Welcome to your one-stop resource for gardening in May.
If you’re not sure what to focus on this month, or are short on time for gardening, you’re in the right place!
You can check out my gardening jobs for every other month in this post.
Gardening in May
May is one of the busiest months in the garden. Everything is growing, so there’s lots of maintenance going on, but we’re also still planting lots of new things. Add to that the general urge to sit back and enjoy the sunshine, and it’s no wonder we spend longer in our gardens at this time of year.
What to do in the garden in May
If you’re feeling a little daunted by your May gardening to do list, here are some ideas to get you organised.
Keep up with the weeding
Gardening in May inevitably involves weeding. It’s not just the plants you want to grow that are going for it at this time of year; weeds are doing their best to take over too.
Little and often is a great approach for weeding. Tackling them regularly means you remove them before they get too established, which will save lots of time in the long run. It will also give your plants the space and nutrients they need in order to thrive.
Grass is now in it’s growth period, so you will probably need to mow the lawn regularly this month. Raise your mower blades if the weather has been quite dry, to put less strain on the grass.
If your lawn is looking a bit worse for wear, you can apply *lawn fertiliser to give it a boost and encourage lots of new growth. If you have lots of weeds and/or moss, a combined feed, weed and mosskiller is a better option. It will result in bare patches, but these should fill in quickly. You can of course sow *lawn seed to speed things up a bit. Trimming the edges of your lawn is also a quick and easy way to make it look better.
Watering is another big part of gardening in May. As the weather warms up, your plants will rely on you more for water. There are a few things you can do to make watering more effective, which will save time and have a bigger impact on the health of your plants.
Don’t waste time watering little and often. Doing this encourages weeds, and can also cause plants to make roots near the surface, which makes them vulnerable. Instead, water the soil around plants really thoroughly, making little ponds around them, so the water can really soak in. Watering this way supports plants for much longer, so you should need to water less often.
Pay particular attention to plants grown in pots at this time of year. Container plants dry out much more quickly than plants grown in the ground, so you may need to water these more often.
For more tips on effective garden watering, check out this post.
Feed your plants
All that new growth and flowering demands a lot of resources. Feeding your plants will help to provide them with the nutrients they need in order to thrive throughout summer. A general purpose plant food is a good option, but if you’re growing fruit and veg make sure you use a plant food designed specifically for these.
Plant food is available in a few different formats. The most common is a *concentrated liquid, which you dilute according to the pack instructions and use to water your plants. You can also buy *granules which should be scattered on the surface of the soil and lightly raked in, and *ready-to-use liquid feed which you pour into the soil around the plant. This last option is great if you’re a bit daunted by the idea of getting the feeding right, but it’s not the cheapest or most recycling-friendly choice.
Refresh potted plants
If you have perennial plants that are growing permanently in pots, they will eventually exhaust the nutrients in their compost. You can give them a boost without a full re-pot by removing the top layer of compost, then adding some *slow-release plant food and a layer of fresh compost. Finish by watering the pot thoroughly.
Deadhead your flowers
Having spent time and money on your plants, it’s worth encouraging them to produce as many flowers as possible. Deadheading is an easy way to do this.
Deadheading is simply removing any flowers that are drooping, dead or forming seed heads. Doing this prevents the plant setting seed, so it produces more flowers.
To deadhead your plants, all you need to do is pinch or snip off the old flower heads. You can use your fingers, but I find that *snips make the job much quicker.
If your spring bulbs have finished flowering, you can deadhead those too. The goal is a bit different here; you’re aiming to stop the plant producing seeds and instead concentrate energy back into the bulb. Avoid removing the leaves until they die back and turn yellow, as this will also help to improve bulb strength.
Setup plant supports
If you haven’t already done it, get your plant supports in place this month. Doing this before the plant grows really big is much easier, and will look more natural too. It will also minimise damage to young stems and shoots.
Typical candidates for *plant supports are peonies, hydrangeas and lavatera (mallow), and climbing plants such as clematis and honeysuckle. Remember your edible plants too; if you’re growing peas or beans these will need supports as well.
Create bedding plant displays
We should be past the risk of overnight frost now, so you can plant bedding plants in containers, *hanging baskets and borders this month. Bedding plants are brilliant for creating a colourful display, and garden retailers will have a wide selection to choose from at this time of year.
If you’d like some ideas on low-maintenance plants for containers, take a look at this post.
Jobs to help garden wildlife
This is a busy time of year for lots of garden wildlife, with many species raising their young. You can help them out by providing a source of food, water and shelter.
Keep your bird bath and *bird feeders topped up, or make your own fat cakes to give birds a high-energy treat. You might also like to install a hedgehog house, or create a log pile to provide a habitat for insects, amphibians and small mammals.
You can also support pollinating insects by doing things like installing a *bee hotel, leaving a ‘messy’ corner of the garden, and choosing plants that are good for pollinating insects. As well as helping our native species thrive, it’s good for the garden too.
Check for slugs, snails and plant pests
Slugs and snails are very active now, and if you’ve got lots of tasty seedlings for them to enjoy you could have a battle on your hands. Check your plants and containers regularly, and remove any offenders. You can deter slugs and snails using physical barriers such as crushed eggshells or *copper tape. If you decide to use slug pellets, choose *metaldehyde-free ones which have less impact on wildlife and the environment.
If slugs and snails are a real problem in your garden, this video has lots of ideas for dealing with them using organic methods:
It’s also a good idea to check your plants regularly for signs of other pests such as greenfly and blackfly. Taking action at the first signs of infestation can really limit the impact. Keeping your plants healthy and strong will also make them much more able to cope with a small amount of pest damage.
Now is a good time to prune early flowering shrubs such as lilac. Pruning now will give the new growth time to mature before it flowers again next spring. Start by removing any dead, damaged or crossing stems, then thin out the centre of the plant to improve air flow and remove old flower heads and smaller dead stems.
If you have early-flowering clematis in your garden, prune them as soon as they’ve finished flowering. Don’t go mad here; a general tidy up to remove dead and damaged stems is all that’s needed.
Evergreen hedges and shrubs can also be pruned this month, as long as all risk of frost has passed.
You can also have a go at the ‘Chelsea Chop’ on herbaceous perennials such as rudbeckias, heleniums, phlox, echinacea and delphiniums. This is usually done around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show – hence the name – and involves reducing the plant’s height by between a third and a half. Doing this encourages the plant to grow more side shoots, this makes it sturdier and also results in more flowers. It feels drastic, but it works! If you’re not feeling brave enough to chop all of your plants, just pruning a few will still extend the flowering period.
Gardening in May: what to plant now
When it comes to growing plants, May is one of the busiest months in the garden. For a full list of flowers, fruit and vegetables you can grow this month, head over to my post on what to plant in May.
There’s such a lot to be getting on with this month! What jobs have you got on your list for gardening in May?