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Gardener's Diary 

                                 May   2007


Seventy third edition -  May 2007       

Winter-Flowering Shrubs

Greenhouses at this time of year will be bursting at the seams with bedding plants. If your greenhouse is unheated be vigilant about the possibility of overnight frosts and cover plants with horticultural fleece if there's a chance of temperatures dropping too low.. And don't be temped to put bedding plants out in the garden before the end of this month - I've been caught out before now and once lost dozens of Zinnias, which are particularly susceptible to frost.

Remember hornets? Swarms of them, renowned for their vicious stings and skill at massacring honeybees, have settled in France. And there are now so many of the insects that entomologists fear it will just be a matter of time before they cross to Britain, see here..

Jobs for the month - May


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..

 House plants

The warm, dry spring can encourage Red spider mite to thrive on your houseplants, and it's not always noticeable until the infestation is well advanced.. Take infected plants outside and spray them with an appropriate spray, making sure to spray underneath the leaves too.. Leave the plants outside for a few days and clean them using a fine spray on the hose pipe.. This spring has been exceptional so do examine all your houseplants regularly for infestation by other types of bugs!


It has been too dry in much of the UK to apply a weed and feed treatment, which needs to be applied on warm, damp soil, three days after cutting your lawn... But don't worry, you can apply the treatment up till September, and I'd bet money it'll rain before then!

If your lawn is already looking a bit sad through lack of rain, raise the heightof the cutting blade on your lawnmower and make sure the lawn has neat edges, which will make it look cared for. 

Shrub borders and roses

Keep the borders weed free using a hoe. Use plant supports for flowers such as Delphiniums that will get flattened by wind, rain and heavy flowers. The ones you see on the right can be raised as the plants grow taller.

Paths, walls and fencing

It's not too late to paint your fence. In fact it's a smashing job for a nice warm day.. There are some wonderful colours for fences on the market and mostly they won't harm the plants like creosote used to do... Walls and paths that have algae on them after the damp winter can be pressure washed to freshen them up, which is another therapeutic job, but you'll need to wear wellies for it!


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

From mid-May start putting the trays of bedding plants outside to harden off, providing there is no late frost.. At the end of the month they can be planted out into the garden. Start planting up your hanging baskets and leave them in a warm and light place to grow on before putting them out at the end of the month..


The warm spring is wonderful for growing lettuce in the garden and conservatory... The tomato plants are doing well, as are all the other edible crops I've seen in local allotments, other gardens and the nearby fields..

Crops to sow outside or under cloches during early May include dwarf French beans, beetroot, sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, summer and savoy cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, marrows, peas, radish, spinach, swede, sweet corn and turnips. Delay sowings if soil conditions are cold and wet.

For an early crop of beans, sow French and runner beans in pots in the greenhouse or on a windowsill. Choose deep pots, if possible, sowing two seeds per pot, and thinning to leave the strongest seedling which is then planted outside in late May or June. Alternatively, sow directly outside under cloches in May or June for a slightly later crop.

Trees and shrubs

Trees and shrubs will appreciate a good mulching this month to conserve water, stop weeds growing and add goodness to the soil. Look for any signs of disease or pests and spray accordingly. 

Ponds and Water gardens  

Pond maintenance should be completed by now and your fish will hopefully be feeding well, but for those of you who are new to fishkeeping this website is excellent: 

All items holding water in your garden should be made safe for young children, including ornamental ponds, wildlife ponds, water features and even water butts. This is equally applies to older people or neighbours who may have young grandchildren visiting.. Last month a 15 month old child died in the UK by falling into a water butt that had been sunk into the ground, and it had a lid on that the child had removed..


Be aware, if you are planning any pruning, that many hedges, dense shrubs and trees will have birds nesting in them, and it would be kinder to wait until they have raised their young before you do the necessary. Birds in our garden are still busy feeding on the sunflower seed hearts they so love, and I don't have the heart to shoo off the female squirrel who is so obviously hugely pregnant.. Even the blackbirds have devised a way of hovering like humming birds at the bird feeders. It's all very entertaining!  

Happy gardening till next month....


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..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



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 2007


Tickets for RHS members

Privilege rate tickets are available for RHS members to all RHS shows, but tickets must be booked in advance. Click on the individual show links below for further information.
RHS members are not charged a booking fee for tickets purchased except for advanced tickets to the Malvern shows. To find out how to become an RHS member click here


Do you take advantage of the BBC Gardening website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


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...



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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