Top tips for gardening in May


May Your Garden Blossom!

POP into your local garden centre this month and you'll encounter a festival of flowers. Bedding plants are now on sale and these colourful blooms are impossible to resist. Nothing brightens up a garden faster than pots and hanging baskets filled with tender plants, spilling over with flowers in every colour of the rainbow.

From trailing verbenas to non-stop begonias, bright pelargoniums, frothy bacopa, vivid salvias and petunias in rainbow colours, the choice is so wide that it can be hard to know where to stop.

One of the best ways to get the most out of bedding plants is to decide in advance on a theme for your display. Want to make a classy impression? Then fill your tubs and baskets with a restrained mix of whites and greens. Dream of having your visitors to be greeted by a Mexican wave of colourful flowers? Then aim to create a party in a pot, with clashing colours of purple, pink and orange.

Whatever look you decide on, you'll get best results if you choose a variety of foliage and flower textures. Sarah Raven, who appears occasionally on BBC Two's Gardener's World, sells her own range of bedding plants and she has worked out a formula for creating an effective display.

"You need a 'thriller', a 'filler' and a 'spiller'," she says.

In other words, choose a star plant, contrast it with something a little less bold and then surround the whole lot with a trailing plant that will add volume to the display.

Of course you don't need to stick to pots and baskets, bedding plants will fill any empty space in the garden and you could even celebrate the revival of Victorian bedding schemes by planting up a floral clock or even creating your house number in flowers. Some gardeners get so enthusiastic about creating these displays that they devote their entire garden to bedding plants, raising their own plants from seed or overwintering cuttings in a greenhouse in order to have thousands of plants to play with.

If you simply want to fill a few containers then look out for Trixi plug plants. Each plug contains three young colour co-ordinated plants and all you have to do is plant one plug and let it get on with the job of making a stunning display.

Most bedding plants like a sunny spot in the garden to grow at their best. If you plant them out before the end of May then remember to watch the weather forecast and cover them if frost is forecast - a sheet of newspaper or some old net curtains will do the job. Otherwise just feed and water them regularly and remove the dead flowers as they fade and your bedding plants will carry on flowering right into autumn.

What To Do Now!

When sowing carrots, cover the rows with cloches to keep the soil warm and moist while the seeds germinate.

Keep sowing leaves every three weeks to ensure a continuous crop of salad greens.

For an economical way to grow a lavender hedge take cuttings from existing plants, covering the  cuttings with a plastic bag and keeping the pots warm until roots develop.

When pricking out the seedlings, bury almost the entire stem, setting the leaves level with the soil. This way the seedlings will grow into sturdy plants.

Start feeding tomato plants now with a weekly dose of liquid feed.

To attract more butterflies to your garden plant nectar-rich species such as buddleia and sedum. Simple flowers are better than double blooms and aim to have suitable food sources available from early spring until late autumn.

Deadhead tulips after flowering but allow the leaves to die-down naturally so that the bulbs can build up their energies for next year's display.

Agnes Stevenson

Agnes Stevenson