Gardening in May


Now that we’re spending more time in our homes, those of us lucky enough to have one are appreciating our garden more than ever. Here’s how to keep yours at its best at this time of year.


Pruning …

Prune early flowering shrubs like weigela, ribes, philadelphus and deciduous magnolias. Cut back flowered growth to strong young shoots lower down the plant and around a quarter of older stems. And cut back flowered shoots of choisya for the chance of a second flush.

Prune back Clematis montana and armandii, as well as honeysuckle and other vigorous climbers

Lightly prune evergreen topiary and hedges with pruning shears.

Cut back flowering stems and yellowing foliage on spring bulbs (around six weeks after flowering). Until then, keep watering and feeding bulbs to prepare them for next year. ( Growing bulbs like tulips in a pot is a good way of avoiding having to look at the foliage as it dies back as you can move it away.)


Keep on top of weeds – pulling out dandelions while they’re small is easier as you need to remove the whole root.

Stake tall herbaceous perennials such as peonies now before they start flopping over other plants.

Tie in climbing and rambling roses– ideally horizontally to encourage more flowers. Tie in sweet peas regularly as well as other vigorous climbers such as clematis and akebia to control where they grow.

Mow the lawn once or twice a week, raising the blades if it’s dry – little an often keeps it healthier. Feed the lawn with a liquid or slow release fertiliser such as chicken manure pellets.


Keep an eye out for slugs and snails, particularly after rain, and around new shoots. Pick them off by hand or use organic slug pellets or beer traps (jars of beer sunk into the soil to attract and drown slugs!). Keep checking roses for aphids spraying them off with soapy water or squashing them off with your fingers.

Watering and feeding…

Start giving the garden a really good drenching at least once a week in warm weather, especially plants that like moisture such as hydrangea, anything newly planted and developing fruit and vegetables. Containers can need watering daily – depending on the plants.

Feed flowering pot plants weekly with liquid fertiliser and feed hungry plants like sweet peas.

Apply or renew a mulch of well-rotted manure to beds to cut down on weeding and watering – ideally after a downpour, as mulch keeps water out, as well as in.

Planting and dividing…

Divide spring flowering perennials to make new plants followed by  a feed and water.

Plant out courgettes and tomatoes in a sunny spot. You can also sow French and runner beans straight into the ground now as well as perpetual spinach and Swiss chard – which can look nice and lush in your flower beds – as well as continuing to sow beetroot, radishes and lettuce.

Surround ripening strawberries with straw to keep them off the soil and protect fruit bushes with netting. Plant out dahlias and tender exotics such as canna toward the end of the month.