by Geoff Hodge, pic by PJ May
The end of spring is approaching and we can finally look forward to a wonderful summer in our gardens. During May there is lots to do to get everything ready for summer. But with two Bank Holidays and warmer weather to enjoy, there’s no better time to be gardening. The longer days and warm temperatures provide great growing conditions, although it is still possible to suffer from freezing night temperatures and frosts if the skies are clear. So keep that horticultural fleece handy to give protection from cold, frost and strong winds.
May is a busy time in the fruit & veg garden.
You can now sow tender vegetables, such as climbing French beans, runner beans, courgettes and marrows in pots of Levington Original Multi Purpose Compost or Levington Seed & Cutting Compost. At the same time, prepare the soil where these vegetables are going to crop. The soil needs to be enriched with organic matter to improve the structure and the water-holding capacity for these crops. Dig out soil to a depth of 30cm (1ft) and incorporate organic matter such as well-rotted garden compost or Levington Organic Blend Soil Conditioner. This is peat-free and is especially useful for improving the drainage of clay soils and the water-holding capacity of light, sandy soils.
Sow cauliflowers and purple sprouting broccoli in a seedbed, for transplanting out into their final cropping position when large enough to handle. This will provide tasty autumn and winter harvests.
Before sowing seed, give the soil a light dressing of Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Plant Food, Miracle-Gro Growmore Garden Plant Food or Miracle-Gro Fish, Blood & Bone All Purpose Plant Food.
Brussels sprouts for next winter should now be ready for transplanting after early or mid-spring sowing. The quite large gaps between each plant can be used for short-term ‘catch-crops’ like radishes, salad leaves or lettuces.
Watch out for caterpillars of cabbage white butterfly attacking any cabbage family crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts. At the first sign of attack, spray plants with BugClear Gun! for Fruit and Veg.
Broad beans and some other early crops need checking for blackfly. Pinch out the tops of broad bean plants to deter the pest, but if they are already breeding under the leaves then a spray with BugClear Gun! for Fruit & Veg is advisable as early as possible. Crops listed on the product label can be picked the day after treatment.
Water and feed strawberries while they’re flowering. A couple of feeds with Levington Tomorite Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food will ensure the plants produce an abundant crop. Don’t wait until the fruits are swelling, as too much extra water at this stage will reduce the flavour potential.
Thin out crowded raspberry canes. This ensures there will be sufficient air and light between the stems to help reduce disease problems and ensure the plants can ripen all the young fruit to maturity.Hoe off or pull out raspberry suckers appearing between the rows.
On indoor grape vines, allow only one flower truss to develop on each main sideshoot coming off the central rod; remove the rest. Keep flowering laterals short by pinching out their tips at two leaves past the flower truss. Non-fruiting sideshoots can be kept a bit longer, pinching out the tips after five leaves have formed. Any sideshoots coming off the main laterals should be stopped at one leaf. Gently tap or run your hand over the flowers to help pollinate them.
Ensure there is good air circulation in the greenhouse to reduce the risk of botrytis, powdery mildew and downy mildew diseases.
Hang pheromone traps in apple trees to help reduce codling moth damage. This is the month when they start to mate, so trapping them will reduce the numbers of eggs. You will need one trap for every three to five trees.