Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary - May 2011

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

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb. It's done very well this year. My wife has enjoyed stewing the stuff all month long. May brings a real foretaste of summers brilliance. Bulbs, trees and shrubs, and early perennials are flowering freely. Experience has proved however that it is unwise to be tempted into the assumption that summer is really here.

Late may frosts are the bane of all gardeners. They are especially likely when night skies are clear and April has been drier than usual and apparently last month was the driest in our corner of the island for eighty years. This led to a prolonged battle of wills between me and my parsnip seeds. I won in the end. There seems no end in sight to the current dry spell so we must be patient with the lawn treatment, hosing the lawn just doesn't have anything like the same effect as rain does. With the risk of frost in mind, really tender subjects such as Dahlias, Begonias, Cannas etc., should not be planted before the end of the month. And caution should be taken too with Geraniums, Salvias, Lobelias, Fuchsias, Zinnias and French and African Marigolds. Even if they are not killed by frost, they may receive such a severe check from cold May nights that they will never recover to give a proper display. Hardier bedding stock must be got out at the earliest opportunity to give the plants a chance to obtain a root hold before summer drought punishes them.

Early sowings of annuals and in the vegetable garden will require attention as to thinning during the month, this is a job which must never be delayed. Overcrowding in the early stages of growth can weaken plants to such an extent that they will never fully recover health and vigour. Keep an eye on the greenhouse temperature, attending to ventilation and screening.

Last month I recommended keeping your hoe in easy reach at all times. Hoeing is not solely a weeding activity, but is equally important in conserving moisture. By interrupting the capillary action, drying is greatly reduced. All farmers know that a ploughed field won't dry out. A few hot weeks in April and May, if the surface is not reduced to a fine tilth, will greatly reduce the moisture available. A Dutch hoe vigorously plied is one of the greatest aids to good growth.

Many of the bulbs will have finished flowering, and apart from keeping the garden tidy, it is wise to pinch off the heads of dead flowers to prevent seed forming. The stems and foliage help to build up the bulbs so that they flower well next year and it is most important that the foliage is left to die down naturally.

In the vegetable garden we may be sowing French and Runner beans, Turnips, Marrow, peas, lettuce, radish, spinach and Chard. Near the beginning of the month early Brussels Sprouts plants can be planted out and it is these first plants that usually produce the best results as they need a long season to reach full maturity.

Mat or straw strawberry beds and remove runners not needed for propagation. Afford support to peas before there is any danger of them flopping over and injuring their stems.

Keep up the spraying program on Roses and keep a keen eye out for Green Fly which can do a lot of damage at this time. Recent laws sprouting from Brussels have banned most of those toxic chemical sprays beloved by many gardeners, thus control is not as easy as it was in the good old days of DDT and Agent Orange. The internet is awash with discussion forums on this subject.

Keep that hoe going.

Content 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