May Baldock Gardens
May is for me the start of the fun part of the year, and we can start harvesting all sorts of our early sown crops, most of our planned plants should be in the soil, raised beds or gro-bags by now and will need careful tending in the way of weeding, feeding and watering. That's the easy part the problematic part is stopping all the uninvited guests from helping themselves to the rewards for your input. Most of the pests we can easily see, snails, slugs, caterpillars, birds, rabbits and even Deer. Some we cannot see, these are the worst of our enemy's because we can't see them without a magnifying glass or microscope. If you do get the chance to have a look at some of these under high magnification you will realise why they can do so much damage. We have three options for dealing with them firstly ignore them and put up with the results, some making many crops unedible or at best unattractive and distasteful. Secondly, with great care, we can use approved chemicals, thirdly we can use natural predators to control mites, wevils and all sorts of burrowing, chewing and sliming pests. If you decide to use natural predators, you will be best buying them online due to the short life expectancy without their prime food source a problem you may find if purchasing from garden centres as they may have been sitting around for a while. Now the biggest problem with most predators is that they will not survive at the lower temperatures that the pests can survive at so they have a head start on us at the early part of the season. The next thing to bear in mind is that its no use purchasing predators until you spot the pest you need to control or they will starve to death before the pest turns up and they can do the job intended. Control of mildews and moulds are best done by airflow, temperature and humidity with the backup of specialist chemicals. Some pests have no natural predators or approved chemicals to control them. It is then down to you to hunt around the garden late at night with your torch picking them off and disposing of them (but not over the fence into next doors garden). If you have any small plants waiting to be planted outside on the windowsill or conservatory, please remember to feed them with a liquid feed and turn them about ninety degrees every day to ensure they grow straight and strong. Early in the month, you can sow half-hardy annual seeds directly into the position you would like them to be flowering. Clematis Montana will be flowering up to the end of the month when they have finished you can prune the plant, containment pruning is the simple thing to do, just cut them back to where you want them to be. As a general rule, any plant that has flowered and just stopped can are able to be pruned at this time of the year, but don't go mad only lightly prune for shape. May will be safe to plant up hanging baskets and planters - do remember that damaging frosts can occur in and around the Baldock area up to the twelfth of June so make sure you can bring them inside or cover them with fleece or bubble wrap. We lost a lot of tender bedding plants in a polly tunnel a while back on the ninth of June we had an anti-frost heater that was malfunctioning and needed replacing, but we decided that as it was so late into June, we wouldn't spend hundreds of pounds replacing it until next year. That night we had one of the hardest frosts I can remember for that time of the year, and we lost several hundreds of pounds worth of plants. May is probably the last chance to plant potatoes, continue to earth up those you have already planted, now remember that they are gross feeders requiring a minimum of 1kg of a proprietary fertiliser per ten meters row and up to one and a half kilos for main crop and bakers. Copious amounts of water are also essential for good yields of potatoes never let your soil dry out but don't flood them. Overcrowded bulbs can be lifted and split up and replanted as by now they will have stored enough energy to give flowers for the next season. Remember to replant them a bit deeper than usual as the chalk soils in North Herts will cause them to dry out and become blind (no flowers) planting a bit deeper will help avoid this. The bad news in May is that your lawn will be demanding your attention, it will be growing at the fastest at any other time of the year, and you may have to cut it twice a week. A quality lawn feed given in May might seem a bit of an unnecessary expense when the grass is growing at a and is probably pace requiring cutting more times than you would like. Here's the thing, if you can encourage the grass plant to tiller ( grow more stems) and consequently thicker roots it will be able to survive extreme conditions so it would have had a so much better chance of surviving last years incredibly long hot summer. Moss will also be kept away if you have a healthy thick sword, of course, drainage and aerating will also help keep moss under control. I have had no end of people coming in asking how to get their lawn back into condition after last years extreme heat. Keeping it healthy the year before would have saved them a lot of time and money this year. It's a common misconception that a lawn is cheap to run and takes no time at all, in fact, its completely the reverse and probably needs more work than any other part of the garden if you want it to look good. A poor lawn makes the rest of the garden look bad. Enjoy your summer and your garden. Cheers, Graham.