What to Do in The Garden in May

May is such a beautiful month in the garden. I love it because we have perennials and annuals out in bloom and there’s still so much more to come, especially the veggies which are some of my favourite things to grow. 

broad beans
Broad beans

What To Do With Veggies In May

I put a few shallot sets out in April and here’s how much they’ve grown so far. A few didn’t take, but that’s OK – gardening is never perfect! I’ve got my shallots in a 1 x 1 metre raised bed in a sunny spot. 

Onion and shallots need plenty of sun and well-drained soil to thrive. I also have to cover mine because pigeons pull them out and next door’s cat thinks it’s an excellent toilet. 

shallots
Shallots

These small raised beds are really good if you have a small garden. The base is open to the soil and the sides are 25cms high to contain compost. There are covers to match the size too. If you’re new to gardening, fed up with cats or pigeons, or have a small space to utilise I’d recommend this method.  

My early potatoes are in too

Potato sacks
Potato sacks

These sacks are also very handy for small gardens or balconies. I like them because they free up a bed for other vegetables. Spuds take ages to grow and use a lot of space. As long as these bags are well watered and you keep heaping compost on top of the greenery called ‘earthing up’ you’ll have an excellent harvest. Only put 2 – 3 potatoes in so they have space to grow. 

Carrots are a fun veggie to grow in May. I also put these in raised beds because I can use soft stone-free compost. I put these in at the end of April so a few weeks and they should start poking through. 

So many other vegetable seeds can go in now. Sweetcorn, beetroot, radish, beans, courgettes, and pumpkins ready for Halloween. If it’s warm outside tomatoes and cucumbers will go great guns in a sunny spot. When they begin to flower start feeding them with liquid tomato food. 

Pick your rhubarb as it matures to encourage new stems. My rhubarb are all new crowns, so I won’t harvest anything year, I’ll just leave the foliage and stems to die down and feed the plants ready for a bumper crop next year. 

If you have strawberry plants it’s time to remove all the runners so their energy goes into creating large juicy strawberries. Plant up the runners in pots and keep them watered to make new strawberry plants for next year. 

Put up frames for runner beans and vertical gourds so they can be tied in as soon as they get tall enough,

What To Do With Flowers In May

Summer bedding is a great way to brighten up your borders and hanging baskets. It’s best to harden off young plants before they go into their final positions. If you have a greenhouse or cold frame put them outside, if not put them in a sunny spot against the house wall and cover them in horticultural fleece overnight and watch out for snails!

Large plants have a tendency to flop as they get larger so now is an excellent time to put their supports in place. You can buy frames or make wooden supports to keep hydrangea, delphiniums, peonies, sweet peas, and phlox plus all the others off the ground. It is better to put them in place now so the plant can make use of the support straight away.

If any of your shrubs or perennials are flowering give them a good feed. You can use liquid mixes, pellets or manure. Feeding is especially important for any plant in a container as they quickly use up the available nutrients. 

It’s also worth keeping an eye on the weather forecast for any late frosts. A late frost can wipe out your seedlings and young plants so it’s always worth having a roll of horticultural fleece on hand to protect them.

And last but not least, remove any dead heads from shrubs like camellias so they can begin forming new buds for next year

Camellia
Camellia

How to Tend to Your Lawn And Hedges In May

Trim the topiary to keep it bushy and dense. Just wait for the flowers to fade and then gently trim the new growth on box balls, yew pyramids, cloud pruned topiary – all your shaped topiary. I trim my box balls with flipped garden shears so the curved part of the shears wraps over the ball. 

It’s the last month you can lay turf or sow grass seed without it turning into a fight against the heat. In May the ground is warm enough to promote grass roots, but later in summer the ground bakes dry. 

If you have bare patches get them covered! Garden centres have turf in from Easter until around June. Go in the early morning so the turf roots haven’t baked dry all day. 

Existing lawns benefit from lawn food now. Rake the lawn over to remove any moss or dead grass and follow the instructions on your lawn food box. Keep mowing! (Urgh, I hate mowing!) Consider leaving some areas unmown for wildlife. 

