May Gardening Tips from our Head of Horticulture

Gates Blog May 2024 - Matt Peck in the glasshouse

Welcoming longer brighter evenings – Matt’s May Notebook

Wow what a season us gardeners have had to contend with, at times I’ve wondered if we should have built an ark, the ground is certainly wet when dug, and the lawn, in between showers, has been very difficult to get onto.

May is the month we traditionally welcome even longer brighter evenings, and it’s all about planning for summer colour and planting containers, troughs, and hanging baskets. Recently we had a sharp night’s frost, so should always be aware, when planting out young bedding plants, that there could still be the odd night where a little protection might need to be provided for the young, soft tissued plants.

Every day, you can see the growth on plants in the garden, suddenly everything seems to be doubling its size overnight. I’ve been busy in my own garden putting all my herbaceous perennial supports into position and been purchasing a few more for the odd perennial that flopped or got in the way of the lawn mower last year, but if you don’t get them in now, it can be difficult when they are a mass of flower. Also, I’ve put half hoops round the Hydrangea Anabelle I planted last summer, as I expect these, now much bigger shrubs, will give me some beautiful large flower heads this season.

Weeds have suddenly been in full force, and I sadly have one area with ground elder, and some of the dreaded bind weed ‘convolvulus’. Controlling these is all about digging out all the root you can find, and removing all foliage you see appear, over time it will weaken. All weeds need to be kept on top of with a regular, hoeing and digging regime, this way you will stop them taking over.

I’m looking forward to attending the RHS Chelsea flower show with Dan our Plant area Manager, we will be looking for the trends, and new varieties worth a mention, plus we have great interest in the flood garden on show this year.

Gates Blog May 2024, yellow rose in flower

Key Plants for this month:

This year we have some key plants flowering two to three weeks early, as an example here is a picture of my Rose (Rosa banksiae lutea), which has been in full flower for a few weeks, despite it being May flowering not April. This behaviour is due to the season being warm with lots of rain and very few frosts.

The following list of the month’s key plants is, I think, still true to this year.

  • Rhododendron
  • Azalea both evergreen and deciduous
  • Viburnum plicatum ‘mariesii’
  • Clematis montana
  • Geum ‘totally tangerine’
  • Wisteria floribunda
  • Honeysuckle (lonicera)
  • Tree peonies (P. delavayi)

Jobs to be getting on with in May:

  • Earth up potatoes
  • Plant out vegetable young plants, or direct sow seed
  • Harvest asparagus
  • It’s time to think about protecting your strawberries from birds
  • Put up shade netting in the greenhouse or paint greenhouse shading on the glass
  • Make sure the glasshouse is well ventilated each day
  • Take fuchsia cuttings
  • Make sure you have put all herbaceous perennial supports in place before the full growth is at full height
  • Feed lawns and mow weekly
  • Prune forsythia, and Ribes flowering ornamental currents
  • Later this month prune, Beech, Leylandii and privet hedges
  • Tie in climbing plants
  • Primulas and polyanthus have now come to the end of their flowering cycle, and May is a great month to split, divide and re plant
  • Sow perennial seed
  • Trim back the finished flowering growth on aubretia and alyssum plants
  • Plant out sweet pea plants and put a good support structure in place for them to grow up
  • Make sure you are now checking pots and containers as watering will become a daily task

This month’s key areas of interest:

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