Peter’s Gardening tips for May 2016

The long wait for Spring has finally happened and WOW what an explosion of growth, colours to feast your eyes on, the noise from the birds, the smell of fresh cut grass…

Soaring temperatures and now heavy rain perfect growing conditions, also for slugs and snails, beware huge numbers this Spring because of a relatively mild Winter.

Gardening Jobs

Dead head any bulbs, remove the whole of the dead flower, snap off or use scissors. Water in liquid feed to build up bulbs for next year – Miracle Gro, Phostrogen or Tomato food. Lift and divide blind bulbs, replant them two and half times the depth of the bulb.

Treat lawns for weeds unless you want a wildflower meadow. Don’t cut the grass too short as this encourages moss. Longer grass withstands more wear and tear, also dry conditions. Scarify and aerate the lawn if the weather allows, you need the ground moist but the grass dry!

Feed all plants especially in pots with a liquid feed or use slow release fertiliser granules.

‘Chelsea Chop’ – cut back leggy herbaceous plants by 1/3 -1/2, seems drastic but you will have more flower stems which are shorter. Some large clumps you can cut the front stems down and leave the back of the plant uncut, this will extend the flowering season!

Put in plant supports now before they get too tall. Pea sticks (cut hazel branches),or silver birch branches make more rustic supports.

Hedges if looking gappy or tired will appreciate a general purpose feed. Most gardeners forget to feed hedges yet they are so important. Starved hedges are more prone to disease and pests even established ones. Use up old fertiliser in the shed/garage or buy Growmore. In dry weather give a good soak to water in the fertiliser.

Model veg at Wisley. Some poor germination because of low temperatures.

Model Vegetable Garden at RHS Wisley. Some poor germination because of low temperatures.

Seed sowing – This is the BIG seed sowing month for vegetables and annual flowering seeds. There are too many plants to list, I recommend you read the packets or go on-line direct to the seed companies, Marshalls, Kings, Thompson & Morgan, Suttons, Unwins, Garden Organic, Seeds of Distinction, Franchi…….

I am trialling 17 varieties of climbing beans, Borlotti and French for taste purposes, vigor and productivity! Steamed Borlotti beans are so creamy and tasty, so different to Runner beans. Try something different to grow youself!

Climbing plants, keep under control. Train up trellis, canes, pea and bean sticks, wires etc. Don’t be afraid to pinch out growing tips of clematis to encourage more stems and ultimately more flowers.

Weeds – dig up before they flower!!

Now for the pretty stuff……………

I insist you make time to visit gardens open with the National Garden Scheme, National Trust houses, RHS Gardens or Privately owned gardens open to the public for inspiration, relaxation, education and a real shot of enthusiasm. We can all get a bit stale in our own gardens and this is truly invigorating!


Bluebells at RHS Wisley

Bluebells, Rhododendrons, Japanese Acers, trees of all shapes, your local park or woodlands looking magical, share your pictures, ideas and gardening tips with friends and family and of course Silversurfers!!

One word of warning, frost is still possible so don’t plant out tender bedding plants just yet..

Please leave your gardening questions for me to answer this weekend. I was kept very busy last Monday at RHS Wisley answering gardening questions on the Gardening Advice desk!

Happy Gardening!


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Peter has spent his life gardening, working in garden centres and advising in all aspects of gardening, wildlife, and bio-diversity in horticulture.He managed Clandon Park Garden Centre in Surrey at the age of 23 and was a gardening radio presenter with the BBC. This continued for 15 years, running live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows.Now self-employed, Peter works on a wide variety of gardens from private to large estates and also concentrating on consultancy and advisory work to fellow gardeners. He works with the RHS Gardening Advice team at Chelsea, Hampton Court, Wisley Flower shows and is an RHS External Gardening Advisor

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