Gardening Tips

Feeling full of beans! Grow-how tips for May


Hurray, hurray, hurray, it’s May!!!  Spring has sprung everywhere in the UK now, and we can simply revel in the tender new tree foliage and all the freshness of the season.  

But while we are celebrating spring, there are jobs to get done, such as planting summer bulbs and beans, keeping an eye on the roses, and choosing herbs for a start…

Ever since lockdown, I have become a great fan of growing veg in pots and containers rather than the open ground – it just seems to give them so much more protection from all the things that might harm them – the elements, the marauding slugs and snails, the soil-borne diseases, etc. Just look at those happy beans in a re-cycled trug in the feature pic today! Salads are great in containers, and so are dwarf French beans.  These are compact plants, which taste great fresh or can be left on the plant to mature, when the beans can be shelled from the pods and dried ready for storing in the cupboard.

Dwarf French beans are perfect for a pot or container

Remember that they won’t take any frost at all, so start them in modules indoors if you live in a VERY cold area. All you do is fill a large pot with multi-purpose peat-free compost, then sow the beans individually at 5cm deep with about 25cm between each plant. 

Then put in some short canes or sticks round the edge of the pot, tied in a wigwam shape, for the stems to scramble through. Soak the compost and keep it moist.  Your bean plants will be up and raring to go within about 10 days.  If you have the space (and the pots!) you can repeat sow these every fortnight until the end of June to keep you in delicious beans till the autumn!

Sow the beans in pots of compost about 25 cm apart

The first roses have opened in my garden – fabulous!  They’ve had their pruning, and their mulching and their feeding, but there are still some things to do to keep them looking their flowery best.  It’s all to do with vigilance, really.  

Check your roses over every few days for pests or disease – nip them in the bud!

Just go round them every few days and check that aphids haven’t set up a little colony somewhere.  If they have, spray them off with a hosepipe or stroke them off with your hand before they can suck the sap and distort the stems, leaves and flowers. Pick off any leaves that are showing the first signs of black spot or rust, which will really slow up the progress of the disease through the plant.  Do try and avoid spraying with chemicals if you possibly can, they are usually so indiscriminate in their effect on insect life.  If you feel you absolutely must spray, do it in the early morning or in the evening, which might avoid the main activity-times for bees and other pollinators.

Deadhead roses promptly unless they are the kind that display amazing rosehips at the end of summer – deadheading encourages more flowers to develop as well as taking away unsightly mouldering petals which can really detract from the blooms still looking perfect. 

Keep deadheading your roses, taking off all the faded blooms to encourage more flowers and make the remaining ones look even more lovely.

Lastly keep tying in the shoots of climbers and ramblers, using soft twine so that the stems are not damaged.

We 3Growbags were discussing herbs the other day, and we found out that we all only grow the basic kinds.  It does make sense ultimately to just cultivate the ones that you are actually going to use, and not bother with all the curiosities, wonderful though they sound.  

Parsley is one of the herbs that we all agree on as essential

Our basics include basil, chives and parsley, all of which can be sown indoors, sprinkling the seed thinly over containers of moist compost, covering them with a fine layer of vermiculite or grit, and leaving them to germinate on a sunny windowsill. If you buy pots of these as little plants at the supermarket or garden centre, divide up the seedlings into little groups and pot them up separately for many more plants.  

Split the seedlings like these basil plants into small groups and pot them up separately

Add a rosemary bush, a pot of mint for the new potatoes, and some lemon verbena for a refreshing tea, and that about covers it.  Oh, hang on, we might need borage for the jugs of Pimms as well, even if it wanders everywhere………..(bit like Caroline after the Pimms, actually…)

So lovely to have mint to go with the new potatoes – but grow it in a pot or it will take over!
  • Up at Caroline’s Highland home last week, I was so pleased to hear about her ‘garden spreadsheet’. As soon as we got home from lovely Abriachan Nurseries, she scurried off to note all sorts of details about her plant purchases. She got the idea of the spreadsheet from a reader a few years ago.  

    The gardening notes I keep are much more ‘analogue’ – a huge series of notebooks of all sizes, charting everything from horticultural triumphs to abject failures and everything in between. There are lots of diagrams too of where I’ve planted things – and I can’t tell you how important THOSE are, as I career on through my ‘golden years’ forgetting everything but my own name…..  🤨. Even my green-fingered son keeps a gardening notebook, so it’s not only oldies who find them very useful.
Caroline’s gardening masterplan. It’s very detailed, so the problems can’t lie here!

When you think about it, the majority of horticultural books out there are just glorified diaries of the writer’s gardening adventures.  Notes and diaries must have given them their raw material.  I urge you to start a garden notebook today, if you don’t already use one – who knows what spectacular bestseller they may inspire in the future!

  • The tulips were just great this spring, but the last ones are finishing now, and it’s time to snap the seedheads with your thumb and forefinger, so the plant won’t waste its energy on developing it.  Leave the foliage on though, to die back naturally (a quick foliar feed wouldn’t go amiss), and you may be lucky enough to persuade the bulbs that they would like to provide that glorious display again next year as well.
Deadhead spent tulips but leave the green stems
  • I am rather a fan of Eucomis (the pineapple lily – you can see it in our feature pic this week) and you can pot them up now as you would with dahlias.  They are a bit of an odd beast because they like wet summers and dry frost-free winters for preference.  Plant the large bulbs in big pots of compost with their noses are just visible above the surface, and dress the pot with a layer of grit.  Keep them well-watered and fed and you’ll be able to enjoy their spectacular flowers through the summer.

Now is a great time to take softwood cuttings. If you’re not sure how, this video will help!

Great plants this month

The ethereal beauty of a ballerina with the true grit of a cowboy, this is a shrub we need during the transition from spring to summer. Find out why it’s earned its spurs as one of Louise’s Great Plants this Month…

Have you checked your bees in yet?

Have you put your bee hotel back up yet? WHAT? You haven’t GOT one? Well you’d better put that right and there’s no more attractive or practical bee hotel than this. Still at last year’s price too. Do have a look.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

2 replies on “Feeling full of beans! Grow-how tips for May”

I so enjoyed the glimpse of Caroline’s spreadsheet because she mentioned so many nurseries I know well. She could also add Macplants at 5 Boggs Holdings, Pencaitland owned by the McNaughton family. They do some shows including Scone and have a marvellous selection of Meconopsis. I also commend Elizabeth MacGregor in Kircudbright. The same town has two excellent Plant Fairs beside the harbour in Spring or Autumn run by Rob Asbridge. The first two mentioned also do mail order. It is raining and I have come in from the garden.
Thank you for your tireless communications – I so enjoy them.

Sally what a lovely comment, thank you. It’s Caroline here and had I taken a different screenshot of my ‘garden database’🤣, you would definitely have spotted MacPlants in it. A really lovely nursery which always leaves you feeling very peaceful and happy (and laden with excellent plants). You are the second person to recommend Elizabeth MacGregor to me this year – (the other person raving about their Wild Swan anemones) – so I must investigate further. Aren’t we lucky to have such fantastic nurseries here in Scotland! Thank you again, and best wishes for a great gardening year ❤️

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