Our top 10 gardening tips for May
It’s an exciting time of year for gardening enthusiasts. The weather is warming up and the flowers are blooming.
May is often seen as one of the best months for gardening – the fresh spring air and excitement of the coming summer create a feeling of promise and renewal. Gardeners across the country eagerly await this time of year, looking forward to getting their hands dirty.
Take advantage of the warmer weather by preparing for the summer. This is the perfect time to ensure that your garden is in top shape, with colourful spring bedding plants blooming and trees fully covered in leaves.
We have compiled a list of the top 10 gardening tips that will help you make the most of this beautiful month whether you're a seasoned or new gardener.
You can begin at the start of the blog and read through until the end, or you can choose a section from the list below, click, and be taken straight there. Whichever you choose, we hope you find our article useful!
- Prepare your garden for summer
- Watch out for pests and diseases
- Change your bedding
- If it’s dry out, water newly planted trees and shrubs
- Tie in climbers regularly
- Continue deadheading
- Look after your lawn
- Harden off tender veg
- Propagate perennials
- Enjoy your garden
Prepare your garden for summer
Before the really hot weather arrives, it's important to prepare your garden for summer.
Use your pruning tools to remove any dead or diseased wood from your trees and shrubs, and remove any weeds and cultivate the soil. This will create a healthy environment for your plants to grow in. Fertilize your plants with a slow-release fertilizer and top-dress with compost. Mulch your beds with a layer of organic material to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Watch out for pests and diseases
As the temperature rises, it's important to remain vigilant against pests and diseases in your garden.
While it may be necessary to resort to chemical controls in severe cases, it's worth noting that the long-term use of synthetic chemicals can lead to further issues. These chemicals can eliminate not only the pests but also beneficial insects, such as ladybirds, that feed on them.
If you must resort to spraying, try to do so on a calm day as late in the evening as possible, when the number of beneficial insects in the area is likely to be at a minimum.
insect house. Also, you can read more about insect houses and beneficial insects in our blog ‘The beginner's guide to bug hotels and insect houses’.
Change your bedding
As various plants prepare to bloom in the upcoming summer season, it's important to start thinking about replacing your spring bedding plants.
Nurseries and garden centres will offer a wide range of summer bedding plants for sale, but it's best to resist the urge to purchase them too early in May, unless you have a frost-free greenhouse, conservatory, or cold frame to keep them in.
These plants are generally quite delicate, and in northern regions, it may not be advisable to plant them outside until late in the month or even into June. In more southern, protected areas, you may be able to plant your summer bedding around the middle of the month, but it's important to keep an eye on the weather forecasts.
If it’s dry out, water newly planted trees and shrubs
During periods of sunny weather and drying winds, the soil can dry out surprisingly quickly, and it may be necessary to water on a daily basis.
It's especially important to ensure that new woody plants receive adequate water until their roots have established themselves and are able to search for moisture deeper in the soil. Adding organic matter, such as garden compost or rotted manure, either as a mulch or dug into the soil, can help to retain moisture and provide good water-holding potential for growing roots. Even a layer of grass clippings, spread around the plant (but not touching the stems) at a thickness of 5-8cm (2-3in), can help to keep the soil moist.
To prevent water from evaporating from the soil in the heat of the day, it's best to water in the evenings when there is less chance of it evaporating.
Tie in climbers regularly
Regularly tying in the shoots of vigorous climbers like roses, clematis, and vines is essential to prevent them from overtaking and choking out other nearby plants.
Separating tangled climbers from other plants can be a frustrating task that is best avoided.
To provide support for these climbers, fixing wide-mesh wire netting to walls and fences is the simplest option. If you prefer a more decorative approach, a trellis is a good choice, but it's important to choose lighter climbers so that they don't hide the trellis from view.
Deadheading is the process of removing spent blooms from your flowering plants.
Regular deadheading encourages continued blooming, as it prevents the plant from putting energy into producing seeds.
To maintain the appearance of your garden, it's important to keep deadheading spring-flowering bulbs that are still blooming.
We’d recommend deadheading the following plants:
- Daffodils: Remove the faded flowers once they start to wilt to prevent the plant from expending energy on seed production and instead use that energy to store nutrients for next year's growth.
