May in the Garden

Glynn SmithBy Glyn Smith Head Gardener at Erdigg Hall National Trust Garden

What a spring we have had. After all the snow, a monumental input by staff and volunteers managed to get the property open for Easter. But the weather has been so cold since then it has held up all the daffodils, Narcissi and other bulbs. The last few days of mild weather has really brought things on though and the bulbs are bursting into flower.

The late growing season has been very useful to us, as we have been trying to catch up on a lot of winter work we had not done.

We have been busy clearing trees and branches felled by the snow, pruning roses, apples and our lime trees, when we would normally be mowing lawns.

Because of the cold weather, no one has been gardening. Many growers have been unable to sell their plants to garden centres and have been dumping them on the compost heap. Look out for plant bargains to brighten up your garden.

Our greenhouses are full to bursting with seedlings and we are waiting for them to grow large enough to be put out into our cold frames. That will enable us to space out other seedlings, pot up some into larger pots and sow more seeds.

In your greenhouses and frames, look out for slugs, snails and fungus diseases that damage or rot off the young seedlings.

Plants like sweet peas, chrysanthemums and young herbaceous perennial seedlings are pretty hardy and can be planted out now, as can many vegetable plants. Sow some vegetables outdoors and salads too. Radishes are a great plant to get children to start growing. Don’t waste lettuce seedlings that you thin out, they can be planted out to give a later crop. It is not too late either to sow hardy annual seeds directly where they are to grow.

Tomato and cucumber plants are in the garden centres now. They can be planted in the greenhouse now, or potted on into larger pots. Wait a while before planting outdoors.

As their shoots emerge, Potatoes should be earthed up. This protects them from late frosts and the potatoes will grow in the dark. Green potatoes that develop in the light are poisonous.

If you have not fed your lawns yet, now the ground is moister it will be a good time. Time too to consider controlling any moss, by raking, or with a moss killer.

Stake herbaceous perennial plants now whilst they are still small and don’t forget vegetables, like peas and beans, may need support too.

Late in the month, the spring bedding can be stripped out and composted. Tulip bulbs can be dried off in a shed and daffodils healed in a corner of the garden, or planted in natural lawn areas and borders.

Apply a preventative fungicide spray to roses and other plants before you see any diseases. Mildew and black spot will become evident soon. Look out too for aphids.

Many rose shoots and buds have been damaged by the snow and frost and may need re pruning and the plants a feed to get them growing again strongly.