May should be a month of blossoms, cuckoos, swallows and martins, warm sunny days and gardens full of colour, so here’s hoping!

March is usually  Daffodil month, but this year they were late beginning to open because of the low temperatures and now (at the time of writing) they are still in the midst of their season, however, most of them will be largely past their best by the time you read this, except for some “Pheasant’s Eye” Narcissi, such as “Actaea”. Tulips will of course still be in flower and summer bulbs such as lilies and gladioli still to come.

Lily Beetles and Lilies

Bright orange Lily Beetles may appear on the plants as soon as they emerge from the ground. The adults have over wintered and will produce a new generation of larvae, which are noticeable as being dark green or black and slimy, as they are covered with their own excrement. They can rapidly strip the lilies of their foliage and ruin them. Adults and larvae can be controlled with contact insecticides or chemicals in the “Provado” group of products; check the labels for recommendations. Research is continuing into controlling them by use of predators and possibly odours which attract them.

Beware Frost Damage

 

It is still quite possible to have some night frosts in early May, so beware of planting tender bedding, tomatoes, marrows etc. outside too early, unless you are prepared to rush out and cover them up with fleece or newspaper if the temperature suddenly falls.

If you have a greenhouse there can be huge differences between day and night temperatures at this time of year, so be prepared to open doors and windows during the day and keep everything closed at night. A thermostatically controlled heater can be useful if you have one. Electric ones are the most controllable, but propane gas units are available, with a thermostat. The gas heaters have the advantage of increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the greenhouse atmosphere, which is beneficial to the plants.

Lawn Care in May

 

Lawns were later coming into growth this year than they have been for several seasons; as I write, ours have only been cut once as was the case last year, whereas in years prior to that, we have started cutting in early February.

In May they should be growing well and will need cutting frequently; I do not claim to be a very “organic” gardener, but one thing I do try to avoid doing, is putting fertilizer on lawn-grass. It makes it grow too fast and can encourage some of the coarser grass species. I think these days we should also learn to live with a few broadleaf weeds in the lawn. Unless you have a bowling green or tennis court, many wild flowers that grow in lawns can be quite attractive and you can often physically remove those, e.g. dandelions, that  aren’t, However, there can be justification for using a weed killer on occasions but if you do, be sure to follow the instructions carefully, particularly avoiding drift onto other plants. Tomatoes can”smell” weed killers a mile away and curl up!!  Importantly, avoid spraying when bees are working, as even though the herbicide itself may not harm them, it may mean that because they smell of it, other bees will eject them from the hive.

Early Flowering Shrubs

 

Early-flowering shrubs can be pruned as soon as the flowers have faded, to give them the maximum growing time for the new wood on which they will flower next year. Those which produce showy berries however, such as Pyracantha, should not have all of the dead flowers cut off.One possibility is to cut off half of the flowered shoots each year, so that you have a good show of berries and still get new growth that will flower in the next season.

Vegetables

 

Early vegetables, such as broad-beans (autumn sown) will be starting to crop before too long. If the black bean aphid is a problem, nip out the plant growing tips as soon as they have set a reasonable amount of pods. When broad beans have been picked, they can be cleared away and followed with transplanted cabbages. Try to leave the bean roots in the ground as they will have “fixed” nitrogen from the atmosphere in the root nodules and this will benefit subsequent crops.

Runner and dwarf (French) beans, sown under protection in April can be planted out now and seed can also be sown directly into the row for successional cropping.

Wire Worms and other Garden Pests

 

If you have dug up lawn to plant vegetables, something we are being exhorted to do these days, and grown potatoes or other root crops, you may find that holes have been bored in them by wire-worms.These are about 1.5cms in length and are light creamy colour to shades of yellow and orange. They have a tough skin. They feed predominately on potato plants but other garden vegetables may be at risk. Damage appears as a dark brown-black hole punched into it. A suitable insecticide should be used.

The adult form is known as a click beetle, which do little harm.They are interesting bugs about the size of an elongated ladybird and brown in colour. A click beetle can be recognised by turning it over on its back, whereupon, with an audible click, it will flick itself back onto its legs again. (I didn’t write that on April1st.)

Slugs and snails will be very active at night now and it may be worth going out in the dark with a torch and collecting them as they go about their feasting. What you do with them after gathering them up, I will leave you to choose!!

Well I’m out of space again, so that’s it until June. Enjoy the early summer in your garden.