May is the month when things hot up – both temperature wise (hopefully) and work wise. So much to do and so little time to do it... After the rotten winter, there’s always the risk of getting carried away when the sun appears and a warm wind start to blow, but there’s still a real danger of a late frost, so keep an eye on the forecast – and be prepared to protect any tender plants if there’s even a faint possibility of a cold snap.
Thankfully, May has more positives than negatives. Unfortunately, that means more work, more often.
Spring-flowering shrubs that have finished blooming should be pruned and clipped where necessary. Some can be easily propagated by taking softwood cuttings, so kill two birds with one stone...
While the secateurs are out, lightly trim box hedges or train to shape specimen plants. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to give all formal hedging a spring makeover.
The rampant Clematis Montana will need a more serious seeing-to – yes, it’s a fantastically lovely early-summer bloomer but it has a tendency to romp away and should be hard-pruned once it’s finished flowering.
And spring-flowering perennials that have done their bit to brighten the garden early in the year can also be cut back and, if necessary, lifted and divided.
Feed and weed lawns, begin a mowing regime (always remembering to trim the edges) and repair any bald or worn patches with either seed or turf.
Lift and compost old spring bedding and start hardening off summer replacements (remember that frost warning – protect tender plants until the weatherman promises the temperature will not nosedive overnight).
And one other very important thing – watch out for pests. Slugs will be on the move, slowly, and there’s nothing they like more than fresh greenery. Don’t let them make a meal of your plants.
In greenhouses and conservatories, aphids may be a problem. The best way to deal with them is by spraying with a proprietary systemic insecticide, but it you’re not into chemicals, there are options – soft soap sprays or even hand-picking the blighters off the leaves and stems.
And then, just before you pop indoors for a rest, thin out any annuals or vegetables sown earlier in the year. And to ensure a regular supply of the latter, make another sowing of the likes of lettuce, radish and even carrots in containers.