May is a Bluebell bonanza of a month. This May got off with a bang with a long awaited trip to Holland’s famous Keukenhof Gardens. I was there just before the end of the season, but the fields of colour- coordinated tulips were still sublime.
Don’t be fooled by all that colour or the odd hot day, summer isn’t here yet. The risk of late frost has not passed. Call me old fashioned but I still wait till 31st May before summer bedding outside full time. Hardy flowering plants, like Fuchsia and Pelargoniums, can handle the great outdoors but sensitive souls like Petunias need TLC. You can “harden them off” by progressively exposing them to cold air.
Bugs are a sure sign that it’s getting milder. If you’ve got greenfly running amuck (sticky shiny leaves are a clue) try generosity applying soapy water (rinse well after a few minutes). They hate it, and you’ll have to repeat the dose a few days later when the eggs hatch.
Gardeners will know that trees are in full leaf. Hedgerows shouldn’t be trimmed – those birds that wake you up in the morning are still nesting. Alpines that have finished flowering however can be cut back to encourage growth. May is the best time to lift and split them. When you replant, give them a good soak to help them settle in. If you have sown wild flowers in the garden, the seeds should be emerging. It’s still not too late to scatter them but hurry up! Keep an eye on your potted vegetables, at this stage they may need repotting, and tomatoes especially will need regular fertilising from now on.
If you don’t have a garden or are short of space, herbs (Sage, Thyme, Rosemary) grow well at this time of year. They are happy on sunny windowsill but If you plant them by your door, you’ll get a warm welcome when you brush by in the evening.
Remember, you don’t need to go to Holland to see the glory of May. Jenkinstown woods in Kilkenny (just off the N78) is a wonderland this time of year. Happy gardening!