Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

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 I get the secateurs out...  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 adds a new dimension to the hobby, 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


Thirteenth edition  - May 2002

It is that time of year again, when there just aren`t enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done in the garden. May is probably the busiest of all the months for gardeners, with hanging baskets and tubs to plant up ready for putting out in June, ponds and water features to clean out, and if you have them, fruit and vegetable gardens to manage. But isn`t it great to be able to get outside in the open again, without shivering or wearing all those extra layers?  I feel a bit like a hedgehog emerging from it`s winter hibernation. 

The whole of the UK seems to have had a very dry spell, with little or no rain for five or six weeks. But as I write this column in the last week of April, we have just had our first good downpour..  I have promised myself an irrigation system for our garden as it takes me three or four hours to water the borders, but as yet I haven`t got round to installing one. If we get another prolonged spell of dry weather, don`t forget to put a mulch of something round the plants to try to conserve the moisture in the soil. If using grass cuttings as a mulch don`t let them get too compacted as that will only serve to keep the rain out.

May Spotlight


This month, as well as jobs for the month, I will be telling you a bit about ornamental ponds, and bedding plants


More news from Thrive, the gardening charity

The first national meeting to keep people gardening, the nation`s favourite pastime



Jobs for the month - May

House plants

Increase watering and feed the plants more frequently as the days lengthen. Move any houseplants away from south facing windows as the sun will burn them. Keep plants misted and the leaves clean. I take my houseplants outside on a warm sunny day and use the hosepipe with a fine spray. Some houseplants can be propagated at this time of year, either by division, cuttings or seeds. Refer to your gardening book..  



April and May are good months for sowing or laying new lawns. Give established lawns their first feed of the year. Use a dual purpose application of `weed and feed.` A new lawn raised from seed or turf will need careful attention this month if it is to become established. With the recent dry weather ensure the lawn does not become dried out. Water it in the cool of the evening and the lawn will have the benefit of the water overnight. If you water during the day, the sun will quickly evaporate the water..

Herbaceous borders and roses

Aphids and other pests are busy this time of year, and seem to particularly enjoy just a few of my plants. I have however taken note of this and beaten them at their own game this year, by spraying the vulnerable specimens. The flower borders will appreciate a mulching this month, which will help conserve moisture and stop weeds from growing. If you are using grass cuttings as a mulch, take care not to use the first three mowings after applying lawn feed as per the manufacturer`s instructions. Don`t forget to stake tall growing plants before they topple over and break.



Increase the amount of water given to plants and still keep an eye on the weather in case of night frosts, when you will need to cover plants with horticultural fleece or newspapers.. Continue planting up hanging baskets this month and be sure to keep them frost free and watered, then by the end of May they can go outside looking really established..



Thin out seedlings that have come through and keep the ground weed-free. Plants that have been hardened off can now be put into the ground.. The soil should be warmer and dryer now, so you can continue to sow your favourite crops. Take care not to sow the seed too thickly, pour a little of the seed into your hand and scatter it thinly along the drill you have drawn. It is great to grow your own vegetables and fruit, then you know it is free of pesticides.  


This is the month when the fruit grower finds there is plenty of crop spraying to do to ensure a healthy crop and  prevent pests and disease. Keep a close watch on developing fruits and treat accordingly. Take care still with late frosts and cover small trees and bushes with horticultural fleece. Refer to the appropriate section of your gardening book for fruit pest and disease control.  

Trees and shrubs

Trees and shrubs will still benefit from 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. I am finding some previously unseen caterpillars and bugs in my borders - curled up tightly in leaves. I wonder if our warming climate is allowing more pests to thrive. 

Water gardens  

It`s a lovely month for enjoying a pond, and I spend hours just looking at the baby frogs basking in the sun, the fish spawning and the aquatic plants growing. If you are putting more plants in your pond, make sure you use `aquatic soil` in appropriate containers with pebbles or gravel on the top, to stop the fish rummaging around and disturbing the mud. The new plant growth will soon hide the containers. If you see a fish that is being `hassled` by others, it is a female that is ready to spawn, so just leave them to get on with it. And if you find long or oval blobs of jelly on the underside of lily leaves, they are the eggs of aquatic snails which, on balance, will do more good than harm.  


May brings the very last of the summer visitors, and our gardens are alive with the noise of birds, all busy staking their territory, attracting mates and seeing off the opposition. Busy, busy busy... The animals that hibernated during the winter are back in their burrows and holes, either rearing their young or preparing to do so. I have noticed that this year the squirrels and rabbits appear to be even tamer than normal, which is somehow very rewarding.  


Some garden shows to visit this summer:

Herts Garden show  Sat/Sun 18th & 19th May
Middlesex Garden show Sat/Sun 25th & 26th May
Kent Garden show Sun - Tues. 2nd 3rd & 4th June
South East Garden show  Sun/Mon 25th & 26th August
Sussex Garden show Sat/Sun 7th & 8th September

And some web sites of interest to gardeners: 

Alan Titchmarsh MBE, TV gardener, writer, broadcaster and thoroughly nice person. Just a few choice words to describe the peoples` favourite TV gardener. See his website....



Thompson and Morgan: a growing resource for gardeners worldwide. The site includes the international online seed catalogues, the young plants catalogue (UK only), the wholesale seeds catalogue, together with the award winning Germination Times and a host of other useful information.


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. 


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.






Good 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

RHS Garden Finder is 12.99 from Dorling Kindersley



Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary



Back to laterlife today

Site map and site search


Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti