April 2021 has apparently been the coldest since the 1980s and the driest for decades so fingers crossed, May will be warmer and will hopefully bring some much-needed rain for our gardens just as they surge into life for the Summer months ahead.
It is now time for regular lawn maintenance and May is really the last chance to sow or lay new lawns until the Autumn. Even though it has been so dry, your lawn will probably need a weekly mow from now until Autumn and the edges will still need trimming.
Once the danger of frost has passed, plant out strawberries and sow runner beans outside, constructing your wigwams or cane supports for them. The end of the month is the best time to plant out tender vegetables like courgettes and the colourful summer bedding plants.
This is also a great time to re-pot any pot-bound plants in pots about 10cm bigger than the current ones. Give them a good feed and tie-in any long climber shoots to their supports with soft twine or string.
As the weather warms up, the insect pests are becoming more active – so keep an eye out for them. Pick off scarlet lily beetle from your lilies (their larvae rapidly defoliate plants). Watch for vine weevil in container plantings – irregular-shaped notches to leaf edges are tell-tale signs (the young grubs in the soil eat the roots really quickly).
Check your roses for black spot, remove and discard all infected leaves on the plant to prevent it spreading. They may need spraying with a fungicide such as Rose Clear to keep it under control.
If you find aphids/greenfly on your rosebushes, as an alternative to shop-bought pesticides you can spray them with washing up liquid solution (the same strength as you would use for washing dishes) and on a cloudy day, spray the whole bush, including the tops and undersides of the leaves and buds. You may need to repeat this treatment regularly to keep your roses clear of these little creatures.
You can also now cover soft fruit bushes with netting to prevent birds eating the fruit. If you are growing strawberries, put straw or bark around or under them.
Pruning Spring-flowing shrubs
Your Spring-flowering shrubs will be finishing their flowering display so now is the time to prune these – eg:- Ribes, Weigela and Forsythia, as these all flower on this year’s growth. Prune them back into shape just after they have finished flowering to give a beautiful display next year.
Administering “The Chelsea Chop”
To check the growth of perennial plants which can grow too tall, you can make the plants branch out by cutting or pinching off the growing tips. Plants which respond well to this treatment are Rudbeckias, Solidago (Golden Rod), Heleniums, Phlox and Michaelmas Daisies. Take a pair of shears and literally chop off the top 6 inches of growth. This action will reduce the overall height of the flowing plant by about 25% and although they may flower a week or two later, as they won’t be so tall, they won’t be so prone to collapsing or being blown over.
Dead head your Spring flowing bulbs and then feed them with a granular fertiliser, blood, fish and bone, or Miracle Gro to give them an energy boost and help them flower next Spring.
Relaxing in your garden
Remember to take some time to sit in your garden on warmer days to relax and just enjoy the sights, sounds and atmosphere of your beautiful outside space.