May is a wonderful month with just about everything growing after the long dismal winter.
We all hate weeding but do it now as it’s easy with the ground so wet. It’s also a good time to move perennials and shrubs.
Remove faded blooms from spring bulbs, retaining the leaves until they turn yellow to re-energise the bulbs – vital to feed the bulbs for next year! Tulips are ok though and foliage can be cut back.
Prune spring flowering shrubs after flowering but before the next buds start re-growing. Lightly trim pre-July flowering Clematis woody stems – post July Clematis soft stems from last year need to be cut hard back, as the latter flower on new annual growth starting about now!
Sow fast-maturing annuals and summer bulbs such as Acidenthera, Zantedishia Ornithogalum and not forgetting colourful Mirabilis flowers with carrot sized and shaped dark tubers (called the four o’clock plant guess why ), plant out Dahlia tubers, and prepare hanging basket,keep a close eye out for rogue frosts still possible in very early May .
Kitchen garden jobs to do:
Plant vegetables out, but check the ground is well prepared and rotate the vegetable position from last year to avoid generating pathogens. Use netting cover as pigeons are watching you planting with great glee!
Cover ground under strawberries to prevent slugs and snails, collar cabbages, cauliflowers and sprouts to prevent very damaging root fly and earth up potatoes. Try and entice enemies of slugs and snails, hedgehogs but whatever you do please don’t use poison slug pellets they kill animals and other members of your garden animal ecosystem so you gain nothing and lose your animal allies and natural beneficial predators. Think organically, work with nature it will work with you and for you.
Plant families worth exploring
If you have a selection of plants that are growing well in your garden environment it may be worth researching the plant family. Many plants have similar characteristics such as being woody or herbaceous, foliage, fragrance, flowering length, hardiness and soil preference such as acidic or limey and shade or sun position.
Pea family (Leguminaceae or Fabaceae)
Good mostly long flowering plants, many with very attractive ornamental foliage, some fragrant, most hardy. Sweet peas, Coronilla, Lupins, Broom, Cytisis, Genista, Wysteria Laburnum, Robinia and of course vegetable peas all belong to this important family. This family grows valuable nitrogen nodules on the roots so boosting the vital microbes for the nitrogen cycle.
(Beware though, some seeds in the legume family are very poisonous especially Laburnam so try and collect them after they fall, I certainly do, as neighbours dogs or cats may accidentally consume them or even god forbid children!!)
Foxglove Family (Scrophulariaceae or Plantagenaceae)
Many woody ornamental and hardy plants. Good flowering with long tubular flowers, attractive to pollinators. Foxgloves, Penstemon, Veronica, Verbascum, Antirrhinum (treat as tender ) annuals and moisture loving tender Mimulus, all belong to this family.
Rose family (Rosaceae)
Contains a wide range of hardy, ornamental plants many of which are fragrant. Ornamental and fruiting Apple, Pear, Plum, Cherry. Many berry shrubs, Cotoneaster (very good for pollinators), Chaenomeles, Pyracantha, Kerria, Spiraea, Sorbaria, Potentilla, Geum as well as, of course, and maybe the best of all, the huge variety of Roses.
Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae)
Again, a wide range of very tough, woody, many hardy, and very fragrant long flowering plants. Viburnum, Abelia, Honeysuckle (shrubs and climbers), Sambucus, Weigela, Leycesteria, Snowberry and many more are all in this family.
Bell flower family (Campanulaceae)
Many long flowering plants which are excellent for summer borders, containers and hanging baskets. Lobelia, Campanula usually beautiful blue colour.
Daisy family (Asteraceae) Rock Rose Helianthemum (Cistaceae)
One of the must haves flowering from Spring through Summer into late Autumn. Many long flowering plants, a mixture of perennials and annuals (some tender so treat as annuals.) Helianthemums (Cistaceae family ) (rockery perennial), Heliopsis (border perennial), Helianthus (annual and perennial sunflower), Heleniums (sneezewort), Cosmos, Gaillardia, Rudbekia, Aster, Doronicum and some tender annual south African cape daisies (Osteospermum) and not forgetting reliable hardy Erigeron varieties that seem to flower a long time.
Lawn cutting, raise blades for starters, don't mow when wet, or risk poor results after the long winter.
Have a truly wonderful May and dare I say the weather is promising in the uk!!