- Tulips: Deadhead tulips as soon as the petals start to fall off. This will help the plant focus its energy on bulb growth rather than seed production. Snap off the heads of tulips but leave the stalks intact. Don't remove the foliage until at least six weeks after the last flower has bloomed.
- Lilacs: Remove spent blooms from lilacs as soon as possible to encourage more flowers next year.
- Peonies: Deadheading peonies can promote the development of more lateral buds and increase the plant's overall flower production.
Look after your lawn
Whilst the grass is growing well, we’d recommend that you mow your lawn once a week.
You can lower the blades of your mower slightly each time you mow to cut the grass a little closer, but be careful not to lower them too much as it may cause your lawn to be 'scalped'. This can lead to yellowing of the grass, bare patches and allow weeds and moss to grow.
If you haven't fed your established lawn yet, it is advisable to do so now. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully when applying fertiliser. Some modern fertilisers come with anti-scorch properties, so using a little more than recommended won't be an issue. However, applying too much fertiliser can be wasteful.
You can use a selective weedkiller to get rid of weeds in your lawn, but make sure you check if the weed you want to eliminate can be treated using this method before purchasing the product. This is the right time to do this task since weeds are growing rapidly and the weedkiller will be more effective. It's essential to always use a selective lawn weedkiller.
Harden off tender veg
Towards the end of spring, specific crops that have been grown indoors require a period of adaptation to adjust to outdoor conditions and enhance their chances of survival.
Plants like chillies, courgettes, cucumbers, peppers, squashes, and tomatoes that were grown indoors require a gradual adjustment period to the colder and windier outdoor environment. The same applies to plants purchased from garden centres or online.
When indoor-raised crops or plants bought online or at garden centres are immediately planted outside, they can experience a temperature shock that can stunt their growth and cause leaf curling, discoloration, and even bleaching from strong sunlight. Although stunted plants can recover, the sudden transfer outdoors can delay their establishment and affect their performance, leading to delayed flowering and cropping.
It's important to note that while delicate plants are more susceptible to low temperatures and require more time to acclimate, even resilient vegetables grown indoors can benefit from a hardening off period to avoid shock.
Begin acclimatizing plants gradually in phases, about 2-3 weeks prior to planting outside. Tender plants should only be transplanted after the danger of frost has passed, which is generally in mid to late May in southern England and later in the north and Scotland.
Start by placing the plants in a sheltered area outdoors, such as a porch or patio, for a few hours each day. Gradually increase the amount of time they spend outside each day over the two to three weeks.
Once the plants have been outside for a few days, gradually expose them to more direct sunlight. Start with morning sun and gradually increase the amount of time they spend in the sun each day.
During the hardening-off process, monitor the weather and bring the plants inside if there is a risk of frost or strong winds.
Finally, after the frost risk has passed in your area, usually mid to late May in the south of England and later into June in the north and Scotland, plant the hardened-off vegetables outside in their permanent positions.
Spring’s vigorous young shoots are ripe for propagating. Boost stocks of perennials and shrubs for your garden by taking softwood cuttings now.
The tender new shoots of perennials and deciduous shrubs will root readily if you take cuttings now. Propagate your favourite plants to make more for free. Easy-rooters to start with include penstemon, lavender, Erysimum, fuchsia, and hydrangea.
In the morning, while plants are still full of water, remove 10cm-long, non-flowering shoots, cutting just above a bud on the parent plant.
Place the cuttings in a polythene bag straight away and keep them out of the sun to help them retain their water.
Trim the cuttings, one by one, using a sharp knife. Cut just below a leaf joint and remove the lower leaves.
Insert the cuttings, base first, around the edge of a pot of compost, with the first pair of leaves sitting just above compost level.
Water and cover the pot with a polythene bag. Place it in the greenhouse or a warm spot out of direct sunlight for six to eight weeks. Keep the compost moist until the cuttings root. When roots have formed, pot individually and grow on.
Enjoy your garden
May is a busy time in the garden, but don't forget to enjoy it!
Take time to appreciate the beauty around you, set up a comfortable seating area to relax, connect with others, and engage your senses. Remember, while it's important to work hard, it's equally important to take a few moments to enjoy the magic of your garden in May.
May is the perfect time to get your hands dirty and start prepping your garden for the summer. We've listed our top 10 tips to help you create a beautiful and healthy garden.
If you’d like more advice, make sure to check out the other articles on our gardening blog.