Roz Chandler is a Flower Farmer and Founder of Field Gate Flowers (www.fieldgateflowers.co.uk), running online courses in flower growing. She is Female First's new Gardening Columnist and here is her take on what you should be up to in your garden in May.
What a strange April 2021 we have had and of course not just for gardeners!
April has seen its highest level of frost in 60 years, with an average of 13 days of frost topping the previous record figure of 11 days in 1970. This frost is more typical of the months of January and February.
It will also be remembered by gardeners as being a dry one and again it tops the records for being the driest April on record; we have spent many a day watering our fields.
So, whilst lots of records have been made, it hasn’t been great fun for us growers. Battling with dry conditions and having to water like mad, I for one felt I was doing the hokey cokey most of the month – plants out, then plants back in the polytunnel and then back out!
However, there is still so much to play for and as we enter May, there are lots of jobs we can be getting on with. We are a little behind due to the cold climate so May will be a busy month.
Here are our top 7 jobs to be getting on with in May:
1. Protect plants from late frosts by using horticultural fleece or even old newspapers. A late frost can harm your dahlias and all those new plants. We did lose a lot of dahlias last year with a May frost and therefore this year we are watching the weather very carefully. We would recommend keeping an eye on the forecasts.
2. Prune forsythia and early flowering shrubs - these need to be pruned after flowering (in late winter to spring and early summer, depending on the shrub). They usually flower on the previous year’s growth. Pruning immediately after flowering allows the maximum time for development of young growth and will provide the following year’s flowers.
3. Stake and support your plants - we would recommend doing this before you need to, as otherwise this job is much more difficult. We have already staked all our peonies and delphiniums and added in support netting to our rose beds.
4. Get ready to plant dahlias out at the end of May – wake them up now and take cuttings. This is truly a lovely thing to do. Cuttings are so easy to take from the mother plant. When the shoots have three to four sets of leaves, they are ready to take cuttings from. You need to use a sharp knife or razor blade to slice off a shoot with a narrow sliver of tuber. Cut above the lowest node or joint to leave a bud on the tuber.
5. Water in dry spells - In April, we all got caught out as the weather was so dry. We would recommend you keep up with the watering in May as it will take a while for the soil to be moist again after such a dry period.
6. Take softwood cuttings - if potted by mid-summer, they will develop sufficient roots to survive the winter. Our favourites on the farm are Viburnum, Lavender and Salvia.
7. Sow hardy annuals for cut flowers and bees - we love nothing better than sowing seeds directly into the soil. It’s easy and will provide flowers in 12 weeks. Our favourites are Ammi Visnaga, Florists’ Dill, Calendula, Nigella, Cornflowers and Cerinthe.
If you are a keen gardener, but also have a little one, you might have been putting off tending to your plants and flowers because it’s not a toddler friendly activity. Admittedly, not all garden jobs are safe, as some can involve sharp objects or cutting implements, but these can be held back for another time. Children love being in the outdoors, even if it’s just in your back garden- so putting all the adult jobs aside- there are a few things your child can help you with to encourage them to be green fingered too!...