Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary - May 2012

' A wet and windy May fills the barns with corn and hay '

Now we have survived the rigours of Lent we may look forward to the fifty days of Pentecost, the time when our gardens fully come to life after the long Lenten gloom and gives us ample opportunity to ponder the lengthening season and the renewal of life all around us. The origins of pentecost go back into the Old Testament and prehistory, originally an agricultural festival giving thanks for the first fruits of the early spring harvest, later adopted into the Christian tradition to directly succeed Easter Sunday.

As Gardeners, one of our chief worries during this time will be the behaviour of the weather. We are informed that May is statistically one of the driest months of the year, when damp westerly airstreams are less common. Anticyclonic weather in March and April will often lead to dry north easterly weather in May, apart from continued dryness this means frost and May frosts are the bane of all gardeners.

Really tender subjects like dahlias, begonias, cannas, etc, are best planted at the end of the month. In the borders and vegetable garden routine hoeing should be carried on. At the risk of becoming a hoe bore, the value of a Dutch hoe cannot be overstated; regular hoeing destroys weeds, loosens compaction, aerates the soil and breaks up the capillary action so reducing evaporation and leaves the beds looking fresh and shipshape. A hoe vigorously plied is one of the great aids to good growth.

In the veg. patch it is important to thin previously sown crops, this job should never be delayed, overcrowding in the early stages of growth can weaken plants to such an extent that they may never fully recover their health and vigour.
Strawberry beds may be matted or have straw laid down and runners not required for propagation may be removed as they develop. We may now sow seeds of French and runner beans and courgette and also continuing for succession, peas, carrots, parsnip, lettuce, radish, spinach. Brussels sprouts need a long season to fully develop so the quicker they can be transplanted to their permanent quarters the better.  Runner beans may be sown as soon as conditions appear safe but it is well to sow again at the end of the month and in June. It is customary to pinch out the tops of Broad Beans when in flower, this eliminates or at least greatly reduces the Black fly problem. Early Potatoes should be earthed up little and often.
Rhododendrons and Azaleas may have dead flowers picked off to allow new growth to form.

As Daffodils and other early flowering bulbs finish flowering it is as well to remove dead flowers to prevent seed formation and encourage the growth of bulbs. Any remaining pruning of Forsythia may now be completed, leaving the youngest shoots as they will bear the best blooms next year.

We end where we began, with the weather. We have always been advised not to ' Cast a clout 'till May is out ', an alternative reading of this dictum is that we must not cast any clouts until the May Tree (Hawthorn) is out, during the months of May and June. For much of our gardening activities at this time this is good advice as regards the spectre of the late May frost.

The Gardening Diary is kindly volunteered by Ross Atabey from Green & Great Gardens your local landscaping and garden specialists. For further advice contact Ross on 07941 315214 01435 812 153 or visit