Gardening In May… Summer Is On Its Way, Will It Be A Scorcher?

Local News

Areas that you dug in the autumn and forked and raked over in spring will be warming up and ready for their final preparation prior to planting. What you do now depends on what you are planting, if the bed is for summer flower displays using hardened off plants then a light raking and a dressing of general fertilizer to help them establish will be fine. 

If on the other hand you are planning to sow seeds directly into the bed as you may do with annuals and some vegetables then make sure the soil is raked to achieve a fine surface. When you sow the seeds the soil should not be in big clods as the seed will not germinate evenly and in many cases will be too deep falling between the big clods. Once the surface has been raked make a shallow drill using your finger or the corner of a hoe, for most seeds about half an inch (12mm) is sufficient depth. I like to water the drill before sowing especially with fine seed, sow as thinly as you can and cover the seed with the fine soil from either side of the drill. Water again with a watering can fitted with a fine rose. Keep an eye on the weather and water the seed drills if they begin to dry out. Once the seedlings germinate Watch out for slugs and snails, they can clear a row of lettuce overnight. There are products you can buy such as slug tablets and liquid sprays, but I have tried biological control to reasonable effect, they are a little more expensive but are more environmentally friendly. They are available from most nurseries and garden centres and mixed with water they are applied to the soil. Microscopic nematodes search out the slugs and snails and infect them with bacteria that kill them. This doesn’t affect predators such as Hedgehogs and Thrushes.

If you haven’t started now is the time to put plant supports in place for herbaceous perennials that by now will be growing vigorously. There are many materials you can use such as green plastic wire frames, rusty steel rods, often bent into spirals or single spikes. I like to use natural materials such as willow, hazel or birch twigs that can be shaped or woven into different shapes. I also use bamboo canes but I paint them with Blackboard paint and use black twine, this makes them blend in exceptionally well.  I also like to give perennials an early feed with a general organic pellet fertilizer, Chicken or Sheep; they are both good, if a little smelly. The young growth of plants acts like a magnet not only for Slugs and Snails but all the other leaf and stem feeding insects such as Greenfly, Blackfly, Whitefly and the dreaded Lily Beetle. There are sprays you can buy which offer a degree of control but there are also biological controls if you prefer. The key is to catch them early before they become established. Diseases such as mildew and black spot on the other hand are best controlled by a preventative spray, a chemical that is applied before you see the problem appear, it is more difficult to treat a disease once it is established.

It’s a good time of year to give trees and shrubs a feed with an organic fertilizer, I tend to use the same product for most of my garden except the lawn, which really needs a spring/summer feed.

Fruit is growing at a pace and it is good practice to water them during May and June as this is the time when soft fruit are swelling, watering will help improve both the crop and flavour. Again keep an eye out for pests and diseases, and where birds are a problem consider investing in a net to keep them off soft fruit. A simple frame made from garden canes or plastic stakes will keep the net in place.

One thing that catches people out at this time of year is the effect of the sun on greenhouse crops, most commercial growers install expensive reflective shading but for the general gardener there are shade paints or green netting. The shading paints are easy to apply and fairly cheap but need to stay on until late August then they are washed off. This is fine for most greenhouse crops but some prefer the flexibility of being able to remove the shading on dull days, if this is the case then go for shade netting. What I do is roll the netting onto a long piece of wooden dowel (Available from most DIY stores), staple or tie the netting onto the pole and roll up. If your greenhouse is aluminium you can buy bolts and brackets and clips that you can use to fasten the shading in place. With the netting on a roll it is easy to roll the shading up during dull periods.

I left my role as Head Gardener at York Gate in late April, handing the job over to Adam Bowley, who now takes up the role of maintaining and developing York Gate. Much has happened throughout the closed period with the refurbishment of the garage into a new shop and toilet facilities. The downstairs of the house is now a tea room, and work is well underway in the field to allow wider access and provide a building for workshops and training. My decision was an easy one, I’m planning to build an acre garden somewhere in the Yorkshire area, but will continue to write for the’ Yorkshire Reporter’ about how I’m getting on and of course seasonal gardening tasks.

Next month, lifting and storing spring bulbs, planting patio containers, propagating shrubs and perennials and sowing vegetables for continuous crops.

Happy gardening

 (York Gate summer opening times until 30th September 2015, Sunday to Thursday, 1:30pm to 4:30pm)

York Gate Garden is owned and maintained by the charity Perennial (Gardeners Royal Benevolent Society) which provides advice help and support in times of need or difficulty for people who are working in, or have retired from any of the gardening trades. (Registered Charity no. 1155156). Opening times and further details can be found on our website at

You May Also Like

Harrogate Flower Show Celebrated VE Day Anniversary
Selina Goes Cycling


Must Read

No results found.