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I tend to start writing this column about three weeks before the deadline, rattling through the paragraphs at a steady pace and think this is the month I'll be well ahead of the game and finish with plenty of time to spare. It's never happened! I'm always finishing off at the last moment, usually on a warm, sunny day when I want to be outside, reference books and notes scattered across my desk. Ah well, I'm probably in good company!

Bulbs & Tubers

Spring bulbs that have finished flowering need to be left intact, except their faded flowers that should be nipped off, and a dressing of fertilizer scattered around the plants to provide good nutrients for the bulbs as they begin dormantcy. Once the leaves have turned brown, they can be removed as all the food from them will have been drawn back into the bulb. The exception to this are tulips that prefer to be lifted and stored in a cool, dry place, but if left they will re-appear next year though not quite as healthy.


May is perfect for planting dahlias in the ground, spacing them about 30cm apart with stakes, avoiding  wet or shady sites. Before planting, incorporate lots of compost into the soil, as dahlias are quite needy plants and like plenty of food. Dahlias were very popular back in the middle of last century, but are enjoying a deserving comeback. There are many varieties and colours to choose from that will suit your garden style and, providing they are regularly dead-headed, will bloom for many weeks - even months.

Climbing plants such as clematis, honeysuckle, will now be shooting up rapidly and need to be tied in on a regular basis, whether on an independent obelisk or a frame attached to a wall. Although metal rings are handy and speedy, I prefer to use twine tied loosley around the plant stem - it's seems a more natural material to use in the garden. Nip out the growing tips now, rather than later, to encourage bushy growth.


Plant out annuals such as sunflowers, cosmos, nasturtian  - all are easy to grow, bloom all summer and are loved by flying insects. I'm trying a white sunflower this year, as well as the normal bright yellow, in my new deep raised planters in the veggie plot along with sweet peas. These planters were made by an exceedingly capable neighbor from wooden pallets and cost me a good bottle of port and a homemade chocolate cake. Bargain!

Continue to sow up annuals so that you have a goodly supply for gaps that may need filling in at a later date. Bedding plants to think about that give long colour and scent in the garden are Impatiens, Salvia, Nicotiana, Stock, (the latter two have gorgeous scent!) and also keep an eye out for something unusual or different from your norm.  I usually plant mine either in drifts or amongst other plants rather than in neat rows, but it’s just a question of what pleases your eye!

If you are cutting your lawn rather than creating a wildflower one, grass should be cut on a dry day with a high blade to start with - the shock to the plant (and grass is a plant!) will make it surge in growth. As spring moves forward, a lower blade can be used until you have the desired height. Continue to clear any falling leaves from trees such as rowan and cotoneaster that are renowned for continuous leaf fall.


Potato plants need earthing up around the plant as they grow to protect early shoots from frost damage and ensure the developing potatoes aren’t exposed to light, which turns them green and poisonous. If you are growing in bags, simply top up with multi-purpose compost to almost cover the exposed greenery.

Plant up companion plants such as marigolds to help deter pests. Peas and beans sown last month can be planted out, with supports, into the veggie plot spacing them 6"- 7" apart. Pinch out the growing tips to allow bushier growth. Check tomato plants, removing any growth between stem and leaf, tying stems to the cane supports. Start feeding once flowers appear. Stop the plant completely at 4 or 5 trusses.

Look to putting colour into salads - chocolate coloted tomatoes, mixed colour lettuce and, may favourite for coleslaw, purple carrots and cabbage!

Each year these days seems to go from one end to the other with frightening speed, but the next few months are the most enjoyable, watching everything grow, sitting out long into the evening and making plans for next year!

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