May Gardening Jobsi
What to Do in the Garden in May: How to Get into the Swing of Spring
May is a joyous month in the garden. With more consistently warm temperatures, a bounty of bank holidays and the promise of summer is just around the corner! It is worth doing some gardening jobs in May to maximise your gardens’ impact in the summer and before soaring temperatures prevent these jobs from getting done.
Here we will look at what to do in the garden in May, what to plant in May and what to sow to get your garden ready for the months ahead. We will also look at some garden, hedge, plant and lawn maintenance to do now, along with some pests and diseases to look out for.
- Trees, hedges, and shrubs
- Garden maintenance
- Pests and diseases?
Top garden jobs to do in May
Nesting season has begun, so we encourage you to check for signs of nesting pruning any of your plants. Nesting birds are less likely to use smaller, less dense shrubs, but it is still worth checking for anything that looks like it could be a home for our feathered friends. If you do find any signs of nesting, try to leave the nest and surrounding plants undisturbed.
One of your gardening jobs in May is to cut back tender shrubs such as fuchsias and pelargoniums and sub-shrubs such as penstemon and Salvias. Make sure to check that the risk of frost has passed in your area before pruning these plants, as their foliage will help protect them from frosts. Check when to expect the last frost in your area and watch the weather forecast.
Spring-flowering shrubs and hedging such as Chaenomeles can be pruned once flowering has finished. We can also prune wall-trained pyracantha, but remember that these are a popular choice for nesting birds in spring. You can also prune evergreen hedging in spring to produce bushier growth; this is sometimes known as a “Chelsea chop”.
- Tie in climbing and Rambling Roses.
Climbing and Rambling roses will grow fast this time of year, especially after a prune. They may need to be tied in to keep them under control and grow where you want them. You will need something to tie them into a trellis, obelisk, pillar, arch or other structure in the garden.
Using either strong twine, tree ties or flexi-tie, you will need to tie roses roughly every 20 centimetres. Gather all the branches and stems together and tie them to your support. Ensure you are not tying so tightly that it could damage the stems and be careful not to overbend the branches.
- Tie in twining climbers
Other climbing plants, such as honeysuckle, Passiflora and clematis, will also need tying in this time of year. You can do this using the same method as shown above with roses. Alternatively, you can weave the plants into a trellis or wire mesh. Again, take care not to overbend and snap older growth. To use this method, you will need to do it a little and often.
As we go further towards summer, we will start seeing more flowers in our gardens. Gardening in May is a very rewarding job. However, we can do a few things now to give our blooms a head start for next year.
- Plant out tender perennials after the risk of frost is passed.
Many parts of the UK can still be affected by frosts in late May, and there is nothing worse than losing plants to a late spring frost. You can check your average last frost date online and monitor temperatures and the weather forecast. Once you are confident that the risk of frost has passed, you can plant your tender perennials and annuals outside.
Flowers to plant in May include tender flowering plants such as dahlias, zinnias, and petunias, which can all be planted out once the risk of frost has passed. However, if these plants get too large in early May, you may want to pot them up to ensure they don’t get root bound before entering the garden.
- Sow flower seeds
Some of the best seeds to sow in May are spring-flowering bedding plants for flowering the following year and winter bedding plants. You can also direct sow summer flowering annuals such as cornflowers, sunflowers, nasturtiums, and poppies.
May is a great time to sow wildflower seeds. The warm temperatures will help speed up germination, but you might need to be diligent with watering if it is a dry month. If you’re wondering what to sow in May, wildflowers, whether a small patch in your garden or an entire meadow, is a great way to make your garden more wildlife friendly.
- What to trim or cut back
Herbaceous perennials such as Rudbeckia, Echinacea, ornamental grasses and umbellifers offer winter interest and food for wildlife. Where possible, the seed heads should be left on over winter. The old growth also provides the plant with some protection from the cold. However, the old growth should now be cut back to allow for new growth.
- Deadhead daffodils and tulips
Deadheading spring flowering bulbs can help them retain their vigour for future years. Make sure to leave the leaves, though, as they will supply the bulb with vital energy for the remainder of the year, ready for flowering the following spring. You can tie the leaves up if you want to tidy them up. This is usually done by gathering them together, bending them in half tying them around the middle.
