As we enter the month of May we hope that mother nature’s weather gives us the thumbs up for planting out our summer bedding plants. Historically we have always waited until the end of May to be ultra-safe, however by keeping a close eye on the weather we may be able to get those baskets up a little sooner and make the most of our floral displays.
There is so much to choose from for baskets and containers, so where to start?
South facing patios can sometimes be a challenge due to the intense heat they can be subjected to in hot summers. This is where geraniums come into their own. These sun lovers can tolerate a little bit of drought too if you are a forgetful waterer! Big flouncy blooms of colour rise over the foliage and can create a real Mediterranean vibe on your patio. They are complemented perfectly with cineraria (Silverleaf) with its tactile silver foliage creating the ideal backdrop.
On the other side of the garden where shade can create problems, then plant begonia sempervirens. These plants will tolerate all conditions but are one of the best in dry shade. They require no real dead-heading and will perform relentlessly all summer. Rising from a carpet of lysimachia nummularia this will lift any darkened area in any garden.
As the beds and borders begin to fill out, now would be a good time to fill in any gaps or holes from plants that may not have survived the winter. The selection of herbaceous perennials available now is vast and it’s a great time to plant them too. Always check the ultimate height of a plant when selecting, as there is nothing worse than putting a tall plant at the front, or worse, losing the smaller ones at the back of a border. It is also worth thinking about the wildlife. There are many varieties that are great for pollinators such as Verbena bonariensis, Scabious, Rudbeckia and Echinacea. Enjoying the bees and butterflies is as rewarding as the plants themselves.
For all of you formal gardeners who enjoy the shapes of topiary then now is the right time to start clipping. The idea of regular pruning is to ensure a tight, bushy growth habit, giving the appearance of a solid structure, whilst maintaining the softening look of live foliage. The depth of colour can be easily maintained by regular feeding too, as plants like Buxus can be very hungry.
For all you ‘Grow Your Own’ gardeners then your crops should really be starting to take off now.
Peas are one of the first to really take off and by pinching out the growing tips you will get stockier plants and have pea tips to enjoy in your salad this evening.
Climbing beans may also need a little help by being tied in to their support system.
Lettuce, radish and rocket may even be ready to harvest by now so be sure to get some of your ‘5 a day’ and free up some space to sow some more, ready for the end of June.
With all of the lovely elements of gardening coming to life, there is of course the two gardeners enemies also coming out to play! Weeds and slugs!
Weeds are easily kept at bay if you keep your hoeing regime little and often. Using a hoe not only makes light work of your young weed seedlings but also saves your back too.
Slugs are a little trickier to manage but not impossible. If you’re trying to be organic then beer traps are very effective but do need regular emptying and re-filling. There is also a slug control product by Neudorff which is perfectly safe around children and pets as it is iron based. It is also very effective against slugs and snails.
Or of course you could live and let live and take your chances. Did you know that the brown slugs with the orange rim only feed on dead and decaying matter so by rights are ‘good’ slugs!
However you choose to use your garden, be sure to enjoy every minute if the weather allows. There is so much to see in the month of May it would be a shame to miss it.