At the moment there’s a world of green out there and it is intoxicating. The grass is almost fluorescent on the verges and the fresh spring green of the beech trees towering overhead on my daily walk is breathtaking. It is for green, for cow parsley and blowsy peonies that I love this month over and above any other!
The fireworks of the border are hitting their prime this month – tulips are more or less over and roses are yet to come so alliums fill the gap and so much more. However the leaves, which are some of the first foliage to erupt in your borders as early as February sometimes, and have been photosynthesising, feeding the bulb, since then, are now looking a little tired. The best thing to do is be brutal and get rid of them, leaving the flower spikes well and truly standing proud.
It sounds ridiculous but if you can start to plan what you envisage your garden looking like next Spring, you can start to order narcissi and tulips now to avoid missing out on those super popular varieties.
Keep an eye out for pesky pests this month – as things start to warm up a whole host of critters will be appearing! I am always on the hunt for lily beetles as they can devour a bud in an evening. And I have mulched my hostas with strulch in the hope that they will keep the slugs at bay.
Continue to take cuttings of salvias, dahlias and pelargoniums this month to increase your stock.
The ‘Chelsea Chop’, so called because doing this usually coincides with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the last week of May, is a pruning method where you can reduce the growth of some plants so that they don’t topple over later in the summer and delay flowering for others so that you have continual flowering all summer long. Plants that respond well to this are sedums, Phlox paniculata and Echinacea purpurea. Either reduce the whole clump by a third/half which will delay the flowering or do some and some. Cut back some stems and leave others – thereby ensuring two flowerings at different stages and prolonging the flowering season. Note that if you do use this method, flowers are likely to be smaller but more prolific.
This month my plan is to try and start selling some of my babies! In order to make the bushiest, healthiest plants which will flower well, a number of plants respond well to being ‘pinched out’. Things like Dahlias, cosmos, sweet peas, pelargoniums, snapdragons and salvias all benefit from this. Find the central growing tip and simply cut it off with a pair of secateurs or snips.
Towards the end of the month, you can plant out all the tender plants and seedlings you have been growing under cover. Be sure to harden off your plants first by taking them outside in the day, in again at night and then for longer periods, covering if any frost on the horizon! Then at the end of May, prepare the ground well. Weed and sprinkle a general-purpose fertilizer like Blood, Fish and Bone and fork in. Soak your pots in a water bath which will moisten the roots prior to planting, dig a good sized hole about twice the depth and width of the plant, water the hole and pop the plant in, then backfill and mulch a little around to keep the moisture in and weeds at bay! Try and add some organic matter into each planting whole – particularly for the more hungry things like dahlias and sweet peas!
Begin to plant up all of your pots for displays over the Summer and into Autumn. Just beware of last minute frosts!
Dahlias can be planted out towards the end of the month. They thrive in rich soil so it is worth adding lots of organic matter. Dig a large hole and pinch back any leggy stems to encourage bushier more floriferous plants. Slugs love these beauties so I let the chickens do their thing!
Keep on weeding
We have been trying to mow less and less and as a result the dandelions have been appearing more and more! Instead of using weedkiller of any kind I have been digging them up and putting them in the green bin – I did also hear that pouring boiling water on them can also get rid of them.