Gardeners Month May

The month of May is named after the Greek goddess Maia who is also Bona Dea (Roman Goddess of fertility).
The Anglo Saxon word for May was Tri-Milchi meaning three milks, as the grass had become lush and green so you were able to milk your cows three times a day.

The months birth flower is the lily of the valley and Crataegus monogyma the common hawthorn .
May is considered to be one of the best months of the garden year.
There is the fresh look of spring and the promise of summer on the way.
You will see tulips of all different colours standing up and looking good.
Trees that are in full leaf looking lush and vibrant in the stronger sunlight.
This is the month for the Rhododendron to burst forth into bloom looking spectacular and colourful. If you’re in Northumberland a visit to the Quarry Garden at Belsay Hall is well worth a visit.


May is a busy month as there will be more things needing done. As the spring bedding plants start to fade you can start considering the summer replacements.
Don’t be in to much of a hurry, although garden centres will be full of fresh looking colourful replacements. They may look tempting but bear in mind that without a greenhouse or cold frame for protection a nights frost can cause much damage to these tender new plants.
If you are planting out in the open be prepared and cover new plantings with protection fleece on the really cold nights.

The May weather is usually more settled, brighter warmer days heralding a move towards the summer.
But there is the occasional nights frost which can catch you out and ruin the past few months work.
It is rare but not unknown to have the very occasional hail storm again causing much heartache with damage to soft growing plants. So be vigilant and listen to weather forecasts and take appropriate action when needed to protect all your hard work and preparation for the coming summer months.

As days warm up there will be jobs a plenty to be getting on with.
Make sure you check any new or recent plantings and water if required. A lot of these will have shallow roots near the surface which can dry out and can check a plants growth dramatically.
Keep beds tidy and remove any debris lying around which could harbour slugs and snails who are just waiting for the damp weather to come and get a free meal munching on all the nice new growth as your plants start to come through.
As plants start to grow at a pace so do the weeds, so get the hoe out and catch these early and at a small size cutting them off at soil level leaving them to shrivel and dry on the surface. Always be on the lookout for any pests and taking early action will lessen any damage.

There are many star plants to see this month such as the low growing Corydalis flexuosa, a lovely plant with fresh green ferny foliage and vibrant blue flowers.
Prunus is another which gives a spectacular display from pink to cream and white.
Cherry blossom always gives the garden a uplifting and joyful look at this time of year.
Rhododendron in many colours look great in any woodland or garden setting from the pastel peach colours to the vibrant scarlet red which shout at you “look at me I’m here”.
The early flowering clematis Montana burst into bloom with hundreds of small flowers smothering the whole plant giving a spectacular display at this time of year.

Here are some of the jobs for the month.

Thin out drifts of hardy annuals you’ve sown to allow more growing room.
Harden off Dalhias and any tender greenhouse grown plants ready for planting out.
Divide Hostas as they start to grow so increasing stock for elsewhere.
Tie in any soft new growth of climbing and rambling roses.
Prune spring flowered shrubs once flowering is past.
Trim growth of lavender cutting off old flowers and cut back 1” of last years’ growth.
Prune early clematis such as Montana after flowering removing dead or overcrowded stems.
Start feeding container plants a balanced feed every two to four weeks to improve growth.
Keep on the watch for any pests and diseases which can cause damage to plants.
Weed beds and borders regular to keep down those unwanted arrivals.

Earth up potatoes which should now be coming through.
Thin early sowings of carrot and lettuce giving them more room to grow.
Protect carrot seedlings with enviro mesh from the devastating carrot fly.
Plant brassicas in their final positions.
Support pea plants coming through with netting or twiggy sticks.
Weed on a regular basis catching them early with a hoe makes easy work.
Use long canes to support runner beans which will grow faster as it warms up.
Feed garlic and onions to boost them into growth.

Continue pricking out seedlings and any cuttings taken earlier on.
Start hardening off half hardy bedding plants ready to plant out soon.
Plant tomatoes cucumbers and peppers for summer harvesting.
Apply summer shading as sun scorch and overheating can be a problem.
Ventilate on a regular basis as the days warm up and the sun gets stronger.
Damp down on hot days to increase humidity which reduces heat and deters red spider mite.
Hang up yellow sticky traps for catching white fly ,thrips and other pests.

Apply lawn weedkiller this month if required.
Start feeding with a high nitrogen feed to encourage growth.
Sow lawn seed to repair any bare patches.
Water lawn during hot spells if needed.
Gradually reduce mower blades to the summer cutting height.
The above are just some of the jobs to be getting on with this month. As the month progresses jobs will increase as the weather warms up, but do take time out to sit with a cup of tea or coffee and just enjoy the outdoors .
It really is one of the best times of the year to be in your garden.

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