Friday, 11 May 2012

May......the fork be with you

         May…..the fork be with you

Stand by your beds, borders and pots the time to plant out has finally arrived, or has it? The weather just gets worse and wetter as we stand by with our trusty forks or trowels in hand desperately awaiting that sunny moment to un-stuff the poor over filled greenhouse, kitchen window sill and every other space that has been utilised for our precious seedlings. This time last year the heating had been turned off, the planting had begun in earnest and the greenhouse was empty. Rain rain go away bring us a drought another day.

Attracting wildlife into the garden

If like me you want to Bee friendly in your garden then there are a few plants you can consider to help you on your way.

Bees prefer their flowers in the sun, so if you have a gap in a sunny spot it’ll be perfect for the pollinators. Single, open flowers are best as they allow excellent access for the bees to get at the pollen and nectar. Scatter a few wildflower seeds, such as Knautia Aruensis (Field Scabious) or perhaps Meadow Clary. Not only will there be an amazing splash of colour, the bees will flock to it. I have managed to convince my husband; James to leave a small section of the lawn un-mown again this year for our tiny wildflower patch, meadow seems far too grand. Clover grows in great swathes here and in the border I shall be planting cosmos sea shell and single flower Asters amongst the wildflower seeds. Hopefully we’ll get all sorts of interesting insects.

Bumblebees love more pendula trumpet like flowers such as Foxgloves, I’m sure you have seen many a bumble bee backing out of the flowers bottom first only to dive straight into the next flower, buzzing with delight at the thought of more food. A bit like the May gardener really, bottoms up, face forward, searching for weeds, after the success of finding and removing some, it’s back out of the border, bottom first and off to find some more. Bumblebees also love Antirrhinum (Snapdragons) and Aconitum (Monkshood) as they are heavy enough to open the flower heads and find the treasure inside.

So May thus far has not been the month that it usually is. Many gardeners love May as it signifies the start to seeing the fruits of our labours over the winter months. Planning, buying, potting on and seed sowing has been going on in earnest. It’s time to get your garden clobber on and plant out the tender little babies that you have nurtured for so long. Sadly it is taking longer this year and every time the sun shines, eager gardeners head for door only to be turned back by hail, rain and wind before they have even had time to call out “I’ll be in the garden.”

Keep your chins up my fellow gardeners the time will come and it won’t be far away (hopefully) either that or we’ll just have to brave it, put the wet weather gear on and plant out or be damned.

A short list of to do’s……May has endless jobs but here’s a few to get you get started

  • Hanging baskets can be planted up, I have several already up but they are in a settled area
  • Regularly water newly planted trees (humm, with all this rain?)
  • Finish off summer bulb planting
  • Give your spring a liquid feed ready for next years flowers
  • Dead head spent spring bulbs, although you are meant to leave the leaves for about six weeks I never do, they get all floppy and untidy, I'm afraid I chop mine down to a few inches, they always flower again next year though.

Fruit and Veg garden

  • Earth up your sprouting tatties. Mine have grown to the top of the bag in two weeks!
  • Seeds to sow directly…radish, spring onions, runner beans, winter broccoli and herbs including coriander, and parsley, maybe a few chives (leave some chives to flower, the bees love it)
  • Strawberry runners need pinching off when you spot them, this helps the fruit growth


  • If you are lucky enough to have any sun, shade your greenhouse to avoid overheating and scorching
  • Take a few leaf cuttings from your houseplants if you’d like a few freebies. African violets work well as do Cape primroses.
  • If herbs are your thing then carry on sowing in the greenhouse
  • Leave your door or vents open during the day, don’t forget to close again or you will be like me, rushing out in your nightie to do it at midnight

General garden

·        Search for those pesky perennial weeds, this rain has helped them grow quickly, couch grass is doing well and the ever present bind weed
·        Take soft shoot cuttings from fuchsias, penstomons, ceonothus, buddleja and honeysuckle to name but a few.
·        You may like to begin to feed houseplants now too
·        Clean out pond algae


  • Clematis Montana, after flowering. This will promote new base shoots for next year.
  • Any spring flowering shrub including forsythia, kerria japonica and pyracantha

And lastly, don’t forget the wildlife

  • Clean bird feeders to avoid nasty infestations and viruses for your birds
  • Build a few bugitat for the insects, bees, ladybirds, hoverflies to move into. My husband, James had lots of fun drilling holes of different sizes into the branches of trees that we had chopped down; these are now nestling in pots all around the garden.

One of James’ bugitats behind the azalea.