May in the garden
And just like that, the first quarter of the year is over and we’re now looking at May in the garden – where does time go? The recent mix of sunshine and showers has made everything green up almost overnight and lots of flowers are beginning to burst into life at last. Like the delicate pale pink honey scented flowers on our Japanese cherry tree in the cover picture – I’ve been picking a few sprays for bedside posies and the fragrance is just beautiful.
What's flowering now?
Our new jasmine plant in its pot by the front porch is wafting heavenly fragrance over visitors and us whenever we open the door. Masses of tulips are beginning to open up, and both our white and pink perennial dicentra spectabilis are looking wonderful. Our summer snowflakes are still nodding away by the pond, and now that the daffodils are going over, the bluebells are starting to open up in the orchard. And our biennial honesty plants are really brightening up a rather shady flower bed.
Potting on, hardening off, planting out
All the seeds we sowed in February have been potted on into larger pots (you’ll know when it’s time to do this as their roots will start poking out the bottom of their original pots or coir pellets). And I’ve planted out our cornflower seedlings into one of our raised flower beds where I grow flowers specifically for cutting.
I’m playing hardball with the slugs and snails this year though, any new or young plants go in the ground with a scattering of blue pellets around them. I’ve tried various non-bio methods in previous years and lost far too many young plants and a lot of hard work. Sadly, nothing is as effective as the little blue tabs, it’s not ideal but sometimes you just have to go with what works.
Now that the weather and soil is warming up, I’ve been leaving the greenhouse door open all day and night to acclimatise and harden off our other seedlings (sweet peas, cerinthe, dill) which have come on in leaps and bounds, before they get planted out shortly.
Flower seeds to sow
As I mentioned last month, if it’s warm enough for weeds to grow, it’s warm enough to start sowing seeds outside too. Last year I sowed some wildflower seeds on a patch of bare ground at the back of our summerhouse and both I and the bees were delighted with the results. So I’ve done it again this year, with a different mix – watch this space :)
I’ve got some white and purple foxglove seeds for a shady border and purple poppy seeds for a sunny patch and they’ll be going into the ground shortly. I could have started them out in module trays earlier this year but life’s too short, I’m going to scatter them direct where I want them to grow and see what happens. And I’m going to try growing some edible flowers for the first time too – I found a box of seeds in Sainsbury’s recently, it’s a mix of nasturtiums, violas, calendulas, marigolds, and lettuce. Hopefully we’ll have some colourful summer salads later this year!
Vegetable seeds to sow
Now’s the perfect time to sow peas and we have two lots: some left over from our April Mud and Bloom box and some that came with a recent Innocent smoothies pack purchase. Flora loves helping with this and her other job will be finding suitable sticks to plant alongside to train the young plants up as they start growing.
We’ll also plant some carrots (tip: buy seed tapes, it makes life so much easier as the seeds are already spaced out for you) and some spring onions. Another tip: plant the carrots and onions in alternate rows so the onions mask the carroty smell and the dreaded carrot fly doesn’t come and eat your baby root vegetables.
Prowling around garden centres at this time of year can reap some real bargains. I bought some lovely pink/purple flowering pulmonaria raspberry splash, some blue flowering brunnera jack frost and some polemonium jacobs ladder that will have purple flowers in early June.
All were being sold off cheaply to make way for new summer plants. Tip: don’t worry about a few dead leaves or flowers on sale plants, the roots are the main things in perennials. As long as they haven’t dried out completely, a quick soak in a bucket of water before planting out will reward you with some strong and healthy plants for very little money.
Most of our daffodils have gone over now so I’ve been deadheading them (pinching off the dead flower just below the seed tip). But you should leave the green leaves in situ to carry on absorbing sunlight and nutrients to store and feed the bulbs ready for next year’s flowers. Once foliage has gone brown, you can cut it all back. I picked up a good tip from Gardeners World recently: deadhead your potted bulbs but leave those that are naturalised in grass (like our orchard) so they can self-seed and multiply.
Watering pots and ponds
Strange as it sounds, in spite of all the rain, pots need watering at this time of year. Most plants will have lots of foliage so the rain runs off the leaves instead of getting through the soil and down to the roots.
And after all the frantic mating activity last month, both our ponds are crammed with frogspawn, some of which has hatched already. Flora’s been having a wonderful time pond dipping for tadpoles and she’s even caught three newts! Again, it’s really important to keep water levels topped up, ideally with rainwater from a water butt.
This is a lengthier post than usual, partly because there’s so much to share and partly because I’m responding to requests to see more of our flowers throughout the year (although you can see plenty of them on my Instagram <grin>). But if you’re still with me (!) then thank you for reading about our May in the garden – what plans do you have for this month?
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