What a fabulous month May is! Everything is shooting up and there’s bright fresh growth in every corner of the garden or the countryside.
But there’s a whole raft of work to be done while you’re drifting round the garden smiling at all the spring gorgeousness. That includes some more seed-sowing and dealing with the spring bulbs, amongst other things………
Are you summer-ready?
Most plants are growing so fast in May that it is easy to feel that you can’t keep up with all the small jobs that turn your summer garden into a paradise. I decided that a little check-list might be a handy thing to have around – whenever I am feeling overwhelmed by all I have to do, making a list is very calming – this list is as much for me as it is for you!
1. Unless you want them to self-seed, dead-head your spring-flowering plants like Bergenia, hellebores, crocuses, daffodils, anemones and Scilla, but leave the foliage on to die back.
It will help the plants to direct their energy into leaf and root growth rather than seed-production, and the result will be stronger plants for next spring’s show.
2. Wander around your outdoor space holding twine, scissors and stakes, checking on anything that is going to need some support later on. This includes climbing veg as well as ornamentals. Remember to include climbers, gently tying in the new growth and covering the space evenly. Be careful with soft clematis shoots – they can be very brittle. And don’t forget that most climbers will flower with greater abandon if they are trained horizontally.
3. Anything that you’re growing in pots will need plenty of water now, and feeding as well – slow-release fertiliser pellets are perfect for most plants. Feeding the garden soil with a general fertiliser like Growmore, blood, fish and bone, or pelleted chicken manure, will pay dividends, for sure.
4. Lastly, just be OUT THERE. You’ll be able to spot when rosebuds need some aphids brushing off, the onion bed needs a little hoe, or the cosmos seedlings need pinching out, etc……..I have said it before, but it’s worth repeating: ‘the best fertiliser is the gardener’s shadow’. And, helping our plants to thrive makes us feel great too – win, win!
Grow plants the snails don’t like
If there’s one topic that is an eternal matter for debate, it’s how to deal with slugs and snails. We know we mustn’t use poisons on them which can so easily go on to poison birds, hedgehogs, etc., so we try beer traps , copper tape, grit, eggshells, Sluggone mats…….a whole panoply of remedies to save our flowers and crops from them, with varying degrees of success.
Another approach is to grow things they don’t like, and over many years of gardening, I have come to rely on a list of perennials that these beasties will largely ignore, and thus need no protection from them.
I know there are many other such plants, but these are the ones I have personal experience of, so I offer these as a list for you, if you are thinking of stocking up your flower-borders this spring:
Achillea, Alchemilla mollis, Aquilegia, Bergenia, Calendula (marigolds), Corydalis, Crocosmia, Crocus, Cyclamen, Digitalis (foxgloves), Erigeron, Erysimum (Wallflowers), Eschscholtzia (Californian poppies), Euphorbia, ferns, hardy geraniums (though one or two get a bit nibbled, I find), hellebores, Heuchera, Inula, Anemone japonica, Lamium (Deadnettle), lavender, Leucanthemum (daisies!), Lychnis coronaria (rose campion), marjoram, mint, Mysotis (forget-me-nots), Nepeta (catmint), Nigella (love-in-a-mist), Osteospermum, peonies, Pelargonium, Phlox, Pulmonaria, roses, Hyelotelephium (sedum), Sisyrinchium, Stachys byzantina (lambs’ ears), Tellima, Thalictrum, thyme, Verbena bonariensis.
Phew! You must admit that’s quite a list, and I could probably add dozens more, like Alyssum, Solidago (golden rod), and Fuchsia, but I don’t have direct experience of their lack of appeal to gastropods.
So how about stepping back from the ‘war’ a little, and putting in some plants that slugs and snails will bypass in favour of more tempting fare?
- My wallflowers are still giving very good service, like the Erysimum ‘Sunset Orange’ in the feature pic today, but now’s the time to sow the seed of these and other biennials like foxgloves. Sow the seed into shallow drills in raked soil. Our columnist Louise has written about two marvellous plants- one a foxglove, one a wallflower, which you might want to consider when you’re choosing seeds – links at the end. They should grow into decent-sized plants over the summer, ready to be put into position and then flower gloriously next year.
- How about trying NOT to ‘garden’ every single little area of your outdoor space? Leaving a corner or two secret, a bit gnarly and overgrown can give any garden more breadth of character and interest, is adored by any visiting children who don’t want to be told every five minutes to keep off the flower beds, and is absolutely wonderful for providing shelter and shade for a wide variety of animals, insects and fungi.
- Once potatoes are coming up in the veg bed, you can start to earth them up. Once the shoots are about 20 cm above the soil, gently mound up the soil from round about them – some gardeners even cover the shoots completely the first time they earth them up. The aim is to keep doing it throughout the growing season, to encourage the plants to form more tubers below the the surface.
Here is the link to Louise’s piece on the wallflower Erysimum ‘Parrishes’
And this is the one for the foxglove Digitalis ferruginea.
Both these plants are in Louise’s’ gorgeous little book ‘A Plant for Each Week of the Year’, available in our shop, so do take a look – with 15% off everything this week for National Gardening Week, it might be tempting!
NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.
If you live near the M4 corridor this Plant Bring n’Buy looks a great event to support and/or enjoy attending. Heaven knows Ukraine needs all the help we can give it right now. Well done to all involved…..
And – just when everything else seems to be going up, we’re taking 15% off everything in Little Shop of Garden Delights this week to celebrate National Gardening Week! Do hurry though, it ends at midnight on Sunday 15 May!
4 replies on “Marvellous May! Gardening tips for spring”
I always enjoy your newsletter. This morning I am.particularly impressed by Elaine’s list of plants that don’t appeal to slugs and snails. What a lot of them!
A whole garden possibly.
Bye for now.
Thanks for writing in, Katrina – Elaine here. Yes, as you say a whole garden-full of plants that taste horrible to slugs and snails! But that doesn’t stop me, from time to time, trying to grow plants that they DO like to chew, I’m afraid – this morning I am surveying the tattered leaves of a Veratrum that I was persuaded by my sisters to buy years ago (we all bought one – I expect theirs are spectacular…) – such a lovely plant, but oh, how the snails how to nibble them! Glad you like our weekly chat – don’t forget to tell everyone else about us. Happy gardening!
Hurrah for your views on plants that slugs don’t eat. I’ve done that since starting gardening. such a waste of time seeing them as an enemy. and I love your bit about leaving some areas wild. Definitely. and get out there. Definitely. Love your blog.
Ah, thank you for writing in – Elaine here. It just makes sense to work WITH Nature more than we have done in the past, doesn’t it. We are always so pleased when folk take the trouble to tell us they like what we’re doing. It’s not that we don’t enjoy producing our blog, but it makes it all the more worthwhile when we hear that what we are chatting about is finding a few echoes amongst our readers. Please spread the word!