Jobs for May in the Cutting Garden

Another busy month with beds and borders starting to fill out in the cutting garden as we see the last of the frost.  

In the greenhouse  
 

  • Continue sowing half-hardy annuals -  a second sowing in May will give you flowers right up to the first frosts. 
     

  • Keep pricking out and potting on seedlings to maintain plant health. Prick out seedlings from seed trays once they have their first pair of true leaves and transfer to individual pots or cell trays. 
     

  • During the first weeks of May it's still possible to see night time temperatures hit below 0c in many parts of the UK, with the average last frost date being the middle of May. Any tender plants should not be transplanted until after all chance of frost has gone. Check your last frost dates online for your particular area and watch the weather forecast like a hawk. Make sure all indoor grown plants have been hardened off properly before planting out. 
     

  • Check on any cuttings taken in the autumn if you haven't already- they will probably need potting on with fresh compost at this point. Small white roots emerging from the holes in the bottom of a pot or cell tray are a tell-tale sign that the plant needs re-potting into something bigger.
     

  • Take softwood cuttings - it's an ideal time for many flowering plants. I always take cuttings of verbena bonariensis, hydrangea and scented geraniums at this time as they root readily. Pot the cuttings into free draining compost and use a little rooting powder to encourage them on their way. A heated propagator or heat mat will speed the process up. Alternatively you can put the cut stems into water and they will send out roots. 
     

  • Order biennial seed such as foxgloves, sweet william and honesty to sow next month. 

     

Bulbs, tubers, corms & claws

  • Plant out ranunculus, anemones and dahlias once all chance of frost has gone. Watch out for slugs - they are particularly fond of young dahlia shoots. 
     

  • Pot on any cuttings taken from dahlias and grow on until large enough to plant out.
     

  • Plant summer/autumn flowering bulbs such as lilies, gladioli, nerine and acidanthera.
     

  • Once daffodils, muscari and other spring bulbs have finished flowering in the garden, deadhead any you haven't already cut. Allow the leaves to die back naturally to allow photosynthesis to occur. 
     

  • There are various ways to deal with tulips after flowering. I treat the ones in my cutting patch as 'annuals' and dig them up (bulb and all) and add them to the compost. 

     

In the garden

  • Direct sow hardy annuals such as Larkspur, nigella and cerinthe for successive harvesting. Thin the sowings later in the month.
     

  • Direct sow half-hardies such as amaranthus, sunflowers, cosmos.
     

  • Feed plants with a seaweed feed or homemade comfrey and nettle tea every other week
     

  • Plant out hardy annuals like cornflowers, ammi, wild carrot and orlaya. Acclimatise them well to conditions outdoors by 'hardening' them off properly to give them a fighting chance once they're out in the garden. If a hard frost is forecast you can use horticultural fleece to protect them if necessary. 
     

  • Check on plant supports and tie any climbers such as sweet peas to their supports.  

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CLARE NOLAN

 

Clare is a lifestyle journalist, stylist & art director with over twenty years experience working on magazines, she is the author of two best-selling books 'In Bloom' and 'Making a House Your Home'. Clare runs online courses and one-to-one coaching sessions for gardeners, growers & florists.   

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