What to do in the Garden: Jobs for May

Summer is just around the corner, temperatures are beginning to rise but just as the days can get warmer the nights can get just as cold, especially early in...

Summer is just around the corner, temperatures are beginning to rise but just as the days can get warmer the nights can get just as cold, especially early in the month.

You should still expect a frost well into May so we really do need to keep an eye on the weather forecast. It is best not to plant out tender perennials too early and risk them getting frosted. It is always better to wait a week than get caught out.

If you have been busy growing lots of plants in the greenhouse make sure you harden them off well before planting out, so they don’t suffer a check in growth. Wind burn can be just as damaging to a plant as the frost can be, so keep all your young plants protected from the worst of the weather until they have been fully hardened off. Traditionally you would move them into a cold frame to do this. If you don’t have a cold frame however you can improvise by leaving the door of your greenhouse open on good days, this will slowly harden them off and acclimatise your plants to the temperature outside. 

Always make sure you give your plants a good watering a few hours before you plan to plant them out so the plants have a chance to take up a good deal of water.

Whatever and wherever you are planting your plants it is important to prepare the soil by adding lots of garden compost or well-rotted manure. Rake in some organic fertilizer at the recommended rate as this will help get the plants off to a good start.

If you have not grown any of your own plants it is time to visit a garden centre or specialist plant nursery. Not only can you get lots of great new plants for your garden you can also ge inspiration for your garden. Lots of garden centres have some great display gardens for you to wander around.

One of the best ways to get some inspiration however, is to visit a local garden, many open their doors for the National Garden Scheme. A visit will give you an idea of what grows well and it gives you the chance to meet other local gardeners to swap hints and tips with.

In the vegetable garden there is so much to be getting on with!

Your potatoes will need earthing up. Rake surrounding soil over the growing shoots of the potato. This does two things; firstly it protects the tender shoots of the potatoes from frost and secondly it encourages more potatoes to form on the buried stems. Getting a bigger and better crop is hard work but you will get a lovely reward when it comes to harvest time.

May is the best time to sow your runner and French beans. I always sow two seeds in a small 9cm (3”) pot in good compost in the greenhouse. Come the middle of May it is safe to sow directly outside where you want them to grow.

Keep up with your regular sowing of your salad crops – lettuce, radish and spinach to name a few, this gives you a constant supply. Sow little and often. I find that sowing every two weeks gives an unbroken supply up to the first frosts.  

Grass cutting will have become a weekly job by now, maybe even twice weekly depending on the weather. Don’t forget your edges. It is good to give the edges of the lawn a clip with some shears once a week, this will really smarten it up.

Pick up all the clippings that have fallen onto the border and put them straight on to the compost heap.