Gardening tips for May

May is a fabulous month in the garden! Trees and shrubs burst into leaf and flower, cottage garden plants fill borders with their exuberant growth and it’s time to refresh container plantings with vibrant summer colours in readiness for longer days enjoyed outdoors. Follow these tips to make the most of your summer garden.

Terrace Garden

  • With the warmer temperatures, May is a great month to plant your patio containers, hanging baskets and window boxes with summer bedding plants that are sure to put on a fabulous display of flower colour until the frosts return in autumn. During May our stores are fully stocked with an extensive range of British grown quality bedding plants for you to choose from & with our in-house planting service we will be only too happy to plant your container for you ready to go straight onto the terrace if you so wish.
  • Or consider creating your own ‘living wall’. Now available in-store, this new on-trend gardening concept is an easy way to add a stylish new plant feature to your home or garden setting. These versatile wall planters are available individually or as a ’ready to go’ kit. Simply select the plants to suit your chosen setting, whether its lush foliage to green a shady garden wall, a cascading display of seasonal bedding plants to light up a summer patio, or grow-your-own herbs and vegetables for easy picking on a balcony garden.
  • For best results remember to feed containers and hanging baskets fortnightly with a liquid fertiliser as per the manufacturers instructions.
  • Depending on your location, tender bedding plants such as Cannas and Dahlias can be planted out towards the end of the month, but remain vigilant of any late frosts & protect accordingly. Colder areas may be wise to wait until early June, or until all risk of frost has passed.
  • Bedding plants raised from seed should be hardened off in a cold frame over a period of 7 to 10 days before planting out.

Beds and Borders

  • Weeds are appearing with the warmer temperatures. The quickest and easiest way to control them is to hoe them off before they get chance to get established, applying a thick layer of mulch over the soil surface to help keep any further weeds at bay. Mulching with organic matter such as garden compost also locks in moisture and over time helps to improve the soil, whilst also giving plants a well-needed boost.
  • Wallflowers and early spring bedding will be starting to fade now. Remove tired plantings, adding to the compost heap, to make way for fresh summer displays.
  • Prune early spring flowering shrubs such as Chaenomeles, Forsythia and Ribes after flowering if required. More tender late summer flowering shrubs such as Caryopteris, Perovskia and hardy Fuchsias can also be trimmed now if needed.
  • Top dress alpines with grit or gravel to show off their spring flowers. Grit helps to prevent soil splashing onto their delicate blooms whilst also improving drainage.
  • If hedges start to look a little shaggy, May is a good month to give them a light trim, but do check for nesting birds and if necessary wait until fledglings have flown.
  • Deadhead clumps of daffodils and tulips, so that energy is concentrated back into the bulb for next spring. Leave the foliage in place to die back naturally.

Cottage Garden

  • In May the Cottage garden is growing madly and borders filling with their exuberant growth. Put plant supports in place around taller herbaceous plants or those that carry prized heavy blooms such as paeonies. Do this early before plants get too big and the look will be more natural. In store we have an extensive range of quality British grown herbaceous plants perfect for adding colour to existing or new borders.
  • Early season herbaceous plants, such as Pulmonarias or hardy Geraniums can be cut back after flowering to encourage re-growth of tidy fresh new foliage and often a second flower display.
  • Later this month the renowned ‘Chelsea Chop’ is also a great way to stagger height and flowering times of some late summer herbaceous plants. Sedums and Phlox, which can sometimes grow over-tall and floppy benefit from being cut back by one third. The resulting new growth is compact and bushy, bearing numerous slightly smaller flowers later in the season for a prolonged season of colour.
  • Take action to protect susceptible lush foliage, such as Hosta from slug damage.
  • Sweet Peas will be growing strongly now. Every few days use garden twine to tie-in long growths to their bamboo or hazel stick supports. Once they are established they will soon start to climb happily by themselves.
  • Early spring Clematis montana can be cut back after flowering if required. Tie in new growth on summer flowering clematis and honeysuckle.
  • For quick easy results, fill gaps in borders with late sowings of hardy annuals or plant groups of late summer flowering annuals such as Cosmos or Nicotiana for added colour and fragrance. Visit your local store for a wide range to choose from.
  • Ensure new plantings are kept watered in dry spells

Kitchen Garden

  • Tuck a layer of straw under your crop of strawberries to prevent fruit being spoiled by soil splash. Net plants if necessary to protect from opportunist birds.
  • Earth up your early potatoes to prevent tubers being exposed to the light and turning green. If not done so already, plant main-crop potatoes now for a ready supply from late summer into the autumn.
  • Most vegetable crops can be sown now. With quick growing crops such as salads and spinach, repeat sow every 10 days to ensure a consistent supply of fresh leaves. Visit your local Dobbies to choose from our wide range available in-store. Or if you prefer, we have a wide range of young vegetable plants available for quicker results.
  • Plant rows of your favourite herbs, such as parsley and coriander for a plentiful supply for summer salads and alfresco bbqs. If short on space, grow in containers on your patio for quick picking just when you need them. Once all risk of frost is passed, grow pots of sweet basil for Italian recipes and home-made pesto.
  • Protect young seedlings from slugs. For non-chemical control apply nematodes to the surrounding soil as an effective organic control.
  • Harvest tender stems of early rhubarb brought into growth under terracotta forcers or upturned darkened buckets, and delicious asparagus spears before they grow to 18” in length.


  • Regular weekly mowing is best for a healthy lawn, adding clippings to the compost heap.
  • Early May is an ideal time to sow new lawns, or repair bare patches, on ground that has been pre-prepared, levelled and firmed. Alternatively for quicker results lay new turf, available to order in store. Whichever method you choose, be sure to keep it well watered, and avoid walking on it for a few weeks to allow time for new roots to establish.
  • For a lovely green lawn apply a high nitrogen summer feed. If weeds or moss are present use a combined fertiliser and weed-killer lawn treatment.


  • Continue pricking out half hardy and tender seedlings. When they are large enough to be planted out, be sure to harden them off in a cold frame over a period of 7 to 10 days before planting out in their final position.
  • Start to harden off tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers ready for planting out next month.

Conservatory Garden

  • Cymbidiums, citrus and other foliage plants such as Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig) benefit from being stood outside on milder days. Beware of cold nights and bring indoors if necessary.

Plants at their best

Granny's Bonnet
Himalayan Blue Poppy
Perennial Cornflower
Shooting Stars
Winter Sweet
Kilmarnock Willow
Daphne Mezereum
Golden Bells

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