growth over the summer.
Climbing plants are making lots of growth and will need tying-in regularly. Keeping a few ties near the plant makes this easier as you can secure the new stems as you walk past.
Lastly take 10 minutes to sit and enjoy the warmer temperatures and all the new growth in the garden and watch the wildlife . My pond is usually full of tadpoles, and the garden full of sparrows, blue-tits, blackbirds and robins. Perfect!