The sun has made a few appearances recently and brought with it that lovely feeling we Brits get when we think that we might actually get a decent summer this year. Optimistic long-term weather reports suggest that summer 2017 will be hot and mostly dry (hooray!). But with great summers come great responsibilities: your garden may have been a tad neglected over the winter months and now needs some attention before you can sit back and enjoy it.
There are some jobs that will always need doing, like mowing the lawn and clipping back the hedges (those are going to have to happen much more often from now on, so that you can go and sit in your garden or host a barbecue without anyone being calf-deep in grass), but there are some gardening tasks that are best done at particular times of year.
By May, in theory, you should have planted and seen lots of lovely spring bulbs flower – if you haven’t by now, it’s a bit late. But that’s okay, there are still plenty of things you can do to make your garden look tidy, floral and beautiful. Here is our list of 10 gardening jobs to do in May:
Flowers and beds:
1. Catch those dandelions before they seed. It’s around this time of year that dandelions and other weeds (such as chickweed and nettles) begin to seed. Pull them up or treat them with grass-safe weedkiller now before they blow their seeds to more parts of your garden or annoy your garden-proud neighbours. Give yourself half a day to just blitz weeds and afterwards just keep an eye out to maintain your garden’s weed-free status.
2. Put nets around any fruiting plants. If you have strawberry bushes (or any other fruiting plant), they will begin to bear fruit in the next month or so – place nets around them now to prevent birds from making off with your berries.
3. Stick in garden canes to support plants that will need some support as they grow (such as climbing roses and sweet peas), as May is when they typically begin to flourish.
4. Wildflowers can add a nice splash of colour to your garden and attract pollinating bugs, but at this time of year they begin to seed and can spread to the extent that they become a nuisance. Pull up any forget-me-not plants or ‘fox-and-cubs’ that are beginning to spring up where they’re not wanted to avoid having to do a lot of weeding later on.
5. If you have any lavender plants, now is the time to trim back last year’s flowers, taking them back by about 2.5cm of new growth to keep them healthy and prevent them from becoming too woody.
6. Add a liquid feed to any plants kept in containers, to encourage healthy growth.
7. If you have an asparagus bed, you should be able to harvest some of your asparagus now. These incredible vegetables grow almost overnight, so once you have harvested some, check each day for new growth as they grow in bountiful numbers over a very short period. You will soon be eating asparagus with every meal, and by the end of the month when the asparagus finally stops appearing, your family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours will all have been gifted some asparagus that they may or may not actually have wanted.
8. Potatoes are really easy to grow and don’t need much space, either – you can plant some seed potatoes in a deep gardening bag in plenty of soil and within a few weeks you will have plenty of spuds. During this month, make sure you turn the top of the soil regularly to make sure none of the tubers are exposed to light.
9. If you visit the garden centre and invest in some shrubs or flowering plants, make sure you also spend a little more on some slug-repellent or the little creatures will treat your new plants as a salad bar. Take care if you have pets to ensure that you read the labels to ensure that the slug-repellent you choose will not harm anything you don’t want it to.
10. Check your plants regularly for aphids, which can appear suddenly and in large numbers to feast on your plants. Their presence can encourage other creatures such as ladybirds and birds to visit your garden, but these natural predators can’t usually adequately control an aphid infestation. To protect your plants, you can use chemical or non-chemical methods to remove them.
Having taken care of the above, turn your attention towards preparing some summer bedding plants by gradually hardening them off (to get them used to changeable weather outdoors) before placing them into position. Growing flowers in your garden throughout spring and summer not only looks attractive but will also encourage bees (which are pretty ecologically important, of course) and other bugs, which in turn will encourage birds to visit your garden. Sitting back and enjoying the sound of birdsong and gentle buzzing from the bees in the background after all your hard work in the garden is a lovely way to spend an afternoon!
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