Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Gardener's Diary            May



Rosemary Martin







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


An introduction from Rosemary...     



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..





Forty Ninth edition - May 2005   

Maybe 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. 


Did you know that the very big wasps you see before the end of May are Queen wasps looking for nest sites? So every one of those you destroy is a nest less near you!


If you haven`t yet planted up your tubs and hanging baskets, there are still plenty of plants available in the garden centres, many of whom will allow you to choose your plants which they will plant 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 don`t have a garden you can 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. 


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.






Amazon Book - Bulbs for all seasonsTry 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... Last month I planted some Canna Lilies, eremurus foxtail lilies, tall Regale lilies and some ranunculas. I look forward to seeing the new flowers





Keep new lawns damp and treat existing lawns with weed and feed, if you haven`t yet done so, not forgetting to apply it according to instructions.  I usually give my lawn a going over with an electric scarifier which rips out all the moss and rubbish. The amount of debris it removes never fails to amaze me. This is the only job I don`t allow to do for me, because I so enjoy the task.






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. I`m trying to grow outdoor cherry tomatoes this year and shall plant them in the flower borders. For the greenhouse I am growing some peppers, which are always easy to cultivate


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 to freshen it up? Most water based timber treatments won`t harm your plants.  Are the walls safe?  Put weedkiller on paths taking care to read instructions regarding pets. Check if the winter weather has made your paths uneven or slippery with moss and remedy this to avoid accidents.




Amazon books - Hedges


Fast growing hedges should have their first light clipping at the end of this month.  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. I have several Box shrubs in various shapes and sizes, which are a delight to lightly clip with small hand shears, on a warm spring day.







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


Amazon book - Illustrated Encyclopedia of perennialsStake plants as they get taller and feed them weekly. I`ve started using the new type of metal plastic coated spirals for staking plants and find them wonderfully easy to use, decorative and very effective. I use Miracle-Gro for feeding plants, 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.

Treat yourself to a new perennial from the garden centre, or admire one in your neighbour`s garden and with a bit of luck they`ll invite to to have a root of theirs! I love perennials because they last for evermore, just multiplying all the time.. Part of the fun of gardening is swapping plants and cuttings with family, friends or neighbours.



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. If you do have frogspawn which by now has turned into small frogs, you will find that on a specific day they will all leave the pond. If you happen to be around at this time to see the event, it would be kind to leave the hosepipe on spray setting to keep their journey to safety nice and damp.





Amazon Book - Attracting Wildlife to your garden


By now you could stop feeding the birds in your garden and let them forage naturally for themselves whilst food is plentiful. Let them rid your garden of the aphids instead of using chemical sprays.. If however you do still feed the birds, ensure the peanuts are in a proper container and the peanuts are of the type specially for birds.





Some of your recent gardening queries

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. A current email address is necessary as my replies to you are sometimes returned to me as undeliverable..


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 



You may obtain their free New 2005 Seed Catalogue by telephoning 01473 695224 and their website address is where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line. 


And some places to visit...

RHS Flower Shows 2005

The Spring Gardening Show Malvern

: :  

13 - 15 May 2005

Chelsea Flower Show

: :  

24 - 28 May 2005

BBC Gardeners' World Live

: :  

15 - 19 June 2005

Charity Gala Preview of the
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

: :

4 July 2005

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

: :  

5 - 10 July 2005

RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park

: :  

20 - 24 July 2005

Malvern Autumn Garden & Country Show

: :  

24 - 25 September 2005

RHS London Flower Shows

: :  


Wisley Shows

: :  

April, June and August
  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)


Back to laterlife today

Site map and site search


Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti