“The world’s favourite season is spring. All things seem possible in May.” – Edwin Way Teale
In May your garden starts to show what it’s really all about. Shrubs are a riot of colour. The new leaves on trees are almost see through when back lit by the sun and the colour so vivid. New life awakens.
With all the new growth and the soil damp, slugs and snails can become a problem. They love the tender new shoot of plants. If the new shoots are eaten now it can set the plant back or may ruin the look of the plant for the rest of the year.
If you can control and reduce the slug and snail populations now, it may save work later in the year. Put down beer traps (small containers filled with beer) and check them every few days. When necessary tip the contents onto your compost heap and refill. In a damp shaded spot of the garden you can trap the ones that escape the beer. For snails, leave a flower pot upside down with space for them to get inside, and for slugs use something that won’t heat up (e.g. a piece of board) also slightly raised at one end. They will go inside during the day to wait for nightfall. All you have to do is go around with a container half full of water and lots of salt. Tip them into it and leave for a day or two. If you go out early in the morning or late evening you can also collect them on the move.
Summer bedding has been on sale everywhere you look for weeks now. Unless you have a frost-free glasshouse or conservatory you must resist the temptation. It’s still too early to put them outside. Temperatures of 3C or below will kill annual summer bedding plants. If you can keep them above this in bright sunlight, then by all means plant up your hanging basket tubs, containers and window boxes.
Always use new potting compost. Put some in the bottom of the container and using one of your plants measure how much is needed, the finished top of the planting should be 3cm/ 1in below the rim. This is to allow for watering. Plant the container so it is full. The rootball of the plants should be almost touching. The more you put in, the quicker they will fill out and the better they will look all summer. Annual summer bedding will flower until first frosts but don’t put them out until the threat of frost has passed, usually June.
You don’t have to go the traditional route of summer bedding for baskets, tubs, containers and window boxes. This is where people with no gardens can do their bit to help our endangered pollinators. If you have a balcony window sill or just door step, you can plant a herb and flower container. Borage and Nasturtium are both edible flowers. They will provide masses of flowers all summer.
Herbs such as marjoram, oregano, prostrate rosemary, purple sage and any variegated mint will all do well in containers. Train the nasturtium to grow up the chain of hanging baskets as well as hang down and you will have an amazing display all summer, providing both you and pollinators with food. Look after all baskets and containers the same way. Make sure they don’t dry out, check daily. Hanging baskets will dry out very quickly in the sun and wind.