Gardening with Simon Linell

An uncertain month really when it May be summer or it May not ! but have to take it as it comes. Certainly when the sun breaks out it warms up very quickly and the ground doesn’t stay too wet for too long. The main thing is to make the best of the dry weather to get the gardening jobs done and have things planted up ready for the next heavy shower to water everything in ! Early plantings in April have got off to a good start only to be held up recently by a spell of cooler weather but this can change at a drop of a hat so don’t be discouraged by the changeable weather of May…the real summer is just around the corner ! May-be !
Plenty to do in the garden this month so get cracking !
1. As mentioned last month , the lawn would benefit from fertilizer and a moss/weed killer to get the lawn off on the right foot after suffering during the wet winter. Application now will encourage better summer growth, less weeds and will be greener and tidier. Gradually lower the blades of the mower each time you mow until it is at an easy to mow level. Grass cut short will stay neater longer than longer grass !
2. Trees in the garden are all bursting into leaf at the moment and are extremely happy to have survived the winter’s storms. Just make sure younger trees are well supported as some roots may have been lossened in the ground over winter and the new roots will require a bit of assistance in supporting and annchoring the new canopy of leaves.
3. The shrubs in the garden are changing from spring into summer fairly rapidly now. As the seasons change various parts of the garden are shooting into life. Buds are bursting, new leaves are emerging and flowers are blooming ! Rhododendron, Azalea, Lilac, Ceanothus, and Kerria are just a few in full flower at the moment with the Magnolia and Camelias coming to an end for this season. As for climbing plants, the pink flowers of the Clamatis montana has done very well this spring and will soon be followed by the summer flowering varieties.
4. Early flowering alpines in the rockery are beginning to finish flowering and in some cases will need pruning back to encourage growth during the summer. The first to need attention will be the Aubretia and Arabis which only flower in the spring. Campanula and Lithadora on the other hand have several spells of flowering throughout the year and don’t need cutting back until autumn. Now is a good time to add new plants ta rockery or use alpine plants around the patio or along the front of a shrub border.
5. Now is definitely the time for planting up your summer patio containers, window boxes and hanging baskets. Even though we might have a few more cool days and nights early in the month the danger of the frost has practically gone and it should be safe to plant out the summer bedding. There is a whole range of plants to choose from when planting up your containers from a range of bedding plants grown from seed to cutting raised Geranium, Surfinia Petunia and an array of ‘patio’ plants. Visit the Garden Centre to see the full range available. Any sort of container can be used on a patio from ceramic and plastic pots to old sinks and wellington boots !! so try to be imaginative in your creations. Using compost with slow release fertilizer will help the plant grow over a longer time frame and the incorporation of water retention crystals will help reduce the frequency of watering. Geraniums and the surfinia petunia are still the number one favourites but tuberous Begonia, upright and trailing and the smaller bedding Begonia are also increasing in their popularity due to their excellent performance in all sorts of extreme weather !
6. In the fruit garden the Apples and Pears are in full flower and looking good for fruiting this year. New additions can be planted now to existing orchards so you will be able to match up the correct flowering groups. More unusual or exotic soft fruits like Kiwi, Figs and Blueberries will all do well in the fruit garden and add to a summer fruit cocktail !
7. Potatoes have been poking their heads up through the soil recently and earthing up should continue throughout the month. Seeds can be sown of a full range of vegetables from now on without the fear of frost damage so take a look at the seed stands in the garden centre and choose a selection to sow as soon as you can. These sowings now can often overtake earlier sowings that could have received a ‘check’ to their growth in one of the recent cool spells. To speed up your supply of vegetables there are also young plants of a range of vegetables available for planting out now that you could avail of.
8. With all new plantings of young plants, flowering or vegetable be prepared for the nightly attacks of slugs. There are various types of slug bait available for killing the slugs and traps could be used for catching and removing them. So if you sow seeds or plant young plants make sure you protect them against attack as at this time of year the slugs are extremely hungry and will eat the lot !!
9. On another note, keep on top of weeds by hoeing in vegetable beds and spraying on pathways. By keeping on top of their growth now you will reduce their ability to sow seeds and make your problems easier for later on this year and next season.
10. And lastly, don’t cut down the leaves of the Daffodils for another few weeks as they need this extra time to create more food to fuel the growth of the bulb to prepare itself for the next growing season.

So, Until next month, Happy Gardening from Simon and Margaret and us all at Willowfield Garden Centre !