Garden Jobs in May
May signifies the last month of Spring before Summer really kicks in. For many gardeners May signals the end of having to worry about those frosty temperatures which can be so disastrous for plants. The warmer, sunnier weather means most seedlings and young plants can now be moved outside into raised beds, containers or ground soil. Here in the UK we've been very lucky and had a very mild winter; some northern regions still may need to be careful of frosty temperatures so keep vigilant and check local weather reports before moving any vulnerable plants outside.
Organise the Greenhouse The greenhouse is the perfect place to start off young plants and seeds; you can easily control the overall air temperature, humidity and it is much easier to control pests; this makes it the perfect safe haven for seedlings and younger plants. Some plants can experience shock when planted outdoors after spending time in the greenhouse; to reduce this risk warm soil and containers before moving plants outside. To warm up soil simply cover with a plastic sheet or some garden fleece; leave for a few days before planting seedlings or young plants. Wrap soil filled containers with fleece or plastic to create the same effect.
Recycle Water The warmer, sunnier weather leads to an increase in water used to feed gardens around the UK; a hot summer can often lead to hosepipe bans as reservoirs soon run low. There are some simple ways you can decrease the amount of water used in your garden. The first and most obvious way of decreasing the amount of water you use in your garden is to ensure your technique is right. When watering plants always concentrate on the roots of a plants; watering foliage has no benefit to a plant and lots of water can be wasted this way. If you’re using a watering can think about removing the ‘shower’ funnel from the end of the can to ensure the majority of the water you use goes straight to the plants roots. Watering early in the morning can also help make your garden water routine more efficient. In the early morning temperatures are lower meaning water has more time to get to the roots of your plant before the hot sun starts to evaporate it. Watering your garden at the hottest time of the day can actually be very damaging for plants leading to burning or wilting. Watering early in the morning and later in the evening will ensure your plants get the best chance to soak up the most water possible. Using mulch in your garden can also help make your watering more efficient. Mulch is a term for a material used to top soil around the base of a plant. Mulch can be made from many things; wood bark, straw and also some manmade materials. You can find a good selection at most garden centres and online. Mulch helps protect the top layer of soil; it helps prevent water from evaporating and helps keep soil moist. Collecting rain water from the buildings in your garden can be a great way of avoiding wastage. All you need is some simple plastic guttering; guttering kits can be found online or in most garden centres and DIY shops. You can attach guttering to greenhouses, conservatories and garden sheds. The guttering will then help collect rain water which you can then save in a water butt. Using rain water before resorting to your hosepipe can help the amount of water used in your garden making it much more efficient.
Grow Beans! Now is the perfect time to grow beans for the summer months. Climbing French beans, peas and dwarf beans can now be planted without the significant risk of frost. Beans and peas are great to grow in a garden and will provide you with tasty pods all summer long! Beans and peas need to planted in well drained soil and in a spot which is sunny for most of the day. Beans do very well in fertile soil and like to be sheltered from weather conditions and wind. Placing beans near a garden building or fence panel will help ensure they are protected from any adverse weather conditions.
Preparing Soil Prepare the soil before planting your beans; it needs to be well turned over and mixed. Use a garden fork to lift and mix the soil. Add some organic material such as a high quality compost or well rotted manure. This will ensure the soil is very fertile before you grow your beans. Adding compost or organic material will also help the soil hold more water which is very important in warmer summer conditions.
Support Your Beans Before planting your beans you will need to create a supporting structure which will support the beans as they grow and climb. Creating a wigwam structure is easy; first you need some garden canes. You can find these at most garden centres; pick ones which are 2.4m (8ft) long. Create a parallel row of canes; four on one side and four on the other. Push the ends of the canes into the soil so they are secure and then tie the tops of the opposite canes together with garden wire or string. This will create a wigwam support perfect for growing beans.
Sowing You can plant bean or pea seeds directly into soil outside or you can start them in a greenhouse for faster germination. Usually the weather is warm enough in May that you can plant bean or pea seeds directly into soil outside in your garden. Beans and peas need to be spaced differently when sown directly outside so always check the back of your seed packet before planting. Generally for beans you need to plant two seeds; 2.5cm deep next to the parallel canes in your garden. Some beans like runner beans need to be planted deeper about 5cm. Cover the seeds with soil, pat down and water very well. After the seeds germinate remove one of the two plants (seeds) you planted; let the stronger looking plant stay and simply pinch out the weaker one. As the plant grows encourage it to grow onto the cane support you created. Gently wrap the shoots of the plant around the canes; it should start to climb naturally after a few weeks.
After Care & Harvesting Beans need lots of watering! Make sure you water them at least twice daily. Also aim to water your beans heavily twice a week in dry weather. Adding mulch to the base of beans can help soil retain more moisture; this is especially helpful when the weather is very dry in the summer. You should pick your bean plants regularly; the more beans you pick the more your plant will produce. If planted in May you should see pods appear in July; your plant then should continue to produce pods until early autumn frosts appear.
Cut Evergreen Hedges May is the perfect time to cut hedges like box, yew or lonicera. Trimming hedges will help give your garden a neat and organised look. Most garden hedges can be trimmed with shears but some large hedges may need a hedge trimmer. Be on the lookout for nesting birds; many can be disturbed when trimming hedges and this is illegal. Check the inside of all of your hedges before you start trimming to avoid disaster.
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