Monthly Gardening Tips - May 2021


Two months ago I was urging getting out into the garden, despite the wet and cold weather, to deal with transplanting and new planting. And now we are almost in drought conditions! Early mulching will have paid off. However, the soil is actually quite moist a few centimetres down so its only seedlings that might suffer at present.

Despite the widespread availability of summer bedding plants I would advise caution in planting most annuals out. Traditionally we are quite iikely to suffer damaging frosts up to the 20th. May. Prepare your tubs, baskets, pots and window boxes now by clearing out old bedding plants, and weeds. Either tickle the soil surface, scatter Growmore or similar fertiliser and water it in several days before you plant your bedding plants. If you think the soil is really impoverished you can, of course, replace it, and the drainage material beneath. Fill containers to within 2-3 cms. of the top to give maximum goodness to your plant roots. Always water immediately after planting, and use a rose on the can or hose several times to prevent eroding the soil surface.


When your forget-me-nots have finished flowering, hoe and rake the plants off if you don't want an infestation next year. Otherwise just leave the tops until around mid-late June by which time they will have dropped their thousands of seeds! But if you compost the old plants expect seedlings to appear for several years to come. You can transplant some of these seedlings into your windowboxes and outside pots next autumn as winter bedding plants 6-10 cms. high!

See this blue aubretia photo below - does anyone recognise whereabouts it is growing in Kew? Great for rock gardens, crevices in paving and raised brick wall beds. Trim all the old flowers and long growths off them, remove any snails, give them a good watering, and they’ll grow back again in no time ready to flower next springtime. See also my photo of a lovely Judas tree, Cercis (probably C. canadensis,) in Leyborne Park, Kew.

Blue aubetia
Blue aubetia


I am not a professional vegetable grower, although I have been growing for 63 years! We never stop learning, often from our mistakes, often due to vagaries of the weather or due to chemical, animal, insect or human interference. It’s fun to strive for bigger, and better, each season; and also to grow things that you have never grown before.(See Globe artichoke, below.) Also below you will see a white flowering Comfrey which has high nectar flowers. You can also make liquid fertlliser from leaves- apparently higher nitrogen, potassium and phosphate than farmyard manure. However, beware, if you do make it remember to dilute it as instructed - last year I forgot and as a result lost all my tomato plants!

Most annual seeds should have been sown by now, some in pots or boxes on windowsills or in frames or greenhouses; others directly in situ. I failed to put netting over my mangetout seeds last month and mice ate them all! Kale seedlings in strip boxes came up like mustard and cress and will best be individually potted up to grow on for a few weeks prior to planting out; but some I will plant out straight from where they germinated. Radishes sown in late February have produced a bumper crop ready by 17th. April, and on-going. See below. Sow follow-up rows for a good succession. Quite a few veggie seedlings don't transplant well so its best to sow thickly and merely pull out seedlings to optimum spacings when they are small. Check seed packets for these.

Enjoy your May!