Plenty of tasks to do in the garden this May... but take time to smell the roses!

May is a busy month in the garden, as Olive Ryan explains in her weekly column
Plenty of tasks to do in the garden this May... but take time to smell the roses!

Selfseeders like poached egg plant and calendula will bring pollinators and natural predators to the garden. Pictures: Olive Ryan

MAY is without doubt one of the most beautiful and also busiest months in a garden.

New growth abounds everywhere, seedlings need transplanting, weeds need to be kept in check, established plants need to be fed, grass needs to be cut, wall trained plants need to be tied in, and supports put in place for taller plants.

A busy time when there are lots of jobs to do, which will make the growing season ahead a more enjoyable and successful one.

With the new growth in the garden and a rise in air and soil temperature ideal conditions for the growth of plants, it also makes ideal conditions for the increase in pest numbers, so be vigilant and keep an eye out for the usual suspects, like the red lily beetle among newly-emerging lily foliage, gooseberry saw fly larvae on soft fruit bushes, slugs, snails, aphids and caterpillars generally in the garden and protected environments.

Good ventilation in protected environments is important now as numbers will multiply fast once temperatures rise and they can become a serious problem quickly. Keep all doors and overhead vents open during the day and maybe close some at night if temperatures are dipping low. Good air-flow will help prevent a build up of aphids and keep plant growth healthy. 

Once tomato plants have been planted in indoors, regular weekly feeding with a liquid tomato food and the removal of side shoots and tying in will ensure a bumper crop this summer.

Preparation during winter and spring all comes to fruition now as vegetable beds are ready to be filled with brassicas, legumes, root and salad crops of all descriptions. Young seedlings that have been hardened off in a cold frame can be planted out into the soil, which will have benefited from the addition of compost.

The use of cardboard to cover the soil for the winter months prevents nutrients being leached too quickly and also attracts plenty of earthworms that love the moist environment just beneath the cardboard.

It is a real joy to dig into the soil and uncover so many worms when planting. However, cardboard does also create an attractive hiding place for slugs so be wary when planting out young seedlings and put beer traps, organic slug pellets and crushed eggshells in place to avoid major losses.

A garlic spray on the leaves of the plants needing protection can also be effective, it will need to be repeatedly sprayed at regular intervals to be effective.

Watering well immediately after planting is essential to settle the roots of newly planted transplants into their new planting position. There is, of course, nothing like the watering that plants get from the sky and the timing of planting out before rain is due can be invaluable, cutting down on water use and soaking down into the roots of new transplants and settling them right into the soil, getting them off to a flying start.

An essential item in the pocket of any gardener from now on has to be a ball of twine to tie in any unruly new growth. 

The growing season has started well and, fingers crossed, it will continue in this manner with no nasty surprises in the form of late frosts which can do a lot of damage once the growth has started.

If you make your own compost, you will have some serious decisions to make when weeding as there will be many self-seeders like opium poppies, verbascums, poached egg plant, foxgloves, calendula, aqueliga and evening primrose making an appearance along with weed seedlings.

The ready-for-use compost bay will be empty soon and it will be time to close off the active heap for this year and start a new one. Usually, giving a year under cover to decompose, with an occasional watering, will produce excellent compost for use in the vegetable or flower garden. A valuable resource to create in-house, making the garden more sustainable through the recycling of organic material to produce a useful soil enricher.

With all that is going on in the garden this May, do not forget to sit back and literally smell the roses! 

It can be a hectic time when we need to take stock of our workload and cut back if necessary so that all that we are undertaking is enjoyable and not becoming too much of a burden.

This year, I have cut back on the amount of vegetables grown and, as a result, the food I am growing can be given the attention it needs, and the whole process is much more enjoyable - sometimes less is more.

Happy Gardening!

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