Gardening: Revel in colours and scents of May

What jobs should we be doing in the garden this week? Olive Ryan fills us in.
Gardening: Revel in colours and scents of May

Bluebells and wild garlic are at their flowering best right now as the canopy closesin Picture: Olive Ryan

THE arrival of May in the garden heralds hints of the summer months ahead. Colour is starting to reveal itself at a more rapid pace, and the garden demands constant monitoring to ensure no flowering performance is missed.

The herbaceous border is beginning an eruption of growth with some early flowering plants like bleeding heart, geums, camassias and peonies producing welcome colour to whet our appetites for the season ahead.

It is time to consider getting stakes in place to support taller plant growth that will inevitably occur over the next few months, and if they are put in place early in the growing season, they will be swallowed up by plant growth and be perfectly disguised.

Bamboo canes, hazel rods or metal plant supports all work well and can be reused each year.

Sweet peas can be planted out into the garden now also and will respond well to regular watering and a liquid feed with tomato food once the flowers start to appear.

The garden is changing on a daily basis as growth has gone into overdrive! Some rain in the last few days has been well received by plants that are pushing up from the soil and new foliage and flowers are appearing almost visibly before our eyes.

With the rain come the slugs, so do be vigilant and consider some slug control, particularly around the delicious new foliage of lupins, delphiniums and hostas. A garlic spray can be effective and the key is to put the controls in place in time before the damage is done to save heartbreak.

Deciduous woodland areas are reaching a crescendo of flower before the canopy closes in now, and bluebells and wild garlic are giving it there all. It is a magical time of the year to get out for a walk in the woods and breathe in those spring smells.

White thorn is beginning to flower, with its sweet smell associated with the start of summer and particularly the month of May. The blossom on apple trees could rival the cherry trees with their attractive whites and pinks, the beginning of a promising apple harvest later in the year all going well. Let us just hope there are no late frosts as this can be bad news for pollination and fruit formation.

The weeds are doing well also, and getting perennial ones under control now and applying a mulch of garden compost or bark mulch to suppress weed seedlings and conserve water in the soil will ensure a more enjoyable growing season ahead for plants and gardeners.

The soil is warm enough now to plant directly, vegetables like beetroot, or carrots, parsnips and turnips.
The soil is warm enough now to plant directly, vegetables like beetroot, or carrots, parsnips and turnips.

The soil has warmed up suitably to consider sowing seeds directly into the soil outdoors, so plenty of vegetables that are best direct sown can be started. Root crops like carrots, beetroots, parsnips and turnips are best grown sowing the seeds directly where the plants will mature.

Hold off on sowing carrots until June to avoid the first generation of carrot root fly and consider growing with alliums as the scent from the onions will confuse the root fly.

Salad crops like lettuce, spring onions and radish can be sown regularly now to ensure a constant succession of new plants are maturing as they are fast-growing crops, and once temperatures are consistently high, they can run to seed quickly.

Tomato plants can be planted in tunnels and glasshouses, and with a predicted shortage of tomatoes this year due to the rising cost of fuel, there is no better time to start growing your own. They do require a protected environment, but if you have a sheltered, south-facing, cosy corner of the garden, give them a go there. Regular daily watering and a weekly liquid feed with a seaweed-based tomato feed will ensure continuous flowering and fruiting throughout the summer, giving an ample supply for the summer months, with the possibility of preserving some for winter use if the harvest is good.

As spring bulbs start to fade into the background, it is the last chance to dig up and divide daffodils and snowdrops that are overcrowded or flowered poorly before the foliage melts into the soil. The divided bulbs can be used to fill any gaps noticed over the last few weeks in different areas of the garden.

If a little of this work is attended to each year, the spreading of early spring colour around the garden will delight just a little more each year.

Early spring colour does a lot to lift the spirits of us gardeners after the short winter days and provides hope for the growing year ahead.

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