Hedges are growing like crazy now. Trim them back after the flowering period and tidy them up, do keep an eye out for nesting birds though. Trimming back hedges now saves a massive job in autumn. 

How to Help Out Wildlife In May

Birds need help all year round and in May it’s because they have chicks to feed. Parent birds are so busy flying back and forwards to keep their demanding chicks fed. 

You can help by putting out seeds in a feeder and scraps you put out should be cut very small. Baby birds can choke on large pieces of food including whole peanuts. Put peanuts in a cage feeder so parents can take small chunks.

Water is important, and if you top up your birdbath every day they will take advantage. Be sure you regularly scrub feeders and baths to prevent mould and disease

Hedgehogs are also out in force! My garden is full of poo! Hedgehog houses are a good way to keep them safe especially as females are having their litters now. 

Put a hedgehog house in a covered, shady part of the garden away from their food source and you never know, one might move in.

Hedgehog
Hedgehog

Frogs and toads have been making their way back to the hatching ponds to spawn, so you may find tadpoles and froglets before long. I found this froglet only measuring an inch in with my broad beans!

Froglet
Froglet

Before you cut back any long grass, move furniture or brush up leaf piles give them a shake before gently moving them. Amphibians and hedgehogs like an undisturbed spot, it’s only fair to give them a chance to escape.

Bats are easy to spot now. At dusk, you may see them swooping around house eaves or around wooded areas echolocating to find juicy months. I find my house security light draws in moths and we have two bats visit every evening. They are much too fast to take a photo but it’s fascinating to watch them – especially for kids who always enjoy a bat watching session before bed. 

How to Deal with Garden Pests In May

Let’s talk aphids, greenfly, blackflies all the tiny vampire-like pests that bleed your beloved plants to death. I am being dramatic! It’s very tempting to spray them, but pesticides are a kill-all solution that also finishes off ladybirds, caterpillars (that’s a baby butterfly or moth) bees, hoverflies and other beneficial insects. 

Instead, wipe aphids away with soapy washing up gloves – be careful on thorny roses – and if you want to spray your plants an effective treatment is a citrus wash. 

To make a citrus wash, soak lemon or orange peel in water overnight and pour it into a spray bottle. An old kitchen cleaner bottle will do. Citrus deters aphids but you’ll need to repeat the treatment each week to keep the scent in place.

I’ve found that the worst aphid infestation is an ant-owned aphid farm. They seem to love making a farm in my young apple trees. To combat them I apply a thick layer of Vaseline to the tree’s trunk and that stops ants from getting up into the blooms to protect their aphids. After that, it’s not long before the blue tits arrive for a banquet. 

Slugs and snails are a menace in May, they love the fresh new shoots of young plants like this unfurling hosta. 

Hosta
Hosta

It’s your job to protect them! Molluscs don’t like sharp things, so try surrounding the ground with a gravel mulch, anti-slug wool or eggshells. 

Copper bands work very well on containers or raised beds because they give the snail a small electric shock. Beer traps are also effective. 

It’s also worth turning over wood, stone, and other places slugs like to hide in. Regularly check over your large leafy plants. I find slugs hidden in the rhubarb and hostas every day. 

Tending to Patios, Decks, and Garden Furniture In May

Apply wood treatments if you haven’t so far, and think about investing in a pressure washer to blast your deck, patio, fence panels, furniture, containers and garden ornaments clean. 

A pressure washer is a fantastic buy because it can be used gently on the car or house windows too. If you don’t have an outside water supply, choose a portable pressure washer that feeds from a bucket of water. 

Check your pergolas and archways for damage and repair them before plants cover the structure. It’s much easier to see what you’re doing and it’s surprising how heavy a climbing potato plant or jasmine can get in full foliage. 

Wobbly arches that are just about standing up now probably won’t take the weight of a fully blooming passionflower in August!

Enjoy A Beautiful May!

Enjoy your May in the garden and don’t forget the most important job which is to have multiple cups of tea in the warm sunshine – this is essential!

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