Down to earth advice for Derbyshire’s Gardeners - May

This time of year is very hectic in the kitchen garden and flower beds, so thank goodness for the longer, lighter evenings. Sowing seeds in May of tomatoes, alliums, salad crops and brassicas is recommended where warm "follow on" conditions can be provided in a greenhouse, ie heating and perhaps additional lighting. Planting out doesn't occur until June after the danger of frost has passed, so bear in mind the space required following potting on.

Outside, checking soil pH is recommended where brassicas will be grown and apply  hydrated lime added if required - about 450g/square metre will increase alkalinity by one unit and brassicas love lime and it reduces the severity of clubroot.

If some early potatoes take you fancy, buy seed as soon as possible now and set up in trays allowing them to sprout (or chit) as this saves a few weeks in the ground where they are prone to slugs and frost. Earlies take around 8-10 weeks from planting to harvesting according to variety. Prepare the ground well with 100g/square metre of general artificial fertiliser and allow 30cm between each seed tuber and 45cm between each row for best results.

Any digging can be finished off and organic fertilisers can be applied. If artificial fertilisers are preferred apply half rate now and again during the growing season to give plant a boost wait two weeks or so before putting seeds or transplant into freshly fertilised ground as they are more mobile in the soil.

Parsnip, carrot and beetroot seeds should be sown directly into their final growing positions, as none of these vegetable transplant very successfully.

Protect early strawberries and raspberries from hungry birds with netting.

In the perennial flower garden pruning should be completed as soon as possible as many shrubs will be bursting into life. Continue to deadhead and feed spring-flowering bulbs. Divide polyanthus and primroses after flowering. Keep on top of weeding and hoeing – everything grows at an alarming rate this month so don’t let your guard slip!

Many annual flower seeds can be sown directly without the need for growing on in trays first and then transplanting. Always sow thinly on prepared soil and water well, many seeds don’t even need covering with soil after a good watering.

Consider an early application of aphicide to fruit trees and bushes to prevent problems later in the season. Also apply fertiliser and mulch around the base of soft fruit with well-rotted manure or compost, this serves two purposes as a gentle release of plant foods and to aid moisture conservation around the roots, which is useful in the summer months.

Plant up outdoor tubs, troughs, window-boxes and hanging baskets in the middle of this month at the earliest.

Bring out frost-tender trees and shrubs from the conservatory once the danger of frost has passed.

If you didn’t feed and rake your lawn in April, do it now. The beginning of May is the last chance to sow a new lawn, otherwise wait until the autumn.

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