Peter’s Gardening tips for May

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The gardening explodes into unbelievable growth.

Trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, grass, climbers have all gone berserk!  Plenty of moisture, sunshine and a warm period have made for perfect growing conditions. Quite extraordinary. Blossom on so many trees, hawthorn-May tree, fabulous candles of flower on the horse chestnuts, and the myriad of fresh green leaves on everything else – delicious!  The wonder of nature…..


Very lush growth. Compost your grass cuttings if you can. Mix with 50% carbon based materials – newspaper, cardboard, straw, twiggy stuff, shredded cuttings.  Keep your mower blades sharpened – better for the grass and less work for the mower engine!  Scrape out old grass from under the mower deck. If a petrol mower, tip up so the exhaust is upper most, or else the engine oil goes into the exhaust and the mower won’t start. If the mower won’t start leave for 30 minutes and try again to start. There might be a cloud of blue smoke!

Pruning and cutting back:





Early flowering shrubs such as Forsythias, Ribes (flowering currants), Berberis, camellias and rhododendrons can all be reduced in size. General rule of thumb prune after flowering. Please clean your secateurs regularly, use a knife or blade to scrape off black deposits and rust, a rub with a scourer or fine sand paper, sharpen and a drop of oil. This will stop any transmitting of diseases or infections. Keep the blade clean, spray with oil and wipe excess off on a regular basis.

Herbaceous Plants:

Amazingly lush growth. Cut back by 50% plants like – Asters (Michaelmas daisies), phlox, helenium, sedum spectabilis, nepeta six hills giant. You may think I’m mad but this will pay great dividends – stronger more compact plants, more flowers and less supporting required. This cutting back has been called the Chelsea chop because it coincides with the Chelsea flower show.

Put in place plant supports, pea-sticks, canes, string etc to keep secure.


Lift, divide and replant daffodils if not flowering well. Water and liquid feed when replanted. Deadhead tulips. Feed all bulbs now for more flowers next year – Vitax Q4.

Climbing Plants:

Trifids spring to mind! Strangling honeysuckle, clematis, roses, ivy, Virginia creeper all growing so fast.  Prune early flowered clematis armandii, montana and alpina. Please check any plants prior to cutting back for birds nests. Pinch out growing tip on summer flowering clematis if taller than 5 foot, unless you want the flowers up high!  Tie in to trellis or use masonry nails on walls with soft tie or wire. Please check wire or string isn’t cutting into stems of plants.



Sowing squash seeds

Sowing squash seeds


Potatoes keep earthing up – covering up the foliage with soil.  Sow salads every two weeks for a continual supply.

Another important month for seed sowing for autumn/winter crops – parsnips, swede, celeriac, squash, pumpkins, cauliflower,cabbages,brussel sprouts…..

Also sowing climbing french beans, runner beans, courgettes, marrows, ridge cucumbers.


Try and keep on top of them. Easy to pull out with the ground moist. Don’t allow to flower or set seed!

Keep vegetables weed free-less competition. Hoe on sunny days,leave the weeds to wither in the sun.

Apply weed killers on a dry day with no wind- no spray drift.

Wild Flowers:


Wild flowers

Wild flowers


Still a great month for sowing any annuals or perennials. Keep watered if we have a dry spell until germinated at least.


Looking like a rollercoaster month. Wet, windy, showers, warm, cool, wet, windy .. the kitchen sink. More like April.

Perfect planting weather. Visit your local nursery or garden centre. Check out gardens open with the National Garden Scheme – a great way to be a nosey gardener and pinch ideas!

Don’t forget to make time to enjoy your hard work in the garden. Stop look and listen. The dawn chorus is amazing, and the scents are exquisite. Fill your senses.



Please feel free to make any comments or leave any questions below …

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Peter Mills

I love everything to do with natural history, wildlife, biodiversity and of course horticulture - basically the big outdoors. I grew up with very good teachers namely my parents and my French grandfather who was a superb grower of vegetables. At Hadlow College I studied a three year OND in Horticulture. I had a market stall selling plants. Went onto wholesaling house plants to florists and garden centres across southern England. In 1986 I joined Clandon Park Garden Centre as manager. Whilst there I started my career as a gardening radio presenter with the BBC Southern Counties Radio. This continued for 15 years, building up valuable contacts with the RHS Wisley, live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows etc. Since 1998 I have been self-employed, working as a Head Gardener and in private gardens . Through the RHS Advisory Department at Wisley I advise on horticultural problems in members gardens, including pest & disease problems, lawn-care advice, pruning of wisterias, fruit trees, roses, wildlife gardening, growing fruit & vegetables, creating wildflower meadows, identifying plants and control of pernicious weeds. Autumn 2016 finds me at the Autumn Flower Show 6-8 of September at RHS Wisley and Taste of Autumn Sunday 23rd of October. Sunday 11th of September I am cycling from London to Brighton for Perennial ( Gardeners Benevolent Fund) who helped me when I broke my leg badly in 2014. Had the plate removed in February this year. My Just Giving page is Perennial is a Fabulous Charity who help anyone working in horticulture. I didn't think I would need their help at the age of 52! They were brilliant and helped us as a family. It's my turn to repay their help and others too! John Ambrose and I have raised over £ 2000.00 thank you all. I am an extremely lucky guy who loves what I do and the trade called Horticulture!

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Carol Coates
15th May 2014
Thanks for voting!
Very much appreciated I will have a look around for these plants.
Peter Mills
11th May 2014
Thanks for voting!
For Carol Coates,
Hi Carol,
The only other plants with Brooke I can find have "Brooklynensis" in the name, such as Magnolia x Brooklynensis "Yellow Bird",introduced at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens in 1967. A great plant. Needs some shelter and can become a tree! Available from Burncoose Nurseries.
Another option is the R.H.S. Plant Finder Book, lists all plants grown in the U K and the nurseries that grow them.
Regards Peter.
11th May 2014
Thanks for voting!
How can I get rid of bind weed a a weed that looks like strawberry leaf though smaller its a nightmare a sends runner everywhere thanks
Peter Mills
11th May 2014
Thanks for voting!
Hi Roz,
It does sound like wild strawberry. It's a question of persistent weeding i'm afraid. Don't let it flower and seed. Weed killers can be used very carefully. Roundup Gel or Neudorff super fast & long lasting weedkiller.
Regards Peter.
Peter Mills
11th May 2014
Thanks for voting!
Hi Wendy,
The one product I have used to great effect with troublesome cats is
Scarecrow. It's a watering spike with a movement sensor. You do need a good hose and tightly done up connectors. The hose stays live at night or day and fires water at them. Range of 10metres approximately!
Don't forget to turn the tap off if you go outside or have visitors!
Great surname!
Regards Peter.
Peter Mills
11th May 2014
Thanks for voting!
Hi Carol,
Preventive fungicide spraying is best, as soon as the roses start to break bud you need to spray, then every two weeks. Keep roses fed and mulched. Stressed plants are more prone to disease.
If you don't want to use fungicides and want an organic approach feed with a seaweed based fertiliser like Vitax Organic Liquid Seaweed.
A lot of new varieties of roses are black spot resistant, try some...

Regards Peter

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