The longer days are here as well as some sunshine and warmth, so the garden is at last in full swing. All that spring sunshine and rain means that plant growth is speeding up, the grass is growing, and flowers are beginning to bloom, bringing welcome colour to the garden.
All this means that there’s plenty to do in the garden, but it’s a pleasure to be outside at this time of year. So, if you are itching to get out in the garden, here are a few gardening jobs for May to get your garden looking better than ever.
One of the most exciting gardening jobs for May is planting. Now that we are (hopefully) past any risk of frost it’s the perfect time to plant bedding plants. Fill your borders, containers and hanging baskets with fuchsias, lobelias, petunias, geraniums and calibrachoa.
If you have grown your own bedding plants and annuals, it’s important to harden them off before planting them out. Take plants outside during the day and then return them to the greenhouse or windowsill in the evening. Do this for seven days. You can further harden the plants off by leaving them outside at night covered by a fleece for another seven days. After this, they will be strong enough to cope with outside temperatures so you can plant them out.
If you are buying bedding plants or annuals, choose those that are green and bushy with plenty of buds. Prepare the ground by digging over the soil and removing weeds. If you are planting in pots, use a good quality peat-free compost and consider adding some water-retaining granules to smaller pots and hanging baskets to save needing to water them quite so much.
Before planting, give the bedding plants a good soaking, then plant them according to the directions on the label. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, just in case, and cover bedding plants with fleece if a frost is forecast.
Annuals, such as sunflowers, rudbeckia, cosmos, Californian poppy and nasturtiums can also be planted out now. You can also plant out any dahlia and cannas lilies that you have lifted for overwintering. If you have a shady border, add interest with the many varieties of ferns and hostas available.
Remove faded spring bedding, such as wallflowers and forget-me-nots. You can also cut back the brown growth of spring bulbs now and give them a feed, so they do you proud again next spring.
Tie in the new shoots of climbing plants, including clematis, wisteria and honeysuckle, to their supports.
Prune spring-flowering shrubs, such as forsythia and Chaenomeles after flowering to prevent them from getting leggy.
Strawberries will be beginning to flower now so it’s a good idea to mulch them. This will protect the fruits from mud and help prevent them from rotting. The traditional mulch for strawberries is, of course, straw, but you could also use bark or shredded waste paper.
You can sow seeds of runner beans, French beans, mange tout, broad beans, peas and sweetcorn straight out into their final growing space now. Remember to provide supports for runner beans and peas.
If you have grown marrow and courgettes undercover, you can begin to harden them off now and plant them out later in the month. You can also plant out winter cabbages and leeks.
You can also finish planting any carrots, beetroot, swede or turnips you still have, as well as winter cabbage and leeks.
Another important gardening job for May is to keep on top of weeds, pests and diseases. Hopefully, you have mulched your beds and border to retain water and keep down the weeds. If there are any bare patches, add some extra mulch now.
Keeping your plants healthy will help them fend off insects and diseases. Apply a shrub fertiliser now to give shrubs and trees the nutrients they need for growing. Remember to water plants at the base where possible and avoid watering in the cool of the late evening to discourage mildew.
If your patios, decks and paths are dirty or covered with algae and moss then now is the ideal time to give them a clean. A jet wash makes light work of this task though you will undoubtedly get wet, too. Make any repairs required to paths, patios or walls before you finish planting up so you can get to them more easily. Garden furniture can be removed from storage and given a good clean now that the worst of the wind, rain and frosts are over.
Both birds and mammals will appreciate extra food as they are raising their young. Do not leave out loose whole peanuts as these are a choking hazard to young birds – those in a mesh feeder will be fine.
Make sure to provide fresh water for birds and mammals if the weather is dry.
Once you have finished all your gardening jobs for May, it's time to enjoy your garden. Now is the perfect time to dig out the deck chairs or loungers and sit in a sheltered spot to take in the beauty of your patch.
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