Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Super Spring

MAY blog

It is the first time for years I have not been working away from home at this time of year or sneaking time to ‘garden in the gaps’ between work commitments and I’m loving it! Just great to enjoy the garden, and take my time – which is what gardening is all about!

By the beginning of the month you should have planted all of your potatoes . There are still a few ‘earlies’ chitting in my shed, the sprouts are now about 2.5cm (1”) long. They can be planted in large 15 or 16” pots, or potato bags taking care not to break the shoots. For smaller crops of large potatoes, remove all but the three most vigorous shoots; leaving all of the shoots gives a higher yield of smaller tubers. I recently read about planting in layers. Filling the pot 1/3 with compost, add three potatoes; another third of compost, then two more potatoes, then fill to just below the top of the pot with compost. These will be the last of a succession of ‘Earlies’ for harvesting just before the end of July to avoid problems with ‘blight’.

After the recent April showers there is plenty of pots to weed and borders that need mulching. Keeping on top of the weeding now and using mulches saves so much time later in the year. The ongoing process of weeding the lawn is keeping me out of mischief, too! You can use a weedkiller but rooting out perennials like ‘Dandelions’ with an old kitchen knife or daisy grubber, when the soil is moist, is a therapeutic and satisfying experience!

Once the danger of frost has past, Canna’s and Dahlia’s can be planted outside. My exotic border will be ‘Canna’ and ‘Hedychium’ heavy this year; I bought seventeen last year in an end of season sale, in November! Most of my gardening friends laughed, thinking that the small rhizomes would not survive the winter but a combination of adapting the propagator with bamboo canes to allow for vertical growth and a mild winter, meant I only lost one and that was my fault due to overwatering! Nice one you plants! Even though there is plenty of well rotted organic matter in the border, I will be adding some more for ease of planting and lifting, it will also retain moisture to encourage the lush, leafy growth that’s needed to create an impact. The inspiration for a tropical border came from visits to the tropics and my friend Will Giles Exotic Garden in Norwich, which is just amazing! There is no other garden like it in the UK and it is well worth a visit! (www.exoticgarden.com)

I would like to leave you with a note about a fern growing in my woodland garden, which is just sensational. It is available from 28 nurseries (according to the ‘Plantfinder’) and should be more widely grown. It is Athyrium otophorum ssp. okanum AGM (see image) young growth has dark purple stems and creamy-green ‘leaflets’ which are really eye catching. It needs a sheltered site on moist soil. If the site is a bit exposed to sun or wind, surround it with other plants as protection – it’s a lovely plant, that’s well worth growing! Happy Maytime! Matt.