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Gardener's Diary            May

Gardener`s Diary is a regular feature of run by Rosemary Martin, who is semi retired.  She says anyone can enjoy gardening whether they have a large or small garden, can`t tell a dandelion from a daisy, or are aged 9 or 90… Here you will be able to see what jobs you should be doing in the garden month by month, get ideas for spectacular seasonal planting schemes, read previews on new plants and products, find out where to buy them, and get up-to-date news of forthcoming events and places to visit. 

For those of you that have never dabbled in the "black art" of gardening you will first need to get some basic knowledge from a good gardening book. You will find some within this article as examples...


But first an introduction from Rosemary...

I have been gardening now for about thirty years, long enough for my husband to know that it`s wise to bury his head in a newspaper when the secateurs come out of retirement...  I don`t have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice but I also think the modern trends work well. Plants in my garden have to be resilient as they get moved around frequently, and my husband has been heard  to mutter  “I don`t remember that tree being there this morning..”

Hobbies have come and gone over the years but only gardening has endured, and now in retirement this column will add a new dimension to the hobby, and 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


The first edition  - May 2001.

We are promised a heat wave this summer,  and certainly deserve one after the weather of the last few months... It seems like Spring has finally arrived, but don`t get caught out by any late frosts that may ruin your tender plants and shrubs. Get them covered up at night if the forecast is for frost - old newspapers will do if you don`t have any horticultural fleece. 

If you haven`t yet planted up your tubs and hanging baskets there are still plenty of plants in the garden centres, and in many cases they will even plant them up for you .  If you like hanging baskets but not the twice daily watering that is needed to keep them in top condition in hot weather,  try the ones with a water reservoir in the bottom. Mix the potting compost together with water retaining gel granules and controlled release plant food, before planting them up,  then you will have the best hanging baskets in the neighbourhood that will flower away until the first frosts... Or you can really cheat by waiting until the first week in June and bargaining with your local garden centre for their display hanging baskets.

If you really don`t like gardening why not enjoy the benefits of someone else`s hard work by visiting gardens that are open to the public. Your local library should have a list of these. 

Don`t miss a great day out:  BBC Gardeners`World Live at the NEC in Birmingham from June 13 - 17.   For the ticket hotline Tel: 0870 264 5555


Jobs for the month - May

Do not let the warmer days of May lull you into forgetting the tasks that must now be tackled. This is the time of year when plans for beds and borders should be put into action. Take cuttings, sow biennial seeds and don`t forget any pruning tasks.



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...


Keep new lawns damp and treat existing lawns with weed and feed, not forgetting to apply it according to instructions.  I usually give my lawn a going over with an electric scarifier first which rips out all the moss and rubbish. The amount of debris it removes never fails to amaze me, and the grass is now looking very respectable compared with the rough neglected lawn of eighteen months ago when we moved here.


Protect 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 down with the hosepipe, and shade the plants from too much sun.

Paths, fences and walls

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 one of the new colours?  Are the walls safe?  Put weedkiller on paths taking care to read instructions regarding pets. Check if  the recent wet weather has made your paths uneven or slippery with moss and remedy this to avoid accidents.


Fast growing formal hedges should have their first light clipping at the end of this month, but the growing season seems a little late this year so it may not need doing for a while.  Don`t let newly planted conifers or other hedging plants dry out, and mulch if possible. Remember not to let your boundary conifer hedging get too high.


Strawberries in flower must be protected from late frosts. Watch out for the birds on fruit bushes and cover with netting if necessary

Flowers for cutting

Sow biennials and perennials for next years flower arrangements, and start training those sweet peas up their supports.

Herbaceous plants

Stake plants and feed them weekly. I 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. Have you seen those giant aphids on lupins?  Why not treat yourself to one of those obelisks that are so cheap and cheerful. They look great in the middle of a border supporting a climbing plant.  

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`s made it`s 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.  



By now you should have stopped feeding the birds in your garden. They will need to forage naturally for themselves whilst food is plentiful. Let them rid your garden of the aphids..

Next month I will be looking at types of barbecues on the market, the latest plants in the garden centres, some trendy garden furniture and of course jobs for the month...


Some web sites of interest to gardeners:


  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 

Gardening 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.


And finally if you are visiting a National Trust garden or any other garden or event, do check that they are not closed due to Foot and Mouth disease. For general advice and up-to-date details of restrictions look up the website for the appropriate local authority who will have information about closures. Alternatively look at the following websites:  and  who will have Foot and Mouth up-dates.  

Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary


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