I love my garden but find it a struggle to find the time to work in it when actually all I want to do is sit and enjoy the wonderful colours and scents that it can provide.
Spring is definitely here and we have been lucky enough to enjoy some good weather albeit between showers, hail and even snowâ€¦
This weekend I made a concerted effort to get stuck in and get all those spring type jobs done that we hear should have been done by now. So, what should be done by May in a Scottish garden?
Firstly, clear excess debris from the garden but not all of it, leave some for the wildlife and look out for any sleepy hedgehogs. Leaves and piles of sticks or logs make great habitats for invertebrates such as bees that help the gardener.
Secondly, prune back some shrubs such as Hydrangea, starting with dead, diseased and cross-over branches, and then all herbaceous plants to allow the new growth gain maximum light and water – plus it makes the garden tidier. Hellebores should have their old leaves cut off and binned not composted. (Picture shows irises needing to be cut back).
At this point check to see if your plants need staking or when they grow through the season have a system in place for them to stop them flopping or falling on top of smaller plants. I use plastic green mesh, an assortment of sticks and canes and, for my peonies, I use home-made metal rings. Remember though that sticks and canes are dangerous without cane tops.
Next, the weeding. Bittercress, which cleverly disguises itself as an almost invisible weed when near to seeding, is already flowering and seeds so quickly that we must keep an eye out for it, not to mention the colourful but naughty dandelions. There are an abundance of weeds and they are, pretty much, our wildflowers. After all, a â€œweed is only a plant that grows in the wrong placeâ€. Again, if space allows leave some â€˜weedsâ€™ for the little creatures – the stinging nettle is great food for many larvae of beautiful species of moths and butterflies.
Once you have cleared leaves and weeds in your flowerbeds it would be ideal if a mulch could be put down around the existing plants. A mulch is simply a covering usually bark chippings or composted matter that suppresses weeds and helps to retain moisture over summer (not usually a problem in the Lothians). It needs to be a couple of inches deep.
Now stand back and admire. Use your imagination and memory to visualise your garden beds, tubs and borders, do they need topping up? Have you, like myself, lost some plants (probably due to excess rainfall) and bare areas are now apparent? If so, grow some seeds, sow them directly if you donâ€™t have a greenhouse or buy an assortment of plants but watch for imported plants that would not survive the frosts that are still forecast for the Lothians. (Picture shows Pieris ‘Forest Flame’ in flower just now).
If you canâ€™t wait, and have to put the plants in now, then simply protect them with a horticultural fleece or green netting. Sometimes I use recycled plastic 2L bottles with the bottom cut off, it doesnâ€™t matter as long as the new soft growth is protected. Place them over before nightfall and remove in the morning to harden off your new plants â€“ protect your investment and donâ€™t to forget to water them Â daily if, in the unlikely event, no rain is forthcoming.
It is also time to sow vegetable seeds and to plant your seed potatoes and onion sets. Salad seeds can be grown on the window sill.
Lastly, consider any lawn areas. That first cut should be done with the mower blades raised. The edges will need trimming and perhaps a lawn feed could be used or an appropriate â€˜weed and feedâ€™ for lawns product especially if moss is taking over.
Then sit back â€“ and enjoy the onset of summer (green fingers crossed!)