Fresh air and the great outdoors beckons. May is such a lovely month to enjoy. There are fewer april showers to catch us out. Summer is just round the corner and the flower beds have begun to bloom with beautiful colours. It is time to enjoy the fresh air whilst working in the garden. Which is fortunate as there is plenty to do to get the garden ready.
CLIMBING PLANTS NEED SUPPORT
Not all climbing plants can climb up a wall or tree trunk on their own. Many of them need help and support. You will have to give them a hand. For example, you can make a trellis out of willow or bamboo. This will look lovely in the flower bed, and your clematis will feel right at home. You can also attach a mesh of string or metal wires to the wall of your house. Which will help climbing roses to thrive. A rose arch that frames your garden path is a very elegant touch. There are so many possibilities, just waiting for you to seize them.
AN EARLY START TO COMPOSTING IN MAY
Compost is a gardener’s treasure. There is nothing better for the health of your garden than this self-made soil. It is a fantastic and efficient use of garden and kitchen waste that will reap dividends in plant health. How to do it well: first find the best location for your compost. This shouldn’t be too close to your neighbours boundary. It should be protected from the wind and not exposed to the sun. It’s also important that the compost pile is located directly on the soil, not on a hardened surface. This is to allow bacteria and earthworms to travel and convert the waste to healthy humus. Next, it’s time to add the organic waste. Place any coarse material, such as finely chopped clippings from hedges or twigs, at the bottom. This layer should be about 20 centimeters deep. This creates drainage and helps ensure sufficient ventilation. Then you can add the kitchen and garden waste. It is best to alternate a layer of lighter organic material such as leaves, with a dense layer such as kitchen waste. Don’t forget to scatter garden soil between each layer. Remember that not everything should go on the compost heap. Meat and fish scraps, bread, leftover cooked food, tropical fruit or peels from these fruits, ash, glass, metal, plastic, nappies and hoover bags should not be put in the garden compost.
EVERGREEN PLANTS NEED TO BE FERTILIZED IN MAY
If the leaves or needles of your evergreen plants, such as boxwood or cypress, have turned yellow, you can now address the damage. However, first you need to investigate the causes of the problem. Yellowed leaves or needles are not always due to a lack of nutrients. The problem can also be caused by road salt, lack of water or infestation by pests. Conifers can suffer from a lack of magnesium. They can be treated with Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate). A rhododendron with yellowed leaves might be suffering from a lack of iron. You need to feed it low chloride Rhododendron fertiliser as soon as possible. To be completely sure of what’s lacking, you need to test the soil. This is the only way to find out what your evergreen plants really lack.
TIME TO PLANT OUT BULB AND TUBER PLANTS
They’ve been sleeping somewhere safe all winter, but now it’s time for them stretch their roots in the garden. If you plant out bulb and tuber plants now, and live in a warm region, then their first green shoots shouldn’t be at risk of frost damage. Bulb and tuber plants will thrive in a sunny spot in the garden with loose, slightly sandy soil – this is especially true for freesias. Freesias should be planted at a depth of only 5 centimeters. With dahlia tubers, it’s best to plant them at such a depth that the base of the flower stalks is just under the ground. It may be helpful to prune the new shoots a little, so the dahlias will bloom more. Gladioli are different! They should be planted at a depth of 10 centimeters. If you plant your gladioli deep enough now, they won’t bend so easily later. Make sure the soil is always moist. Neither bulbs nor tubers like dry conditions, nor do they thrive in waterlogged areas either.
STARTING TO SHAPE THE HEDGE
Most wild birds have hatched their eggs and their hedgerow nests are empty. Not only are your hedges free of young birds, but the shoots have grown so that it is possible to shape them. Time to start with the hedge trimming. Keep in mind that a hedge should have a trapezoidal shape – this means it should be wider at the bottom than at the top. That way the whole hedge recieves sunlight and enables healthy growth. In order for it to really become a trapezoid, always cut from the ‘base’ to the ‘top’. The surface should be tapered by 10 centimetres. Checking with a taut string can help to guide an even cut. It’s important to cut sparingly, and only to form the shape. Be sure to check there are no birds in the hedge before you start clipping. You don’t want to scare them away.
SOW SUMMER FLOWERS DIRECTLY IN THE FLOWERBED
If you live in a warm region, you can often sow summer flowers directly in the flowerbed from the month of May. Maybe you’ve been to a gardening store and bought a lovely seed mix with flowers to attract and feed bees, butterflies and insects. Great! Now it’s time to sow this seed mixture. These plants will certainly start to bloom a little later than those that you’ve pre-grown on the windowsill, but in return they will add colour to the garden when the other plants have faded.
TIME FOR A NEW LAWN?
When there is no longer a risk of frost, usually from the end of May – you can start laying out a new lawn. There is less risk of a new spring lawn drying out, than one laid in august, for example. Here’s how to lay a lawn: first, loosen the soil thoroughly. Stones, roots and weeds should be removed. Then distribute grass seed evenly over the surface. The best way to do this is using a seed spreader. You can find one at your local garden centre. Next, you need to work the grass seed into the soil with a rake. This helps the seed to enter the soil. Tip: the smoother and more even the soil, the finer the lawn will look. It will also be much easier to cut it. Once the grass seed has been evenly distributed and worked into the soil, it’s time to water it. For best results, use a sprinkler. Make sure that the soil doesn’t dry out. It won’t be long before you see the first grass.
PRUNE EARLY FLOWERING CLEMATIS
The best time to prune early flowering clematis, such as Clematis Monatana, is just after flowering. The most suitable time for this depends on which hardiness zone you live in – if you live in a warm region, you can do this at the end of May, otherwise June is better. Here’s what you need to know: Next year’s flowers form on the new shoots in late summer. This means that if you prune the clematis later than at the end of June, you’ll also take away the chance for it to flower next spring – which would be unfortunate. The pruning that’s done now is only to create a nice shape. This way you give shape to your clemitas as it grows. You don’t need to worry about being too careful, as it’s not especially sensitive. When you’ve finished pruning, the next step in your plant care is to remove any weeds, water the clematis thoroughly, pamper it with a little compost soil and, finally, cover the soil all around it with a layer of bark chips.