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Gardening tips for May

Get some advice from our expert, Catherine.

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  1. There's so much to do in the garden now that the spring sun has brought on a growth spurt. Keep sowing, mowing, weeding, and protecting young plants from the very last of the frosts – by bringing them inside overnight or covering them with fleece.
  2. Prune early spring flowering shrubs now that blossoms have finished.
  3. This is the time to sow tender vegetables under protection, ready to plant out when all the risk of frost has passed. You could invest in a cloche or make your own smaller ones by cutting large pop bottles in half.
  4. Watch out for slugs on new plantings. A cloche will help, or you could try traditional techniques such as crushed egg shells, coffee grounds or beer traps. Failing that, try copper tape around pot rims (which slugs don’t like to cross) or slug pellets. Choose ferrous phosphate-based pellets, rather than metaldehyde, which don’t harm birds and will break back down into soil nutrients.
  5. Give your compost heap some tender loving care. It’s important to balance grass clippings with other garden material. If it’s stinky give it a boost it with an activator and mix in some dry material, such as egg boxes and toilet rolls or torn up newspaper.
  6. Why not try growing some herbs this year? They’re good for the bees and for your kitchen! Start with something easy like rosemary, chives or sage.
  7. Try planting an edible container, with parsley, bush tomatoes (these don’t require any fancy treatment) rainbow chard and a courgette plant. These will need regular watering, feeding and a sunny, sheltered spot.
  8. Use twiggy sticks to build supports for tall garden flowers, peas, beans and sweet peas.
  9. Don’t cut the leaves off spring flowering bulbs; let them die back to enrich the bulb for next year. Or for potted displays, you could remove them and store for next year. Wait until the leaves have died back before you do this, then carefully lift the bulbs, trim back roots and outer layers of flaking covering, lay them on a tray to dry for 24 hours, dust lightly with sulphur (to prevent rot), and store them in a dry, cool place until autumn.
  10. Think ahead to create a colourful cottage garden border for next year. You’ll need to sow biennials like Sweet Williams, wallflowers and foxgloves this spring and summer for lovely blooms next year. 

With thanks to Louisa Evans and Catherine Cutler

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