Peter’s Gardening tips for May 2019

The gardening explodes into unbelievable growth!

Trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, grass, climbers have all gone berserk!  After a very dry spring with just enough moisture topped with bouts of very warm sunshine have made for perfect growing conditions.

Quite extraordinary. We’ve seen wonderful blossom on so many trees, hawthorn tree, fabulous candles of flower on the horse chestnuts, and the myriad of fresh green leaves on everything else – delicious!  The wonder of nature…..

It is a very busy time now in the gardening calendar, it’s a job to know what to tackle first!


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 uppermost, 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. The general rule of thumb prune after flowering.

Do clean your secateurs regularly, use a knife or blade to scrape off black deposits and rust, a rub with a scourer or fine sandpaper, 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:

Triffids 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 the growing tip on summer flowering clematis if taller than 5 foot, unless you want the flowers up high!  Tie into a 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, Brussels 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 for 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 ahead, it could be 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.

Happy Gardening!


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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. I am an extremely lucky guy who loves what I do and the trade called Horticulture!

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31st May 2017
Thanks for voting!
A couple of years new in the gardening scene. My daughter three years ago bought me a beautiful Orchid for Mothers Day. Last year no blooms but this year, I have one open blossom and 10 following suit. Very excited
Peter Mills
4th Jun 2017
Thanks for voting!
Fabulous DebbyR5,
I'm enjoying two moth orchids back in flower at home.
Very rewarding.
Kind regards Peter
26th May 2017
Thanks for voting!
I have three agapanthus plants in pots which I bought last year. They didnt flower and dont seem to be doing much this year either - any tips please?
Peter Mills
26th May 2017
Thanks for voting!
Hi NickyP2,
If there's no sign of new growth coming from the agapanthus by now, i'm afraid they are dead. This last winter was pretty cruel with hard frosts.
Start again and protect from severe frosts.
Agapanthus Navy Blue works well for me.
Kind regards Peter

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