May 2020 Garden Tips

Garden Notes for May 2020.

Everything is ‘unprecedented nowadays following the lockdown, so we can’t just turn up at a garden centre. There are some locally that have websites and will take orders, Newbridge, Hilliers and Knights at Betchworth spring to mind. You may have to collect yourself or pay for a delivery charge. Putting plants outside a bit later is no bad thing. I well remember Neil Carter’s father, Ray, sowing his carrots in June in his garden at Misbrooks Cottage and commenting to me that people in Capel always sowed far too early.

May is always such a hopeful month, but don’t be fooled by all the half-hardy bedding plants that will be offered temptingly. It is not safe to plant them outdoors. Even if plants like geraniums, salvias, lobelia, marigolds and so on are not killed by a late frost, they can still receive such a severe check from cold May nights that they never completely recover to give a proper display.

But don’t let that put you off getting in stock where you can give it some protection in a cold frame or greenhouse. Use of garden fleece at night will also be just sufficient to keep off the worst falls in temperature and will help to harden off the plants in time for June when they can be planted out.

Sweet peas should be tied in regularly, especially if you are trying to grow large blooms, as you will be taking out the side shoots so that all the growth goes into the tip. They can be fertilised use one that has a low nitrogen content as too much may increase bud dropping.

Keep up succession sowings of lettuces and peas. Runner beans and zucchini should be sown early on. Because our garden is a veritable slug and snail city (we have a lovely lot of thrushes who help keep the snails under control) we generally start our runner beans in the greenhouse and plant them out at the end of the month. To give runners the best chance, sow them individually in the divided plastic trays (24 to a seed tray). Try to get the beans out before they start shooting too much and become tangled up with each other.

Lawns will need regular attention now, after their winter sleep. Keep the mower on a high setting to start with as this helps encourage growth and will keep the lawn greener during the summer months.

If you have the ground, early May is a good time to plant main crop potatoes that will be harvested in late August/early September and will keep you supplied throughout the winter. Varieties include: Arran Victory, Cara, and Nicola.

All tall flowering plants like delphinium, gladioli, even some of the carnations will need to be staked, as they really do need support when they are in full flower.

Put clean straw, or black plastic under strawberry plants to keep the berries clean and protected. You can also use the black matting for suppressing weeds leaving sufficient room for the plants. Be careful, the matting can also be a wonderful hiding place for slugs and snails and even, as I found out one year, a wonderful playground for field mice!

Chris Coke

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