I’m not sure about you, but this year it seems like the garden is about three weeks behind where it was last year.
Our alliums and cistus (pictured top) are looking glorious, but we’ve only just had our first cosmos flower and so far no roses, dahlias, lupins… or any of the other colourful flowers we might have already had blooming this time last year.
It’s been a cold, then dry, then wet winter and spring, so it’s no wonder the plants are still catching up a bit. But that means there’s still loads to look forward to in the garden this month!
If we do get the heatwave that seems to be promised, you’ll want to get out and spend as much time outdoors as you can. So here’s a few ideas to keep you busy…
Get planting out!
Now, we’re pretty sure we’re safe from frosts… so you can go wild planting out all your lovely bedding plants! I’ve just planted out lots of cosmos, dahlias, marigolds, nicotiana, zinnia, begonias and geraniums. The garden is still looking very green at this point as most of them aren’t flowering yet – but i’m expecting an utter riot of colour in a few weeks when they all get going!
This year, because of the issues I’ve had in the past with slugs gobbling my young plants, I’ve given some of them a protective application of alpine grit. I’ve read that slugs don’t like the texture and so keep away – it seems to be working ok so far, so let’s see. As an added bonus, the grit can only help improve the drainage in my heavy clay soil over time, too.
If you’re growing vegetables, you are now safe to plant them into their final positions. Don’t forget that, for a lot of edibles, the key is successional sowing, so you get a constant supply of things like lettuce and radish and not one big glut which you’ll never be able to eat all of!
Pinch out sideshoots on your tomatoes
Don’t let your tomato plants run away with themselves – too many leaves and branches for it to support will leave it with less energy to concentrate on producing lots of lovely fruit. When you see side shoots like these appear (in between the main stem and an already established branch), just pinch them off (literally, use your fingernails to snip them off. If they’ve got a bit bigger, then use sharp garden scissors). It’ll leave you with a more manageable plant and better tomatoes!
Stake tall plants – before they need the help!
If you’re growing tall plants like cosmos and sunflowers, which are likely to need some help from a stake in the coming weeks or months, don’t leave it too late. Give them a helping hand from a stake support now to avoid the heartbreak of snapped stems when an unexpectedly windy day sneaks up on us!
When using a cane to stake a plant always make sure you cap it with something to reduce the risk that you’ll poke your eye out on it when distracted by weeding or some other task. Use caps like the ones pictured above – or just recycle old yoghurt pots to do the job just as well.
Prune back large Camellias
If your Camellias have finished flowering and the bush has got just a little bit too big, now is the perfect time to prune them back for size. You can also hard prune Rhododendrons and Azaleas when they finish flowering if they’ve also become a bit too big for their space. At first they may look a little bare but in a few months you’ll see the signs of regrowth.
Keep earthing up those potatoes
If you’re growing potatoes, make sure you keep ‘earthing them’ – basically topping up the soil to keep covering over any green shoots that start to appear. You do this because you want to stop too much light getting into the plants – because that could turn your potatoes green and even poisonous! You can wait until the shoots are about 23cm tall, then give them a good covering with soil or another light blocking material.
Mow the lawn regularly
At this time of year, the grass grows incredibly fast – especially after all the rain we’ve had lately. If you want to keep it neatly cut, you’ll need to mow it weekly or every two weeks. If you hate mowing the lawn but love nice neat grass, why not ask one of the local gardening companies in our Local Directory to do the honours for you?
Don’t panic if you spot an aphid invasion!
Take a close look at the stems of some of your plants – like roses and parsley (above) and you may find whole colonies of aphids coating them. It can be a bit alarming – but try not to overreact. Don’t forget, aphids are a good food source for helpful garden insects, like ladybirds. Before you reach for the pesticide, try simply rubbing them off with your fingers or just shaking them off onto the soil, where hopefully the good bugs will come along to feast on them.
At this time of year, when there are less predators about to control aphid numbers, it might seem as though you’re overrun. But if you let nature take its course, the abundance of these little green or black flies will actually attract ladybirds, ground beetles, hoverflies etc to your garden to patrol it all summer long. If you’re really worried about them damaging your plants, you can try an organic spray or even a biological control such as lacewing larvae.
Protect brassicas and onions from peckish pigeons
Pigeons love to pull up your spring onions and munch on your broccoli and cauliflower. They’ll also make a beeline for your strawberries. Stop them eating everything you’re growing before you get a chance too by covering plants over with a fine netting or mesh like the one above.
About the author:
My name is Gemma. I’m the editor of Newton-le-Willows News and a very keen but amateur gardener. I mainly enjoy growing flowers in my small garden in Lowton, but I also like dabbling with growing edibles in containers, too. You can follow my garden on Instagram @gandtgarden.
What jobs will you be doing in the garden this month?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!