Well, after a rainy week of April showers, May is almost upon us. It’s hotting up and gardening is now in full swing. Here are some gardening tasks for May to help with your plan of action.
Chaenomeles / Japanese Quince – image beechwoodtrees
Prune Spring Flowering Shrubs for Next Year’s Display
Deciduous shrubs that flower in late winter, spring and early summer need annual pruning to help encourage strong shoots. Annual pruning improves flowering and extends the life of the plant.
Pruning depends on the type of the plant, but all need damaged, diseased or dead wood removed – by cutting back to point of origin or ground level. Remove some stems at ground level to keep the bush open with good air flow. Take out any weak, twiggy shoots so that the plant concentrates on building strong new shoots.
Forsythia – image plantopedia
Forsythia in particular needs attention, and should be pruned each year after flowering as they can become unmanageable. You can do this by using sharp secateurs and loppers. Remove a quarter of the old growth at the base of the plant. Remove any damaged, diseased or dead wood by cutting to the ground. Finally prune stems that have just flowered down to two buds above the previous years growth.
Cut Evergreen Hedges
May is a good time to trim evergreen hedges in your garden, such as Lonicera (Honeysuckle), Box and Yew. Crisp edges on hedges always look good, and trimming will also remove any dead or damaged wood. Small hedges can be trimmed with shears and larger hedges with an electric/fuel hedge trimmer. Bird nesting/breeding season is between 1st March and 31st July – hedges should be thoroughly inspected and should not be cut during this time if there is any sign of nesting.
Please read the RSPB’s website regarding hedge cutting and the law before undertaking any hedge cutting:
Get on Top of Weeds
Pulling up or hoeing weeds early in the season whilst they are young and their roots haven’t penetrated too far into the soil, will make them much easier to remove. Mulching the surface of the soil around plants will help to suppress weeds and will also retain moisture for plants. A thick layer of mulch a few inches deep should do the job. As much as I love Dandelions, pulling up whole plants with roots intact this week has been quite satisfying whilst weeding customers’ gardens.
Plant Up Hanging Baskets
If you have some sheltered areas, a greenhouse or other undercover zones in your garden, now is a great time to plant up hanging baskets. By June and July your baskets will be brimming over with rainbows of colour!
Sprinkle in some slow release fertiliser and water storing crystals into the compost mix whilst planting to help with water retention, and then place them outside towards the end of May. There are so many plants to choose from for hanging baskets, or what about some fun veg instead?
Love Your Pond
Some plants can become dominant in a pond, so for overcrowding, lift and divide plants. Maybe give some to a neighbour or friend as a gift? Remove some pond algae and blanket weed to allow the water to oxygenate properly.
Leave any material that you’ve removed on the side of the pond over night, giving creatures a chance to crawl back in. Marginal plants in baskets can be lifted and divided. Baskets of plants can be topped up with gravel.
Sweet peas – image saga
Support Sweet peas
My mum’s Sweet peas always fill me with wonder – she has a real skill with them, and creates a fantastic display each year. If you sowed seed in the autumn now that warmer weather is here they should be doing well and you’ll need to tie in supports shortly. Or of course you can buy some small inexpensive plants from your local garden centre and plant them out.
Sweet peas need nutrition and moisture, so make sure your compost or soil retains water well and keep an eye on water stress. Comfrey pellets sprinkled around plants is a great feed, as is using a general fertiliser or a potash rich tomato feed. I hope yours bloom as well as my mums!