Gardening Tips for May


Thinking back to Easter last year, I realised that was the start of all the wet weather we’ve had over the last year. Let’s hope that now that we’ve gone a complete 12 months with wet, cold and miserable weather, the sun decides it’s now time to shine and the weather starts improving.

Because of the very cold, snowy and windy weather that we’ve had over the last few weeks everything is approximately 3 weeks behind. For this reason many of the gardening tips that were applicable to March and April will still be relevant as we go into May.

Unpredictable weather

We’ve always maintained that summer bedding and hanging baskets shouldn’t be put outside until the end of May and this year it’s even more important that tender plants aren’t put out too soon. The weather at this time of year is far too unpredictable and changeable to take the risk of planting tender plants outside before we’re sure the last of the frosts have gone.

If you’ve got empty tubs and spaces in the garden, there’s plenty of spring bedding plants available at the moment – summer flowering pansies will last for months and the new ‘Cool Wave’ variety looks particularly good at the moment. Violas are a pretty alternative to pansies, the new ‘Senetti (Cineraria) will stand several degrees of frost outside and will repeat flower throughout the coming months.

Start hanging baskets

There’s a good selection of young geraniums, fuchsias and basket plants available at the moment, so you can start hanging baskets and pots off inside in a warmish greenhouse, they can be stood outside if we get a nice warm day, but bring them inside at night. Don’t be tempted to put them in a dark garage or shed, they need good light levels at the moment to get established.


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. There’s still time to put a mulch round plants if you haven’t already done so, apply a top dressing of general purpose fertilizer before hand – Growmore, Bonemeal or Fish, Blood and Bone.


As the ground begins to warm up, work will gather pace in the vegetable patch with sowings of vegetables direct into the garden. Small sowings, little and often will give a regular supply of vegetables. To encourage ground to warm up quicker, cover cultivated areas with cloches. On a sunny day it will soon warm up, then sow seeds under the cloches and once germinated remove the covers during the day so that too much heat doesn’t build up and scorch young plants. If planting potatoes make sure that any green growth is protected from late frosts. Remember it’s too early to plant out tender vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and melons – wait until the end of May, beginning of June before planting these outside. You can start growing them inside but they need night temperatures of approximately 15 deg C.

Pruning and deadheading

Prune spring flowering shrubs once flowering has finished – forsythia and flowering currants, this will produce nice long growths for next spring’s flowers. Dead head spring flowering bulbs as they finish and apply a top dressing of fertilizer, leaving any green growth on to send nutrients back to the bulb to build it up for next springs’ flowers.

Erect stakes, canes and plant supports round herbaceous plants now before they get too tall and flop over. Plant herbaceous plants in borders, in groups of 3 or 5 for instant impact. Watch out for slug damage on lush new growth. Use slug pellets, liquids or one of the natural controls such as grit or ‘Slug Off’ as soon as signs of their activity is seen.

Continue to spray roses fortnightly throughout the growing season against black spot and mildew using Roseclear Ultra or Multirose 2.

Get mowing

As the weather improves the grass will start growing and need cutting. Do a light cut first, gradually reducing the mower height over several cuts. Weeds and moss can be treated with products such as Scotts ‘Evergreen Complete’ which will fertilize the lawn as well as killing weeds and moss. Never be tempted to rake out moss before killing it, you’ll just make the problem worse.

This months gardening tips were provided by Ann Winwood of Lealans Garden Centre, Shipley


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