May to me is a glorious month of lilac, foxgloves, roses and alliums. There will be asparagus, spinach and salad leaves to eat and if I am very lucky, the first peas and broad beans. There is also a trip to the Chelsea Flower Show to look forward too. The priority jobs this month are to weed and deadhead my beds and to carry out the ‘Chelsea Chop’ by the end of the month.
Here is a list of the jobs I try to complete during May. These are jobs for my garden, so you can delete those that do not apply to you:
- Water pots and newly planted shrubs, perennials and seedlings.
- Watch out for the beginning of slug and other pest damage.
- Ensure beds are tidy and well weeded – I need to keep an eye out for bindweed, ground elder, nettles and sticky weed, which are all growing strongly by now. My hope is that by keep digging out all the roots they will eventually weaken and give up! I also deadhead the spring bulbs as they go over, but I always leave the foliage to turn brown before removing it.
- Cut lawns regularly and trim edges fortnightly (apart from meadow areas of course).
- Plant summer flowering bulbs, e.g. lilies and agapanthus, in large containers.
- Clear out spring displays as they go over. The bulbs are replanted in the woodland and I refresh compost and add water retaining granules and slow release fertiliser to the pots. I pot up summer bedding around mid May and, in the event of a rogue frost, cover my pots with fleece.
- Continue to feed and water permanent container plantings.
- Buy plugs of tender bedding early in the month to grow on under cover.
- Move tender plants in pots outside towards the end of the month eg French lavender, brugmansia, citrus trees.
- Keep the greenhouse well ventilated and shaded if possible.
- Sow seeds of biennials towards the end of the month, eg foxgloves, wallflowers and sweet williams for planting out in the autumn. I use either a seed bed or plugs in the cold frames, depending on room.
- Plant indoor tomatoes into their final places in the greenhouse bed (or pots/growbags) and support with bamboo canes. Continue to pinch out sideshoots and start to feed weekly as soon as the first flowers open.
- Winter crops need to be started off by the end of the month. I check that the seeds have been purchased – crops include cauliflowers, savoy cabbages, brussel sprouts, kale, chard, sprouting broccoli. These can be started in a seedbed or in plugs. My preference is for plugs as it is easier to protect them from pests, particularly cabbage white fly.
Shrub Beds & Herbaceous Borders:
- Late May is the time for the Chelsea Chop. This will benefit late summer and autumn perennials eg sedums, phlox, heleniums, echinacea and asters. It involves cutting back some or all of the stems by one third to a half. You can also vary the heights to give a succession of flowers.
- Finish planting tender summer bulbs, corms and tubers such as gladioli and dahlias (only dahlia tubers – plants must remain protected until after the last frosts).
- Continue to tie in sweetpeas to supports.
- Stake borders early in the month if not already done.
- Tie in new stems on clematis, climbing roses and honeysuckle.
- Prune early flowering shrubs eg forsythia, mahonia, viburnum tinus, kerria, spirea ‘Arguta’.
- Dead head tulips as they go over but leave the foliage to die back.
Fruit & Vegetables:
- Protect strawberries from soil with straw or strawberry mats.
- Thin seedlings and keep them weed free.
- Continue to successional sow salad crops.
- Plant out tender crops towards the end of the month but be ready with the fleece – a late frost will kill them.
- Pinch out the tips of broad beans and spray regularly with a fatty acid spray to try and prevent blackfly.
- Successional sow carrots, beetroot, spinach and a variety of salad.
That should keep us all very busy, but if I have missed anything important please let me know!