Now May has arrived, let’s hope that the weather has settled down, even though there is a mix of displays in the garden and time for some late daffodils! Early May is a good time to plant up hanging baskets. Always buy your plants from a reputable supplier, with a wide choice of varieties, that has plenty of customers so plants won’t be standing around on the benches for too long. Choose your plants carefully; select colours that work well together – although hanging baskets are traditionally filled with colour, why not try more subtle, pastel shades for a change? Work out roughly how many you need per pot or container, to save the cost of impulse buying and remember to buy enough to plant up the top and sides of hanging baskets. Plants should be compact, pest and disease free, with no yellowing leaves, make sure there aren’t masses of roots growing through the drainage holes and that the compost is moist. Before putting bedding plants outside, leave them outside during the day and bring them into the glasshouse at night for 7-10 days, to ‘harden off’ or acclimatise to outdoor conditions and give them a boost after planting by watering in with liquid general fertiliser. Hanging baskets can be planted and left in the greenhouse, so they are well established before finally hanging them outside for once the danger of frost has past. Remember to ‘pinch out’ petunias, by removing stems from young plants, with your finger and thumb, just above a pair of leaves, so plants like fuchsias and pelargonium’s form compact, bushy flower filled plants.
The flavour of fresh herbs beats anything you can buy in a supermarket and now’s a great time to sow herbs from seeds for your summer supplies. Sow coriander, dill and fennel in pots, trays or directly into the soil, parsley germinates better with fluctuating temperatures. Sow it in trays or modules, putting them in the greenhouse during the day and outdoors at night. Sow basil too, there are some wonderful varieties including ‘Cinnamon’ which is very good for pasta or with spicy food, ‘Dark Opal’ with strongly flavoured purple leaves or ‘Genovese’ a traditional variety. Basil can be planted out once there’s no danger of frost, after ‘hardening off’ and should always be watered early in the day as it does not like going to bed with its feet wet!
Watch out for late frosts – it is a good idea to have horticultural fleece, newspaper, or even old net curtains to cover plants as last minute protection. Give bulbs in borders a liquid feed of high potash fertilizer to help form the flowers for next year until the foliage dies down.
It’s exciting when the seed sowing season is in full swing but don’t get too carried away in the vegetable garden. Sow a little and often in rows about 2’ long, sowing the next row when the previous one has germinated; not in long rows which mature at the same time, leaving you with a glut. Herbs like coriander, dill and fennel can be sown this way too. It’s worth all the effort, when you are harvesting tasty, fresh herbs and vegetables and enjoying a flower filled summer.
Happy gardening! Matt