Monday, 23 May 2022

Gardening guru gives seasonal ‘to do’ tips

Gardening guru gives seasonal ‘to do’ tips

THE Chelsea Flower Show returns at the end of the month, having been cancelled in 2020 and temporarily moved to September last year.

But that is not the only reason why this month is beloved by gardeners — as the weather warms up and the threat of frost passes, it will soon be safe to put tender plants outside.

Monty Don, the presenter of BBC Gardener’s World and all-round gardening expert, writes on his blog: “We go into May this year with the ground parched and dry after another very dry and quite cold April. This has been the case here for the past three years and seems to be becoming a pattern.

“The result is, on the one hand, very pleasant for a gardener too used to dealing with rain and mud and cold clammy soil at a time of year when every instinct is to plant and sow. But on the other hand, it sits uneasily with the bountiful display of the blossom, flowering bulbs and zinging new leaves.

“It is not something that I say often, but we badly need rain. However, nothing diminishes the sublime beauty of May. It is the most generous of months, everything spilling over with floral and foliar largesse. It is as though the garden goes from black and white into technicolour and every year that passes it shines brighter and seems more precious.”

Monty recommends a number of jobs for May, including sowing French beans and planting tomatoes in a greenhouse.

He says this is the time for the so-called ‘Chelsea Chop’ — named after the iconic flower show — which is the process of cutting into clumps of herbaceous perennials such as sedums or heleniums to extend their late-summer flowering period.

Deadhead tulips once they are past their best, to encourage them to put all their energy in forming next year’s bulbs instead of developing seeds. However, do not cut back the stem or foliage of most spring bulbs yet, except for alliums which can be cut back immediately after flowering.

Other jobs for mid-May include hardening off and planting out tender annuals such as sunflowers, zinnias and cosmos, and dividing grasses and aquatic plants.

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