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May In Your Garden

1st of May 2014

This month is always a busy one for gardeners. It is a month for planting, trimming, feeding and spraying; a month of great flower shows and T.V. programmes, a month of garden visits, too.

The flower garden.
As the month proceeds the chance of bad frosts soon disappears and we can plant out the geraniums, pelargoniums, begonias, fuchsias and other tender bedding plants. Always be prepared to cover up should we get that sudden late frost. Plant dahlia tubers, cannas, gladioli and begonias. Nasturtiums, eschscholzia and nigella can be sown direct in the garden. Container grown hardy plants, shrubs and roses can be planted throughout the year but the sooner they are planted the longer they will have to grow. When planting add bonemeal but do not use this when planting azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons which will need ericaceous feeds. Herbaceous perennials can still be lifted and divided but do this now without delay. Taller growing plants should be provided with support. Prune forsythias and flowering currants as soon as they have flowered. Spray roses regularly against black spot and mildew. Dead head daffodils and feed the bulbs. Put up the hanging baskets later in the month.
Fruit and vegetables. Sow beet and carrots, peas and beans, swede and turnips and later in the month start to plant runner beans, outdoor tomatoes and cucumbers, marrows and courgettes. Make successional sowings of salad crops and keep earthing up the potatoes. Feed the vegetables with Growmore fertilizer and keep up with watering and weeding. Put mats or straw beneath strawberries and cover with bird netting. Protect soft fruit with fleece should we get a sudden late frost. Put up codling moth traps in fruit trees for the next three months.

The Greenhouse.
Plant hanging baskets and containers so that they can get established before putting outside later in the month and add Swell-gel to compost to help water retention. Take cuttings of pelargoniums. Tomatoes and cucumbers should be planted in large pots or gro-bags as soon as possible for greenhouse culture. Make sure that the house is kept well ventilated and fix shading, if possible.

Lawn and garden.
Keep up with regular mowing but do not cut the grass too short, especially in dry weather. Encourage the grass to become deep rooted by not watering even in dry weather. Apply lawn weed and feed plus a moss killer, if necessary. There is still plenty of time to sow or turf new grass areas and these should be well watered for just the first few weeks. Keep the garden tidy and make compost with all plant material except the roots of bindweed, ground elder and creeping buttercup which should go onto the bonfire.

Garden events.
The R.H.S. Malvern Spring Festival is from 8–11 May (tickets and info from or phone 01684 584924) and the Chelsea Flower Show is from 20–24 May (info from or ring 0844 338 7539). The garden at Patchwork, Hall Park Gate, Berkhamstead is open to view on 4 May; 15 Gade Valley Cottages, Great Gaddesden on 25 May and at Ashridge House on 8 June. The R.H.S. Gardens at Wisley and Hyde Hall are open daily.
Terry Simmonds

This page is edited by Tony

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