April this year was another very dry month. Experts say that rainfall in 7 out of the last 10 Aprils has been significantly lower than in previous years. Although our gardens are a lot drier due to the lack of April showers, the beautiful display of Primroses, Cowslips and Bluebells show us that Spring is well advanced and our gardens are gearing up for the Summer months.
Lawns and Mowing
This is the time for active lawn maintenance and really the last chance to sow or lay new lawns until Autumns. There has been a lot of publicity recently about “no mow May” to benefit pollinators, insects, other smaller birds and animals. If you can leave some part of your lawn – maybe a corner or strip under some trees – to grow longer and slightly wild for a while, then you may see a lot more wildlife activity in your garden.
Plant out any strawberries and sow runner beans outside, constructing your wigwams or cane supports for them. The latter part of this month is the best time to plant out tender courgettes, aubergines and the colourful summer bedding plants.
Now is also a good time repot pot-bound container 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.
Protecting from pests
The insects are now becoming much more active as temperatures rise, so be especially vigilant about pests. 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!) If possible, use natural nematodes to control them at the end of the month.
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 throughout the growing season to keep it under control.
You can now cover soft fruit bushes with netting to prevent birds eating the fruit. If you are growing strawberries, put straw around or under them.
Pruning Spring-flowing shrubs
Your Spring-flowering shrubs will soon be finishing their flowering display so now is the time to prune these – eg:- Ribes, Weigela and Forsythia, these all flower on this year’s growth, so prune them back into shape just after they have finished flowering to give a beautiful display next year.
“The Chelsea Chop”
To check the growth of perennial plants which can grow very 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, Heleniums, Phlox and Michaelmas Daisies. This should reduce their overall height by about 25% and although they may flower a week or two later, they won’t be so prone to collapsing or being blown over at flowering time.
Feed your spring bulbs with a granular fertiliser, blood, fish and bone, or liquid seaweed to give them an energy boost and help them flower next Spring.
Time in your garden
May is the best month to heard the incredible dawn chorus so if you can get up around 5am for just one morning and venture out into your garden with a tea or coffee, you will be rewarded with the most amazing sound of Spring birdsong. Also take some time to sit in your garden to relax and enjoy the sights, sounds and atmosphere of your beautiful surroundings.