May Gardening Advice

Mr Fothergill's May Gardening Advice 2019

This is the month of the Chelsea Flower Show, where we see gardens and gardeners come together and celebrate the horticulture industry. For over one hundred years, it has showcased new and exciting plants, designs and pioneering growing techniques. Whether you’re looking for something for the garden, something for the allotment or something that will make your green fingers twitch, you’ll find it at this glorious event.

May is also the time for the ‘Chelsea Chop’, when we can take our perennials (such as Phlox, Sedums and Heleniums), and prune, or reduce them by 50%. This helps create a bushier plant with more blooms. Also, if you have a border of perennials which you want to flower simultaneously, then the Chelsea Chop is often the answer as it can help delay flowering.

With the ground warming up, we can begin thinking about both sowing and planting out directly into the soil. The plants you’ve been nurturing in the greenhouse can be hardened-off and planted into their final growing positions. Seed-grown vegetables can be brought out from the polytunnel, planted into their final positions, and then protected with either fleece or netting. But May can be a fickle month. Your garden can be basking in sunshine one moment, and drenched in a heavy downpour the next. So, keep your eye on the weather forecast, keep horticultural fleece handy, and be prepared to act if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

May is a great month to be a gardener. So, enjoy the warmer days, lighter evenings, and get out there and create something special.

In the flower garden

Spring bulbs

Now that they’ve flowered and the foliage has died back, this is the time to lift and divide your spring bulbs. Before your summer plants dominate the flowerbeds, think about where you want to see your spring bulbs to appear next year, and get them into the ground.

Summer bedding

Give your plants regular water and liquid feed to encourage large, long-lasting bloomsWith the chance of frost now waning, towards the end of the month you should think about getting your summer bedding plants into the ground, hanging baskets, pots or containers. Once planted, ensure you give them a regular water and a regular liquid feed to encourage large, long-lasting blooms. If you’re using containers, or hanging baskets, consider planting them up with water-retaining granules. If you already have established plant pots, then give them a top dressing, or re-pot with fresh compost and soil.


The dahlia tubers potted on back in early spring should now be producing sufficient foliage for them to be hardened off, and planted into their final growing positions. If you’ve just bought tubers, the ground should be warm enough for them to be directly planted into the soil. Remember, plants are now growing quickly, so highlight where you planted them with a label or bamboo cane.


Grass will be thriving, so mow your lawn weekly. Also, trim edging and remove any weeds. If you do decide to use chemicals, always consider who uses the lawn, and where the liquid runs off to. You wouldn’t want to damage a flower bed, and you definitely wouldn’t want to harm a family member or pet.


Pests, such as the lily beetle and greenfly, will be making an appearance. Check all plant foliage regularly, and dispose of any unwanted visitors. A good time to spot slugs and snails is first thing in the morning, around dusk, or after any rainfall.


The garden is putting on growth daily. However, with the risk of a late frost, it’s good to keep horticultural fleece handy. For your climbers, such as sweet peas, roses and perennials, ensure they are staked and tied into a support. You wouldn’t want all your months of hard work to be damaged by As temperatures continue to rise, be sure to get into a regular watering regime with all plantsa single bout of bad weather. Keep an eye out for blackspot on roses. Remove any affected foliage from sight, or treat with a fungicide.

Weeds will be competing with your plants for both water and nutrients. Remove immediately, or they could strangle and starve your plants.

Over the next few months, temperatures will continue to rise, so get into a regular watering regime with all plants, especially ones grown in pots, containers and hanging baskets. A regular liquid feed is also advisable.

On the veg patch


Strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries and currants will now be developing fruit. Water regularly, and keep free of weeds. Check plants regularly for pests, such as sawfly and aphids, dispose of them and net plants. If you’ve been growing strawberries on open plots, or raised beds, then place dry straw around the plants to protect fruit from rotting, and help suppress weeds. Ensure you water at the base of the plant only, not overhead, as this will encourage mildew.

Continue to pick rhubarb, but take no more than half from the plant. Ensure you hold the stem at the base, then pull it away from the plant. Otherwise, you could damage the crown.

Broad beans

Stake broad beans with canes and lengths of string, as this will take the weight of developing pods, and prevent wind damage. Keep an eye out for blackfly, and spray any affected plants with diluted soapy water, or remove by hand. Once pods start growing upwards from the lower part of the plant, pinch out the growing tips at the top. Not only will this help reduce blackfly, it will encourage healthy pods.

Planting out

Ensure brassicas, french beans and runner beans are planted in well, watered and mulchedChances are, you’ve grown vegetables from seed earlier this year. By now, they’ve hopefully grown into strong plants and are ready to go out. Brassicas, French beans and runner beans can be planted out. Ensure they are planted in well, watered and mulched. As the temperature rises, they will need all the moisture they can get. If cabbage root fly is a problem on your plot, think about fitting your brassicas with collars at the base of the plant. This will prevent the flies laying eggs, which will hatch into hungry larvae.

Depending where you are in the country, pumpkins, squashes and courgettes may need to be delayed until warmer temperatures. Otherwise, plant out into rich soil, or compost. These are hungry plants, and will need plenty of watering, and nutrients for them to help set fruit.


In some parts of the country, the soil will be warm enough for direct sowing. As well as beetroot, peas and carrots, sow successional lettuce, spinach and radishes. As these seedlings develop, thin out accordingly, water well, and keep weed free.


With all the seedlings you have growing in the greenhouse, remember to prick out and pot on. If you don’t, they will be starved of nutrients, or grow too big for their plug/tray and die. However, there will be plants that are ready to be taken out. Some may need hardening off, but they will be ready for their final growing positions.

Keep on top of your greenhouse this monthAs space becomes available in both the greenhouse and polytunnel, think about potting up your summer greenhouse plants, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillies, and melons. Place these into their final greenhouse positions, and establish a regular water and feeding regime. As these plants develop, they will need staking.

With temperatures rising, consider providing shade in your greenhouse, to prevent plants being scorched. On warm days, damp down the floor to increase humidity and help prevent red spider mite. If your structure has vents, use them.

Other jobs

If temperatures are rising outside, they’ll also be rising inside, so consider the best place for your indoor plants. A south-facing window may be too harsh for some plants, so consider moving them to a shadier spot.

Remove duckweed from ponds. Lay debris to side of pond overnight. Giving a chance for any caught wildlife to return to the water. Next day, remove waste from site.

Some plants will need extra watering and feeding to cope with the warmer conditions, and some plants will need less, so consider their needs and avoid stressing them.

If you have a tropical plant, make sure you give it a daily misting. Dust plant foliage regularly, and check for infections and pests.

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