May Gardening Advice

Cow-parsley-lined and Hawthorn-blossom-filled hedgerows with Bluebells at their feet, hello to the dreamy days of May! This month’s list of gardening jobs is overwhelmingly endless so here are the top 10 on mine:
  1. Herbaceous borders
Last chance to put supports in place. Peonies, Delphiniums and Oriental Poppies need help to keep their heavy flower heads standing tall and straight. Prune back late flowering herbaceous perennials by 1/3 (delayed flowering helps plants to grow stronger). Prunings of many of these plants can be used for propagating.  
  1. Trim Buxus hedges and topiary.
Remember to check for nests first! Apply general purpose fertiliser after clipping. Box is easily propagated from cuttings (I have a plastic sealable sandwich bag to hand for collecting the strongest clippings up and to preserve moisture). Cuttings root best in moist soil in part shade. Check for pests and diseases while carrying out the clipping (Buxus moth-tiny green/black caterpillar and Box aphid- greyish white, fluff-like dust).  
  1. Vegetable plot:
Plant out leeks, salad crops, carrots, runner beans, onions and strawberry plants. Put runner bean supports in place before planting. Delay planting out French beans, sweet corn, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes or plant under glass if possible. Keep an eye on potato shoots as they need protecting from frost. Early crops may need earthing up later this month.  
  1. Herb garden:
Many hardy herbs can be safely planted out now (rosemary, parsley, mint and thyme). Tender herbs like basil and tarragon will be arriving in the Plant Centre later this month.  
  1. Cutting garden:
Sweet peas should be growing strong and will need regular tying in, every 10 days or so. They like moisture, watering well is very important. Once in bloom, cut regularly to prolong the flowering season. There’s still time to sow annuals for cutting (cornflower, cosmos, zinnia).  
  1. Bedding plants:
Plant up containers and baskets but don’t leave them outside quite yet. Hardening plants off outdoors during the day is safe but return them to the greenhouse for protection at night time. Keep pinching out Fuchsias, Petunias and Verbenas for bushier and healthier plants. Summer bedding plants can be planted in the garden once all danger of frost has passed.  
  1. Fruit garden:
Mulch around strawberry plants with straw to stop fruit from spoiling. Check gooseberry bushes (also white and red currants) for sawfly. They can cause complete defoliation within days. Hang coddling moth traps in plum and apple trees. Harvest rhubarb, only pick 1/3 of stems per plant.  
  1. Composting
All this manic gardening will generate a lot of waste. Invest in a compost bin and turn your grass and hedge cuttings, weeds and other compostable garden waste into lovely plastic bag free compost. I am a bit of a composting fanatic so call in for advice.  
  1. Inspect plants for pests and diseases:
Early prevention is easier than curing an infestation. Vine weevils, lily beetles, aphids, carrot fly and sawflies are the ones to look out for now. Lots of safe and organic methods available.  
  1. Take time out of all this hard work.

Enjoy the many open gardens and flower shows. RHS Chelsea Flower Show is upon us again and I am overjoyed to see many of the garden designers highlight how gardening as therapy can help with the everyday stresses faced by so many people. Let’s celebrate the plants and gardens around us as the route to health and happiness.   Call in for advice or if you just need a chat, you’ll find me amongst the Lupins or the Foxgloves or the Acers.  


- Jane, Horticulturalist at Oakchurch Garden Centre.

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