This Month in the Garden – May

TMITG_ds1Gardening is traditionally thought of as something that needs long-term planning and a lot of patience. This approach was challenged by the producers of the wave of gardening programmes, like Groundforce, that delighted in showing the transformation you could achieve in a couple of days of instant gardening. The month of May shows that there is room for both …

This is the best time for buying bedding plants which provide a wonderful way of getting instant results, whether in containers, in massed displays in borders or for plugging gaps where something else has failed.  But May is also a great time for looking to the future by sowing perennials or biennials. For a few pence you can sow a whole range of perennial border favourites from low growing aubretia to stately delphinium s which will each cost up to eight pounds in a garden centre or you can sow now for biennials like foxgloves or the old fashioned sweet william which will flower next year. If you do want to buy perennial plants it is better value to get them from specialist nurseries by collection or mail order rather than from the big garden centres. The plants may be smaller but patience has its reward.

If you are buying bedding plants don’t forget the danger of frost until at least the middle of the month and either delay buying or keep the plants protected until then. Everyone has room for plants in containers and they provide a colourful and long-lasting display. They need regular watering, often daily, and it’s a good idea to mix some water preserving gel into the compost when planting. They will also benefit from a fortnightly application of a liquid fertiliser such as Miracle Gro. Once again, you can save money by buying in powder form and making up the mixture yourself rather than buying liquid preparations. Containers are also a good way of enjoying acid loving plants like camellias or japanese maples that you can’t grow in clay soil. Plant them in ‘ericaceous’ compost, water with rain water rather than tap water (which is alkaline) and use a fertiliser made for acid loving plants. While thinking about liquid fertilisers, it is well worth using them on clematis until they flower.

Although the winter was so wet the ground is drying out fast and it looks as if gardens will need watering this year. Especially keep in mind newly planted or transplanted trees or shrubs.

Many gardeners bemoan the loss of the busy lizzie as valuable bedding plants. I have mentioned before that small begonias make a good substitute and, this year, I am trying the New Zealand busy lizzie which is said not to be affected by the mildew which killed off the traditional variety. These make a bigger plant and may prove to be more useful for containers or small clumps rather than the broad areas where the traditional plants looked so effective but they look good in the catalogue and time will tell..

Keep up with the weeding in flower borders and the  vegetable patch and remember that a quick and frequent run around with a hoe leaves things looking better, and is much less effort, than the occasional purge when the weeds are getting as big as the plants.

Jeremy Arthern

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