May 2013 in the garden

When asked last week what we can be getting on with in our gardens now, someone on Gardeners Question Time replied, all the jobs specified in March, cos it's been so darned cold and horrible, few, if any, of these tasks have been done.  Many trees and shrubs are barely brave enough to consider leafing out yet.  And only the toughest of perennials daring to send up new shoots.  I live in hope that by the time you're reading this, all that cold nasty weather will be just a faint memory...

So, what can we be doing in the garden?  The most time sensitive thing will be to get sowing seed and bringing on any seedlings.  For decent plants, the timing of these activities is vital.  All the more so, for those of you who like to grow some fruit and veg.  Little batches of various plants are probably a good idea, so if one crop doesn't work out too well, there's others coming through.

It's Open House season, and I know for a lot of us, that brings a great opportunity to go nosing in our neighbours' pads.  There's often the opportunity to take a sneaky peak at folks gardens too, and I know, because I see a lot of them, that there's inspiration to be found in the gardens too.  Most of us have very similar plots to deal with and there are some really clever solutions to common problems.  Don't be afraid to simply copy a good idea.  If you see a plant thriving in a shady area that you like but can't identify, just ask.  Most of us are flattered by this, not offended.  If they don't know, take a photo to your local nursery and hopefully they'll be able to help.

If you haven't already, feed bulbs - whether in flower or fading fast.  This is especially important for bulbs in containers, as once the nutrients in the compost have been used by the plants, there's no more available.  Lack of food is the most common reason for bulbs coming up ‘blind', that is, just the leaves emerge without a flower in sight.  Also, bare in mind that many tulips won't keep coming year after year like daffs, and neither will flower well in shade.

 Ivy - not everyone's favourite plant but a great wildlife supporting plant.  Its berries in very late winter are a good source of food for collared doves and other birds.  Its flowers are a great source of late nectar for bees.  Some people cut back in autumn and spring, but I just hit it hard in April / May.  This keeps it under control but allows it to flower and berry.  Along with hollies that are found in many local gardens, the ivy is a host plant for the Holly Blue butterfly, and leaving cutting it back til late April or May will help these creatures.  This method of pruning is best for us too, as you won't be staring at dead looking brown sticks for too long, as the sap is rising now and the plants are bursting into fresh new green growth.

Happy gardening