what to do when

05 Late Spring

Late Spring or May, long days, everything is in full flush of growth, many plants started inside need moving out but not until the middle of the month as there’s the danger of late hard frosts, it’s your call

OUTDOORS

This month often experiences late hard frosts so have sheets and newspapers ready to lay over newly planted bedding Establish a watering round for all pot and tub plants at least daily!

do not pile them against trunk or stem which may cause rots

Examine each and every plant for pests and diseases; especially aphids and caterpillars Weeds germinate and grow like topsy this month so hoe, hoe, hoe; and to make this much easier and more effective put a sharp edge on your hoe every ten minutes or so with a sharpening stone or file Spray everything with diluted seaweed solution, and anything with deficiency symptoms more heavily Cut the grass at least fortnightly, preferably weekly, returning the clippings or after each cut put them in thin layers around roses, shrubs and fruit trees and bushes- but do not pile them against trunk or stem which may cause rots Tie in and support climbers and tallest herbaceous plants Dead head spring flowering shrubs as they go over, especially lilacs, as seeds rob next years flowers Likewise nip off seed heads forming on flowering bulbs before they ripen Collect comfrey and borage leaves, trample them in a bucket, cover with water and hold down with a brick, to make a liquid feed to dilute in a month’s time Make more birdbaths as throughout summer birds eat much of our fruit and seedling leaves for their moisture not sustenance; a clean birdbath to wash and drink from saves much of their destruction Go out on a pest hunt with a torch for several nights running

Orchard and fruit cage

On still cold nights protect the blossoms and young fruitlets from frost damage with sheets or fine netting Put jam jars over first strawberry flowers to set Save doing as much summer pruning later on trained fruit - rub off inappropriate shoots (those over-crowded or heading in wrong direction) whilst they are still small Especially inspect wall trained fruits looking for new shoots heading towards the wall and rub these off before they become bigger and waste resources Make daily inspections of gooseberry bushes paying special attention to lower leaves, looking for lots of tiny holes; the first signs of attack of the dreaded sawfly caterpillars which can be squished with finger and thumb or detached with leaf and burnt or buried Thin gooseberries really hard this early as the small ones make excellent jams and tarts and the remainder will get much bigger Thin other early fruits such as apricots and peaches

Vegetable plot

This month often experiences late hard frosts so have sheets and newspapers ready to lay over newly planted and more tender crops Pre-warm the sites for outdoor tomatoes, pumpkins and squashes by laying black plastic (or clear, or even woven ground cover fabric) sheeting on ground, hold it down well to stop it blowing away Although not strictly necessary it really helps potatoes, broad beans and peas if you draw the soil up around the haulm (stems) as this supports them and encourages bigger yields, earth up potato plants with first soil then later grass clippings Watch for the flowers appearing on early potato plants and when you see them give a huge watering as this significantly increases the crop Go round the potatoes and remove flowers and seed pods which will increase the crop Sow sweet corn as you can never have too much and plants direct sown in situ right now will often make the best cobs (ripening in late summer) Sow small batches of turnips for summer crops, keep watering them well, and for greater success place a little bone meal in their holes The end of this month is not too late to plant or even sow runner beans and running French beans which are often got in far too early so then suffer the cold, the warmer soil now encourages much stronger better cropping plants Outdoors without cloches sow; peas, most brassicas, lettuces and saladings, herbs, spinach, carrots, Swedes, salsify, scorzonera, kohl rabi, fennel, leeks, parsnips and hardy annual and biennial flowers Sow in situ outdoors but under cloches, plastic bottle cloches or even just jam jars; tomatoes, ridge cucumbers, gherkins, courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, French beans, runner beans and fast half hardy flowers Sow Trailing Nasturtiums in either the vegetable or flower garden for loads of colour, fairly problem free and every part is edible -especially the seeds which make fantastic pickles Any space left can be best filled with salads and annual herbs such as lettuce (especially loose leaf), endive, radish, dill, chervil and parsley If you have started off tomatoes, watermelons, pumpkins, squashes, ridge cucumbers and gherkins then these can be planted out now, preferably after hardening off and through black plastic or under cloches or coldframes as they all love warmth All the brassicas and leeks should be transplanted to their final site in well enriched soil Harvest and use, or store and preserve any surplus crops before they go over Control asparagus beetle by leaving one plant uncut to form fern and attract all the eggs while cutting all others to the ground until the cutting season is over then promptly burning all the foliage of the sacrificial one Make night time inspections of your garden and especially the sowing and propagation area Don’t forget to sharpen your hoe, and to use it often

BUY

Look for discounted Early seed potatoes as there is still just time for good crop outdoors, or for putting aside for summer or autumn planting for winter crops under cover

UNDER COVER

Don't forget to pot up, top dress, water and feed your house plants which tend to get forgotten in the rush this time of year

GREENHOUSE

Have shading ready for greenhouse in case of heat waves Be extra vigilant with ventilation and prepare tender plants for hardening off by giving more ventilation for longer each day Search for parasitized aphids on rose leaves (look swollen and golden metallic) to move to greenhouse to control aphids there Examine each and every plant for pests and diseases; especially aphids, red spider mite and whitefly Pot up greenhouse and container plants before it’s too late
Repot tomatoes deep to encourage basal roots Pot up the side-shoots removed from tomatoes to make free plants Feed indoor pot plants with liquid feed and or seaweed solution weekly The rather similar melons and cucumbers need very different treatment- melons need pollinating and often need their shoot tips nipping out to encourage fruiting while cucumbers are opposite, neither nip out their tips nor pollinate, indeed remove all male flowers (no wee fruit behind it) or the cucumbers will be bitter Plant out under walk-in cover; tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, melons, sweet corn, ridge cucumbers, courgettes and marrows Harden off tender plants for planting outside the second half of the month, stand them outdoors each day, bring in each night for three days or more Statistically by the middle of the month we are past the danger of hard frost over most of the country so we can start putting out expensive tender plants such as citrus for the summer, initially clump them together and give them covers on cold nights