I love May (and not just because it is my birthday). It is really the first month that the weather is noticeably warmer, the days are noticeably longer, the dawn chorus is earlier and louder, and the garden is burgeoning. I always wash my face in the morning dew on May Day, I can’t remember why now… May sees the last of the frosts until autumn, making it safe to plant tender plants into the garden, after about the 20th of May. The increased daylight really helps give us energy and we are more likely to potter in the garden longer, until the light fades. It is worth making the most of this, because it is only next month that we have the longest day and it starts to decline again, so make the most of it!
Jobs to do this month include lifting and dividing overcrowded clumps of spring bulbs such as daffodils and snowdrops and replanting them. This should also be done for primroses as they can get so overcrowded that they actually divide on top of each other creating a tall mound. Not the best way to display their beauty. Tie in new growth on sweet peas and clematis; gradually harden off indoor sown annuals and vegetables; prune spring flowering shrubs such as Choisya, Ribes and Chaenomeles; remove duckweed regularly from ponds but don’t forget to leave it resting on the edge of the pond for 24 hours to allow wildlife trapped in it to return to the water. When mowing, it is perfectly acceptable to put the clippings onto the compost heap, just so long as you turn the heap regularly, mixing the grass in with other materials in the heap which will prevent it from either becoming a soggy, slimy mass, or else staying grey and dust-like in the centre, neither of which is desirable in your compost.
Pest of the month: Gnats/Midges/Mosquitoes – Basically whichever it is that bites you to death on a summer’s evening when it is warm enough to sit in the garden and enjoy the fruits of your labour. I have been unable to define exactly which of the above it is, probably all three, but if you have standing water, you will have these and they really do bite! If you eliminate or cover areas of standing water such as watering cans, water butts etc it will help reduce them. Goldfish in your ponds will eat the larvae too. It is the females that bite and they are attracted to heat (body temperature), carbon dioxide (breath), lactic acid (produced in muscle tissue during exercise) and sweat. So, when you decide to sit in the garden of an evening, shower first, walk very slowly and don’t breathe!!
Design tip of the month: Have you considered making a stumpery? Find a big old root from a tree (try contacting a local tree surgeon or garden company (!) to source one for you), arrange it showing its best side which may well be standing up on its side, and plant around it. If you can use several roots, artistically arranged in an area, it will look fantastic. Plant bulbs, ferns, soft flowering alpines, hostas, herbaceous or small shrubs in and around them. If you can’t get tree roots you could use small log piles of varying numbers and sizes. The effect will be just as nice.


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