Gardening in May

Posted on: 6th May, 2014

Category: Home, Garden & Environment

Contributor: West Cork People

by John Hosford 086-4426450

May is a very busy month in the garden. As frost disappears, a host of half-hardy plants and vegetable plants shall be ready for planting outdoors. It is one of the main months for planting up hanging baskets, window boxes and patio containers. Do harden-off/acclimatise all plants coming out of a greenhouse prior to planting out for the summer.


Vegetable Garden 

Now is the time to sow seeds of runner beans, French beans, sweet corn, outdoor cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins, marrows, squashes and melons.

All the above maybe sown in 3” or 4” 7-10cm peat pots. Fill the pots up three-quarters way with clean, fresh seed and potting compost. Line the peat pots out in a strong, sturdy seed tray. After filling the pots and lining them out in the seed tray, next, water the pots with a watering can with a fine rose prior to planting. Allow one hour for drain-off of excess water. All of the above are best sown as early in May as possible. Sow one seed per pot – all the above seeds are sufficiently large to allow individual sowing. This will allow approx four weeks for germination, establishment and hardening off.

This early start under cover gets your plants off to an early start. Cover the sown seed tray with polythene, tuck in under the trays and add a sheet of newspaper on top to exclude light. Check two to three times daily after three or four days have elapsed.

Remove polythene and newspaper once the young seedlings have emerged. Keep vigilant with watering using a fine rosed watering can at the early and initial stages. Once the plants are well established and fill their pot they can be planted into their final quarters ensuring they have been well hardened off prior to planting. Fleece protection will give protection from cold drying winds. Take precautions against slugs.

Runner Beans 

Runner beans are a valuable vegetable cropping over a long period. Once planted out they will appreciate the support of a wire fence or wigwam. Wigwams are normally made of bamboo canes or hazel sticks. Try to take your support up to a height of at least six to eight feet (180-240cm). The higher you take your support the more potential you have for cropping. Pick beans on a regular basis to encourage more prolific cropping. Add generous amounts of well-composted farmyard manure. If not available, the excellent Co. Cork produced Gee-Up is an excellent alternative.

Keep well watered during dry spells. The addition of a liquid tomato feed at 10-14 day intervals will encourage more cropping.


Planting for Cut Flowers 

Make a planting of Gysophila Covent Garden White. These are ideal floral accompaniments to Sweet peas and other summer favourites such as Roses. Gysophila looks delightful planted with cornflowers. They are easy to grow. They like good drainage in fact good drainage prolongs their longevity. Plant 30 cm apart. Gysophila is attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators.


As frost disappears towards the end of the month, Dahlias may be planted outdoors. Dahlias are a bright, colourful group of plants with a great diversity of types and heights. Dwarf varieties are ideal for planting in beds or in containers and tall varieties are good in borders. They should be well staked and tied in at regular intervals. Watch for slug activity especially in damp periods. Dahlias are great for cutting and they flower over a long period from July until the first frosts. They are well worth their space in the garden.


Japanese Knotweed 

This is an increasing problematic weed. Eradication and elimination takes a determined, single-minded approach. It can affect roadsides, railway banks, beds, borders, hedgerows and paving and spreads rapidly. Although in winter its dies back beneath ground, by early summer the bamboo-like shoots will have reached over 2m. (seven feet). It is very hard to remove by hand or chemicals. Don’t dump shoots, roots or any parts of the plant. Japanese knotweed is a strong –growing, clump forming perennial with tall, dense annual stems. Stem growth is renewed each year from the stout, deeply –penetrating creeping underground stems. First introduced from Japan in 1825 as an ornamental plant, the plant is not unattractive but its rapid growth and relentless spread allows it to overwhelm other garden plants. Where established in hedgerows, it will aggressively overcome and overrun native plants. It is a thug and a villain of the plant world.

Digging out is possible but due to the depth of the rhizomes (roots) regrowth usually occurs. Round-up has recommendations for controlling Japanese knotweed advising it be applied to the cut canes.

The recommendations for spraying of Round-up are:

1)Spraying in May when they have reached about 3 feet (1m.)

2)Spray again in mid-summer when regrowth will have occurred.

3)Give another spray in September if there has been another flush of growth.

4)Spray again the following spring if growth is evident.

5)Be careful of spray drift when spraying taking adequate precautions to protect plants in the immediate and surrounding areas.

6)Choose a calm, dry day when spraying.


Plant up hanging baskets and window boxes now 

Plant up your summer flowering containers now. Use fresh compost when planting and ensure window boxes have adequate drainage. Check chains on hanging baskets are secure and in good condition. Well-tended containers will flower well into the end of October. Choose Geraniums, Petunias, dwarf Sweet Peas, Swan River Daisies for sunny positions. Choose Begonias, Fuchsias, and Ivies for shaded aspects.



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