Peter’s Gardening tips for May

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 …

The following two tabs change content below.
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

Leave a Comment!

Loading Comments