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Gardener's Diary May 2006

Succession Planting for Adventurous Gardeners

Gardener's Diary is a regular feature of run by Rosemary Martin. 


Sixty first edition -  May 2006   

It started to get a little warmer during the second half of April, but the weather is still unseasonably cold and here in the Midlands, on Easter weekend, people are only just starting to spend some time in their gardens..  Perhaps this is a good point for a timely reminder about garden safety....

An introduction from Rosemary Martin...

I have been gardening now as a hobby for about thirty years, but have no formal training..  I don't have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice, but I also think the modern trends work well. 

This column adds a new dimension to my interest in all aspects of horticulture and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  

Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife, remembering to tell me which country you are from..  


Click here for previous editions of Gardener's Diary..


Some areas of the country are already experiencing hosepipe bans, but there are plenty of measures you can take to keep your plants and lawn healthy in the event of a hosepipe ban in your area.. See below:

  • Use the highest setting on your lawnmower so the grass remains a little longer. Even if your lawn goes brown in a drought, it will recover, so there is no need to water it..

  • Don't use the grass box to collect the grass - let it fall on the lawn and it will form a mulch.

  • When planting up hanging baskets, mix water retaining gel in with the compost and use the type of hanging baskets with a water reservoir in the bottom. The plants will soon grow and cover the basket itself.

  • Connect water butts to your drainpipes and use the water from these butts to water your plants..

  • Water the smallest and weakest plants first (such as bedding  plants) and water the garden in the early evening after the heat from the sun has died down.

  • Using a mulch keeps down weeds and retains valuable moisture in the soil and this is a great time of year to apply it.. Take a little care not to break any plants that are just peeping through when you are putting mulch down. We have a raised patio area planted as a Mediterranean garden.. First we laid weed suppressant membrane, and then topped it with a thick layer of gravel.. To plant something, we first cut a huge X  shape, peel back the four triangles, plant in the usual way and put the flaps back, finally covering  with gravel...  In seven years there have been no weeds grow through it and I never water the plants..

Jobs for the garden in May

House plants

Houseplants: Indoor Plants Anyone Can Grow


You can still take cuttings from many of your houseplants during May, but first look up in your gardening book to see if it is the correct time of year for cuttings of your particular specimens. 

Be vigilant this month for house plant pests such as mealy bug and red spider mite... I bought a house plant a couple of years ago that unbeknown to me was harbouring mealy bug.. This rapidly spread to other plants and I had a devil of a job to eliminate them..

Bedding Plants and hardy annuals

The hardy annuals you have sown directly onto the soil should be up this month, but you need to watch that weeds don't take hold and smother the flower seedlings.. Thin the seedlings out if you think they look too crowded.. Bedding plants should be growing strongly and pricked out into their growing trays. Keep them well watered and covered with fleece at night if frost is expected.. Plant up your hanging baskets early this month, mixing water retaining gel and plant food in with the compost, and keep them in the greenhouse initially to grow on. 

By the second week in May all the bedding plants and hanging baskets should be put outside in the garden to harden off, but again do take care that a sudden night frost doesn't kill them all off.. Bring them in to the greenhouse at night if need be..

Lawns (Collins Practical Gardener S.)Lawns

Having raked all the debris out of your lawn either with a rake or an electric scarifier, you now need to give it a 'weed and feed' to eliminate the rest of the moss, kill the weeds and green up the lawn.. This task is made easier these days with spreaders available for larger lawns and packets with a built-in sprinkler for smaller lawns.. Take care not to miss bits because a light and dark green striped lawn looks decidedly odd!


Prune out any frost damage from affected evergreen shrubs and trim if necessary: cut back tender shrubs and hardy Fuchsia after danger of frosts has past. Prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowering.  

Clip evergreen hedges and, if not too woody, shredded clippings can be added to the compost heap. (Not holly hedges though, because the pointed tips of the leaves take years to die down and you will be forever pricking your fingers when gardening) Prune overcrowded stems of Clematis montana once flowering has finished. Ensure newly planted trees and shrubs do not dry out. Take softwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs this month and finally check roses for signs of pests and damage.



Greenhouse Gardener's Companion: Growing Food & Flowers in Your Greenhouse or Sunspace

At this time of year all your greenhouse plants can very quickly be lost due to overheating or sudden frosts in an unheated greenhouse.

Move conservatory plants outdoors during warm days but bring back inside if cold nights are expected.

Inspect plants for red spider mite and whitefly and control with appropriate treatments. Apply coolglass to the outside of the glass to prevent temperatures from soaring.  Use the hosepipe (or watering can if there is a hosepipe ban in force) to thoroughly dampen down your greenhouse to improve humidity..


If you haven't grown any vegetable seeds and can't really be bothered, yet fancy some home grown veggies, have a look in your local garden centre, where you can buy as little or as much as you want, of many varieties of outdoor and greenhouse vegetables; all ready grown on to a decent size.. All you need do is re-pot them, water and feed them... Try growing a pepper plant, chilli or cucumber in your greenhouse...


The Pond Specialist: The Essential Guide to Designing, Building, Improving and Maintaining Ponds and Water Features (Specialist S.)Garden Ponds  

It is still not too late to have a pond `spring clean` or to make it safe for any visiting children that either you or your neighbour might have, see here..  Keep your pond free of blanket weed by lifting it out with a stick or a rake, but take care not to puncture the pond lining if it is butyl, and of course mind the livestock... Increase the quantity of food you give your pond fish this month.. The general guide to quantity is that any food left floating on the surface after about ten minutes is surplus, so you can easily gauge how much they need..



A grey squirrel feeding on the peanuts in our garden - mid April








This squirrel is quite welcome in our garden and does no damage


Left in for May...Take care when you are pruning in the garden that you don't disturb any nesting birds.. Continue putting out food for the birds, but not bread or other food as it will attract rats to your neighbourhood! This can be a distressing time of year when some fledgling birds get separated from their parents. Whilst it is admirable to try to save them, they very rarely survive because we can't feed them the constant supply of bugs that their parents do.. Another problem this time of year is birds flying into windows and killing themselves, because they just don't see the glass.. I now paint marks on the greenhouse windows with a solution of coolglass that seems to work because last year we had no deaths.

Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Climate change: here and now

Climate change is one of the world’s greatest challenges. It is also one of the National Trust's biggest challenges.

The impacts of climate change in the UK are increasingly affecting the historic buildings, gardens, countryside and coast in our care.



The Yellow Book: NGS Gardens Open for CharityRHS gardens

Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-

RHS flower shows for 2006, see here

May RHS flower shows, see below:-


The Spring Gardening Show Malvern

11 - 14 May 2006

In its beautiful setting at the foot of the magnificent Malvern Hills, this national show enjoys the reputation of the first and finest gardening event.
Chelsea Flower Show

23 - 27 May 2006

During May the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea come alive with the sights and smells of the finest collections of flowers in the world


Keep the e-mails with your gardening problems coming Please tell me which country you live in as knowing the climate can help me solve your problem. Your current email address is necessary as my replies are occasionally returned to me as undeliverable..


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new and any special seasonal offers

Some places to visit...  Visit the Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.



Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN

The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...



Keep the e-mails with your gardening problems coming

Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary


Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 


 Useful reading:-

"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced ?5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is ?6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

Amazon book - A year at Kew  Amazon book - Gardens Through Time: 200 Years of the English Garden Amazon book - RHS Plants for Places: 1000 Tried and Tested Plants for Every Soil, Site and Usage (RHS) Amazon book - RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening: RHS Bi-centennial Edition (Royal Horticultural Society)
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