- Remove faded spring bedding
Fading spring bedding should now be removed to make way for summer bedding. However, you may leave spring bedding a little longer and collect the seeds. These can now be sown for spring bedding next year.
- Divide flowers
May is your last chance to divide summer flowering plants such as agapanthus. Most plants can be divided by lifting them and cutting them into two or three clumps using a knife or spade. However, some plants must be treated slightly differently, so it’s always worth checking first.
- Mulch spring bulbs
You can keep your spring bulbs in top form by mulching them in May. This can be done at any time of the year, but you can see where everything is in May. Use a compost mulch to add organic matter to the soil and improve drainage. A bark mulch can be used to keep moisture in the ground and help to suppress weeds.
Your garden will likely get a lot more use in the following months, whether it’s just you going outside more or if you have pets or children using your garden. So now is a great time to get the essential maintenance done so that your garden is summer ready.
- Lawn Maintenance
- Carry on mowing your lawn in May. Cutting it regularly will help to thicken it and produce a thick, lush lawn. However, if you aren’t precious about your lawn, you may wish to participate in “No Mow May”, a great way to encourage wildlife into your garden. The answer to the question should you mow your lawn in May is entirely up to you; if you want to attract wildlife, leave it; if you want a lush green lawn, continue to mow it.
- Sow a new lawn. If you want to sow a new lawn, early May is perfect. The warmer temperatures will help germination, and it should establish quickly if your lawn is watered regularly.
- Re-seed bare patches. Early May is a great time to repair patches in your lawn by reseeding. It’s best to do this before summer, so the grass has plenty of time to establish itself before it is used regularly.
- Fertilise your lawn with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser. You may want to apply a nitrogen-rich fertiliser to your lawn to encourage growth in late spring and early summer. Do this sparingly. If you do not want to use chemical fertilisers, you may want to make your own fertilisers or sow some clover in your lawn, which will help add nitrogen.
- Carry on topping up bird baths and feeders.
This is a critical time for birds in the garden as they need extra energy for nesting season, and most plants have not yet started to produce seeds and fruits for them to eat. It is, therefore, essential to keep bird feeders topped up. If you have a bird bath, remember to keep this topped up too, and help your garden birds get some water. Providing water for birds in the form of a pond, bird bath or water feature is a perfect way to attract wildlife into your garden.
- Keep on top of weeds by hoeing and removing them by hand.
Weeds will start to proliferate this time of year, so it’s a good idea to stay on top of them now if possible. If you can hoe them or pull them out before they go to seed, this will stop them from spreading. Using a small hand hoe, you should be able to remove weeds from around other plants, or you can pull them up by hand.
Avoid using weed killers as this will damage your soil and potentially harm the plants you want to grow, and the wildlife in your garden.
Pests and diseases
Pests and Diseases
- Box blight
Box blight is a fungal infection that can crop up in May and spread quickly through box plants. It's worth isolating newly bought box plants for around four weeks before introducing them to the garden to make sure there are no signs of blight.
You can decrease the chances of getting box blight by clipping less regularly to allow airflow around the plants. Infected plants should be removed and isolated immediately to prevent spreading blight to your other plants.
Try to keep box plant foliage as dry as possible by watering at the base of the plant rather than overhead. Applying a bark or compost mulch can also help to reduce rain splash, helping to keep your plants drier. Finally, it’s worth noting that antifungal treatments will not stop box blight but slow it down. Therefore, they are not worth the time and the money; if you see blight, remove it immediately.
Alternatively, you may wish to try an alternative to box plants in your garden.
May will see a rise in many insects in the garden, some good and some not so good. Viburnum beetle, vine weevil, lily grub beetle and certain caterpillars are worth keeping an eye out for.
Attracting birds to your garden can help reduce the number of pest insects. You can also remove insects by hand or by using sticky traps if necessary. Steer clear of using insecticide treatments as these harm other wildlife in your garden and can produce imbalances in your garden that, in turn, lead to more pest visitors.
Some work now will pay dividends later in the year. So go out and get your garden summer ready and make the most of being outside this spring. Also, don’t forget to look out for our next blog with your garden jobs for June.
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