What to do in your garden in May
It’s hard not to love this time of year, between the glorious late autumn colours, the deliciousness crispness in the air and the rustle of leaves underfoot. Best of all, May is also a month when a bit of work in your garden can yield great results.
Wrap up warm and head outside, because there are quite a few garden tasks to be getting on with during May. Just like last month, continue to rake up those fallen leaves and convert them to mulch – you’ll be glad you did when the first frosts come along (often at the end of May).
With that in mind, one of the most important jobs is to wrap any particularly sensitive plants in Frost Guard so that they don’t suffer damage when overnight temperatures dip below zero. Just like people, plants like to be kept snug when it’s cold outside!
Give your organic veggie plot some attention and you’ll be rewarded with goodness bursting from the earth. You’ll be surprised just how many nutritious plants thrive during winter – and delighted when the time comes to convert them into meals for your family! Why not be a little bit more adventurous this year and experiment with asparagus (you’ll need to dig trenches for those) and sugar snap peas – and add ornamental kale for living winter colour.
Other important May tasks include giving your bulbs lots of TLC, especially as the shoots start to poke through. Water them well and use a general-purpose fertiliser monthly. If you have bulbs (like Day lilies, Agapanthus, Eucomis and Dietes) that are starting to look a little crowded, seize the day to lift and separate them. While there may not be as many insects around now that the weather is cooler, you still need to be on your guard against fruit flies (bait works well against these pests) and cypress aphids – spray any conifers with Metasystox to deter them.
If you like to build as much as you enjoy gardening, you can combine your two passions by creating a trellis or framework for sweet peas – tie them to the uprights and water them well so that they’ll find it easier to reach the sun.
Remember that our feathered friends can find life tough during winter and they’ll definitely appreciate you hanging up seed balls or suet to supplement their winter diet. If you live in a rural area and you’re planning a bonfire to get rid of any garden waste, be sure to check that no hedgehogs or tortoises are hibernating there first!
What to plant and where to buy it
Many non-gardeners are surprised when they see their more green-fingered neighbours planting during May. But the truth is that there are a lot of garden favourites that do well if added during autumn and winter – and some will even thank you with floral displays. Your local garden centre or nursery will have very reasonably-priced trays of seedlings including pansies, violas and snapdragons. And don’t forget that the flowers of pansies are edible – they add a real touch of class to any meal when used as garnish!
While those count as quick wins, there are many other plants you can add during May. If you live in a winter rainfall area like the Cape, then you can revamp your lawn after a long dry summer by sowing cool season lawn seeds that will respond well to cooler, wetter weather.
If you like the anticipation that comes with planning your garden colour scheme in advance, then add primula and cinerarias to any shady sections of your outside space. They’re a great way to ensure added colour and interest through winter and spring.
Flowering shrubs – which do a wonderful job of attracting butterflies during summer – can be added to your garden during May. Some of our favourites include buddlejas, cestrums, deutzias, spireas and viburnums. If you feel like ringing in the changes, May is also a good time to relocate established changes – when they’re in a more dormant state, they won’t find the move nearly as traumatic.
As well as the flowering plants we’ve already mentioned, you might want to add any of the following to your garden during May: Namaqualand daisies, Virginian stocks, nemesias, Bellis perennis, phlox, calendula, or Alyssum. We particularly enjoy the bright colours of Namaqualand daisies and the fact that they’re both indigenous and water-wise – two big ticks in our book!
You can also plant lilies and treated tulips during May – your fingers will be so busy this month that you won’t even notice the cold! Then again, there’s nothing wrong with curling up on the sofa with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and your favourite gardening book or nursery catalogue and planning for spring and summer. Spending time in your winter veggie path always pays dividends, and can yield bumper winter crops of beetroot, broad beans, cabbage, carrots, dwarf spinach, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, radishes and turnips. So much so, in fact, that you may have to set aside that seed catalogue and pick up a recipe book instead!
The best place to buy any of these plants – and to get advice on how to help your later autumn garden flourish – is your local garden centre or nursery. No matter how cold it is outside, you’ll always be guaranteed a warm welcome!