Hopefully. when you read this article in the May edition of What’s What!, our typically British and unpredictable weather will have changed for the better and we can all look forward to summer gardening!
Baskets & Tubs
Start making up hanging baskets and tubs now, but don’t put them outside at night until the beginning of June, a late frost will spoil them. Use a good multipurpose or tub and basket compost. If you want to use a multi-purpose compost, add some water retainer and slow release fertiliser before using it in baskets and tubs. There are many types of baskets and liners available, moss linings are more work but worth the extra effort for a natural look. Ideally, you need one good sized plant to put in the centre of the basket, geraniums or upright fuchsias are ideal for this job. Then add a mixture of trailing geraniums, trailing fuchsias and any of the large range of hanging basket plants that are available, plus the traditional trailing lobelia and bedding plants.
Water regularly – every day when the sun starts shining and feed weekly with a plant food such as Miracle Grow All Purpose or Phostrogen. Don’t forget to dead head often and your plants will give colour right through to the autumn.
Clear out spring bedding plants in the borders once they’ve finished flowering and remove the foliage from summer flowering bulbs once it begins to die back. If it’s dry when planting out summer bedding, keep them well watered to allow them to develop a good root system. Adding moisture control granules to the border is a good way of helping the soil hold in moisture for longer. Feed and dead head regularly for long lasting displays.
Hoe borders regularly, preferably on a nice sunny day, and any weeds that are beginning to get established will wilt and die off quickly – regular hoeing will also allow air into the top layer of soil and encourage root growth.
With water companies introducing water restrictions in neighbouring areas, consider adding a water butt to one of your downpipes, this will give a good supply of water after any rain. Micro irrigation systems are ideal for watering hanging baskets and tubs and can also be used on borders. They will use less water and once set up will save you time every time the plants need water. When you do water, give the plants a good soak and they won’t need watering again for several days – tubs and baskets need watering on a daily basis, especially in warm weather. Don’t bother watering a lawn, whilst a lush green lawn looks very nice, grass will recover very quickly once it does start to rain again.
Washing up and bath water can be used to water borders and pots, the soap won’t hurt your plants but it will help in the control of any aphids.
There’s still plenty to plant out in the vegetable plot, especially things like runner beans, sweet corn and salad crops. Plant smaller quantities little and often to keep a steady supply of veg for the kitchen. As potatoes grow, earth up the new growth. Remember, don’t plant out tomato plants or cucumbers until it’s warmer at night – they soon go blue if there’re cold! Towards the end of May/beginning of June they can be put into an unheated greenhouse if the weather is good, followed by planting outside several weeks later.
Prune spring flowering shrubs once flowering has finished – forsythia and flowering currants, this will produce nice long growths for next spring’s flowers. Continue spraying roses against mildew and blackspot every fortnight. Do continue to look out for slug damage on young herbaceous plants and summer bedding such as marigolds. Use slug pellets or one of the natural controls that are available.
May’s gardening tips are provided by Ann Winwood of Lealans Garden Centre, Shipley.