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Gardener's Diary 

                              May 2009


Giant SunflowerThere is still time to grow giant sunflowers from seed. They will germinate within a few days and can be planted out as soon as they are large enough to handle, or you can grow them outside where they are to flower instead.
They always bring a smile to people's faces and the huge seedheads can be saved and hung in trees to feed the birds overwinter.

Don't spend all summer working on your garden, there are some great events and places to visit. The RHS have a programme of splendid flower shows throughout the year (We've bookmarked the Malvern Autumn show to visit) and the RHS gardens are very well worth visiting.

This month we also have a Laterlife Interest article on avoiding back pain while gardening.




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..

Jobs for the month..

Don't let the warmer days of May lull you into forgetting the tasks that should be tackled.



Now that the days are longer and warmer, virtually all salad and vegetables can now be sown with confidence, but continue to beware the late frosts until late May and cover seedlings with horticultural fleece or newspaper if one is forecast.

With some vegetables and most salad crops it's best to sow little and often to ensure a succession of produce throughout the summer. A few of our early sowings of brassicas, however, appear to have failed  for one reason or another, so we're off to the garden centre shortly to buy some seedlings to replace them. (sometimes I think it is a waste of time sowing seed when the garden centre is so near and such good value, but it is satisfying watching plants grow from seed…)

Potatoes should be through soon and they will need earthing up as they grow to protect the new tubers from daylight (which makes them turn green and inedible).

Runner beans can now be sown indoors ready for planting out in late May, at which time we plant another seed adjacent to the seedlings to lengthen the picking season. Broad beans and peas are already through and will need support soon; we tend to use small canes with strings tied in as the plants grow at around nine inches spacing vertically.


A lot of our soft fruit bushes are flowering madly at the moment and the gooseberries have already set fruit! Thankfully with the warm sunshine of late there should be enough insects around to pollinate everything. Strawberries have started to flower and the raspberries are showing signs of life. Plum and apple trees are starting to blossom, but again cover the blossom as much as possible against frost if forecast as it can devastate tender soft fruits.

The rhubarb is doing quite well at the moment after a winter transplant and we have just bought another root from a horticultural show which we visited over the weekend at Newark (if only I could source a crumble bush!)


Try giving bulbs a liquid feed or a sprinkle of Growmore for an even better display next year, and leave daffodil leaves to die down naturally which will take about six weeks.
When tulips are finished flowering you can lift them and heel them in elsewhere for the bulbs to ripen. I never bother to do this and leave them in situ; there are a few less each year which are easily added to... This autumn try planting lots of miniature tulips and daffodils, dotted around in groups, they look great.


Keep new lawns watered in a dry spell and treat existing lawns with weed and feed, applying it according to instructions. A going over with an electric scarifier beforehand rips out all the moss and rubbish.. Any weeds that survive the above treatent can be killed as they appear with a spot weedkiller especially for lawns.


greenhouseProtect tender plants from late frosts with newspaper or horticultural fleece, and start hardening off summer bedding plants by taking them out of the greenhouse and putting them in cold frames. Don't plant them out till the end of May. Maintain the greenhouse humidity and avoid red spider mite by damping it down with the hosepipe, and shade the plants from too much sun.
Plant up your baskets and tubs using a mixture of slow release plant food granules and water storing crystals, which can be bought from your supermarket, DIY store or garden centre.

This is a busy time of year when the greenhouse is full of bedding plants and young vegetable seedlings. We usually have a demarcation line in our greenhouse but this time of year the line becomes quite blurry, but at least the plants will be gone by month end and there will be lots of space in the greenhouse for the tomatoes, melons, cucumbers etc.

Paths and fences

Check fence support posts and make sure that supports for climbing plants are strong enough. Why not give your fence a spring coat of paint with a fresh new colour?
Put weedkiller on paths taking care to read instructions regarding pets. If the winter has left your paths slippery with moss remove it by power washing or specialist path cleaner.


Fast growing formal hedges should have their first light clipping at the end of this month, but not if birds are nesting in them. Don`t let newly planted conifers or other hedging plants dry out, and mulch if possible. Remember to be a considerate neighbour by not letting your boundary conifer hedging get too high.


Sow biennials and perennials for next year, and start training sweet peas up their supports. Try growing some of the smaller variety of wallflowers, which together with miniature daffodils and tulips look so delicate. Get some packets of `throw and grow` annual seeds that easier to grow than labour intensive bedding plants - they are so pretty...

Herbaceous plants

Stake plants and feed them weekly. Use Miracle-Gro with the dispenser that attaches to the hose pipe so everything in the garden gets fed... Keep the borders weed free and mulched and watch out for aphids on your plants. They seem to be less fussy what they land on with each year that passes. If you have lilies, watch out for lily beetle

Ponds and water features

Clear the debris and moss from water features and change the water if necessary, taking care not to disturb any wildlife that has made a home there. Check the electrical system is safe. Make preparations for new aquatic plants in the pond, taking care not to disturb any fish that may be getting ready to spawn. Remove any unwanted frog or toad spawn.



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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.



RHS 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:-

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 special seasonal offers


Some places to 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

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