May Jobs in the Garden
April 28, 2022

May is here and that means glorious spring weather – and plenty of gardening jobs! With the weather so warm now, your garden will be growing fantastically, with lots of flowers blossoming and the kitchen garden ready to get off to a great start. With any luck, May jobs in the garden can be done while basking in the warm sunshine, making them a pleasure to do. 

Gardening Tips for May

Wondering what you can plant this month? What jobs need to be done? Here are our top gardening tips for May to help your garden thrive in every area, from your flowers to your beds, borders, veg and more.

Get Climbers Growing

Secure any stems of clematis, roses, honeysuckle, or other climbing plants that are looking a little unstable. This will prevent harsh winds snapping them so as to make sure you can still enjoy your vertical displays when flowers blossom.

Prune early flowering clematis as the blooms fade. If your climbers have got too big for patch or pots, grab some secateurs and prune the stems above the leaf joint to maintain neatness. 

Secure beautiful summer scents by planting sweet pea seedlings somewhere with plenty of sun. Use a trellis, wigwam or other method of support to help them weave up and look their best. If you didn’t manage to sow seeds earlier on in the year, buy some ready-grown plants.

Hanging Baskets

If your hanging baskets aren’t yet prepared and waiting patiently in your greenhouse, plant them up with pre-grown live plants or plugs you’ve grown on yourself. Here’s how:

  • Fill your basket ¾ full with compost
  • Make small wells in the compost for your plug plants
  • Put the rootballs in the wells and add several scoops of feed containing water-absorbing crystals and slow-release fertiliser
  • Cover the top of the rootball with compost and use your hands to gently firm up the soil around it so it’s nice and secure
  • Water and then hang up in pride of place!

Beds and Borders

Neaten up any faded hellebores. Snip off blossoming stems of stinking hellebore at ground level, and dead head the many varieties of Lenten rose to promote better growth.

A lot of perennials will be looking a little lacklustre halfway through summer, so give them a hand by carrying out the ‘Chelsea Chop’ – this is a technique carried out by nurserymen at the end of May. Plants, such as Rudbeckia, Helenium, Sedum and Solidago, can be cut back by half, leading to bushier plants that will bloom slightly later.

If your exotic plants have been kept wrapped up to shield them from the cold, you can now let them thrive unprotected. Bananas, tree ferns and palms are now in full growth mode, and any insulating material will impede the new growth.

Prune faded flower heads of lupins, delphiniums and other early flowering perennials so as to stop them going to seed. Cut them back to a set of leaves.

Thin out crowded delphiniums, leaving 5-7 shoots on established plants to ensure final displays are the best they can be.

Potted Plants

Pull up any forget-me-nots, wallflowers, violas, and other spring bedding plants as their flowers fade. Cut them up and throw on your compost heap.

Water your plants well in the morning so they have a good supply that will last all day. Aim to water early on, rather than during the day, so the roots get a chance to have a drink before the water evaporates in the sun. Another reason not to water in the middle of the day is that any splashes on leaves could get scorched in the sun.

Mulch the surface of pots with gravel, grit, crushed glass or another decorative material to reduce moisture loss from wind and sun, and prevent weeds from coming up and stealing your plants’ nutrients.

Move potted shrubs or perennials into bigger containers to promote healthy growth. Generally speaking, plants will need repotting once a year, but this can be easily checked. Simply lift the plant out of its container and if there’s a mass of roots underneath, it needs a bigger pot.

Restore overgrown or untidy evergreen shrubs to their former glory with some secateurs. Cutting off any unwanted branches in late spring will give them ample time to grow further, growth which will mature before the colder weather arrives in autumn/winter.

For a stunning blossoming display next year, deadhead lilacs when the flowers are spent. To do this, wait until you see two shoots beneath the spent bloom start to swell, then chop off the flower head just above them with a pair of pruners.

Give ribes, pieris and kerria a light pruning when the flowers fade – cut back spindly stems and get rid of any diseased growth to protect the plants as they grow.

In the Kitchen Garden

Sow sweetcorn seeds in twos, placing them 2.5cm deep and 45cm apart. Water them and once they start shooting up, remove the weakest seedling in each pair. 

Earth up potatoes once stems are about 22cm tall to prevent developing spuds going green. Draw up soil, leaving 10cm of growth showing.

Sow seeds of French beans, cabbage, runner beans, kale, carrots, and cauliflowers outside. For summer salads, try radish, salad leaves and spring onions.

Pinch out the tops of broad beans to prevent an infestation of black bean aphid, which is attracted to tender young shoot tips.

Feed tomatoes once a week with a fertiliser high in potash to help the fruits enlarge. Tie in stems and get rid of any side-shoots.

Remove the central flower spike from rhubarb clusters so that new stems for you to harvest keep growing.

Neaten up rows of raspberry canes by removing shoots that are too far away to be tied in easily.

Encourage bigger and better growth on gooseberry plants by removing every other fruit. This will ensure that those that are left have enough room to swell to a healthy size. 

Look out for caterpillar-like, sawfly larvae on gooseberry and currant bushes. These pests are extremely harmful to the plants, leading them to lose their leaves fast. Control them with pesticides containing pyrethrum.

Keep young fruit trees well-watered as now is the time that rapid growth begins.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our gardening tips for May and, more importantly, carrying them out! Once you’ve finished all your May jobs in the garden, your work will certainly pay off. Get ready to see stunning displays of flowers and a great bounty of veg in your kitchen garden!