Spring often begins its turn to summer in May and even if the weather isn’t always summery, we will have had a few long hot days by the end of the month. Less enjoyably perhaps, this means the weed and lawn mowing seasons have most definitely started. Before summer arrives will full force, take advantage of any dry days forecast to treat sheds, decking and wooden furniture with oil, stain or other wood preservative.
Warm weather means weeds will sprout, so you need to keep weeding by hand between bedding plants and veggies. Fear not, as they mature, the plants will take over the weeding from you by blocking out sunlight! You’ll want to hoe your bedding borders regularly to keep weeds down too.
Your grass will love the heat of May days and you need to mow often. Make sure to collect all grass cuttings and add them to your compost. If you have seeded or turfed new lawn, make sure it’s well watered during hot spells – you don’t want it to fail now! Use a spade to edge your lawn leaving about a 3-inch gutter to stop grasses creeping into your beds. If you want wildlife to flourish in your garden, leave a patch unmowed either in the lawn itself somewhere, or around tree trunks.
Regular clipping and pruning of hedges will mean you’ll never have to do that single, heavy prune. Check there are no nesting birds in your hedges before you start working on them and if prunings aren’t too woody, these can go on the compost too.
All things seem possible in May.
- Edwin Way Teale, North with the Spring, 1951
Plan and plant (at the end of the month) your summer beds. Think dahlia bulbs, chrysanthemums, begonias, lovely cascading lobelias and geraniums. Nasturtiums are easy, just sow seeds directly into damp compost. Tubs and hanging baskets can be planted now but keep an eye on frosts still! Tip fuchsias as they sprout to encourage them to branch out and not just grow tall. Dead head pansies to encourage furthering flowering and do the same to camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas too. Lift and divide clumps of daffodils and other spring bulbs, and primroses too. Prune clematis after flowering, and make sure any taller plants in the garden have the support they need.
Water in the morning and evening to minimise evaporation. Install water butts if you don’t have them already because it’s good to have a reservoir of water ready in case a hosepipe ban comes into force – it seems unlikely after the rainfall we’ve seen this year, but it’s best to be prepared!
If you’re growing strawberries, now’s the time to get the straw down to prevent them rotting in the soil. And if you have grape vines, pinch out new buds two leaves beyond any developing fruit to promote fruit growth. Open greenhouse doors & vents on hot days but be careful because May can also see frosts. Any seedlings growing indoors should be left outside during the day to harden them for being planted outdoors later in the month.
In the vegetable patch, thin your seedlings (beet & spinach etc.) or plant more rows, depending on how you’re growing. Earth up your potatoes once they reach about 10 inches high. Start your marrows and courgette inside, unless you’re in southern counties where you might need use cloches if there is a frost. If you’re going to grow sweetcorn, plant in blocks not rows. Get poles ready for tomatoes, peas and runner beans, which should be growing in the greenhouse now. Seedlings can be planted out at the end of the month and remember to pinch out new sprouts on the main plant to encourage better tomatoes.
Help our harassed parents in the garden by leaving out mealworms that they can feed chicks. Again, if you have cats, now is the time to make sure they are kept in at dusk and dawn. And look out for red lily beetles, and be aware this is when the war on slugs and snails begins! Also keep an eye out for aphids, they are much easier to deal with when they’re in small numbers.
And, as mentioned, make sure you’ve got your garden furniture ready for evenings sitting and looking over your good work from the comfort of a deck chair and a cold drink!