May gardening tips – planning for a perfect summer

Protect young shoots from pests and start dead heading flowers – there’s plenty to do in the garden in May.
Ribes - May gardening tips

This week, we share our May gardening tips to ensure your outdoor space is in tip-top shape for summer.

As the flowers of spring flowering shrubs fade, they can be pruned back to get a good display next year. Forsythia, Ribes (flowering currants),  Kerria japonica, Chaenomeles (Japanese quince) and early flowering Spirea should all be pruned regularly to keep them vigorous and flowering well.

Ideally each year you should cut out one in three or one in four of the oldest branches down to ground level. In this way, the plant always has plenty of growth left and no branch is allowed to get old and past its prime.

If you have a neglected plant, then they can withstand being cut pretty much right down to the ground, though I prefer to carry out drastic renovation over at least two years. Leaving some of the more upright and further back shoots intact so as to keep the plant going rather than dependent on reserves in the roots when recovering.

Delphiniums - May gardening tips
Delphiniums are a magnet for slugs.

Protection against slugs

Continue to protect young shoots from slugs – if you are thinking of using slug pellets from the garden shed, don’t! Since 1st April they have been banned in the UK due to the harm they pose to pets and wildlife.

Natural barriers you can use to deter the slimy molluscs include ash, sand, eggshells, diatomaceous earth (a sand of fossilised algae and tiny sea organisms) and even coffee grounds. If these don’t do the trick, try copper tape or wire as slugs will retreat from the tiny static charge in the metal.

Whatever particularly around clematis and herbaceous plants (they love Delphiniums). As soon as there are shoots to eat the slugs and snails will appear from nowhere.

Push support stakes into the ground around emerging tall perennials. This will enable them to be supported from the earliest opportunity and cause the least disturbance to them when they are covered in leaves. It also helps to disguise the supports later on as the plants grow around them.

Planting hanging baskets - May gardening tips
May is a good time to start your hanging baskets.

Hanging baskets

Plant up containers and hanging baskets with tender summer bedding plants towards the end of the month, but don’t put them out until all risk of frost has passed. If you can’t keep them frost free, then order them in advance from your local garden centre or similar. If you do have the space in a greenhouse, then such containers and baskets are best planted up a few weeks before they are due to go out as this allows the plants to grow into their new homes and around each other.

Watch out for early signs of aphids. Recent mild winters means that more are surviving than used to, it’s about now that they start to come out of hiding and build up their numbers. If you can spot aphids early, then life gets an awful lot easier later on in the year. Check the newly emerging shoots of their favourite plants, particularly roses. My stage-one aphid eradication involves simply rubbing them between  my fingers, you’ll never get them all this way, (it’s not too distasteful when there’s only a few) but it’s a good way of setting them back a couple of weeks or more.

Plant out your vegetable plot - May gardening tips
Transfer your seedlings to your vegetable plot.

Grow your own veg

If you’ve never tried growing your own vegetables, or grown anything from seed, then there is still time to sow some. I tend to go for things that are either expensive in the shops or difficult to get really fresh. I don’t see the point of struggling against the slugs and weather to get a crop of lettuce that I can’t possibly eat quick enough at the time when they are almost giving them away in the shops (though you could try unusual and therefore more expensive varieties, Lollo Rosso, rocket or the like).

Beans are easy and don’t travel well so the ones in the shops are never as good or fresh as home grown. Broad beans are good as are French beans and very easy too, French beans don’t need all the long canes that runner beans need. I also go for spinach because I like it in salad better than any other leaf. There’s probably many others that fit into my “reliable in the garden, expensive and limp in the shops” category, but I know that these work – please let me know if you have any favourites.

Don’t cast any clouts before the end of the month.

May gardening jobs roundup

  1. Build your slug defences
  2. Sow your vegatable plot – broad beans, salad leaves etc
  3. Sort out your hanging baskets
  4. Don’t cast any clouts

If you found May gardening tips – planning for a perfect summer helpful, you’ll find lots of seasonal gardening advice on our Gardening channel.

Tags: Last modified: May 4, 2022

Written by 8:29 am Gardening