May 5 - May11

With the weather the way it is you may want to try something new like a fig tree; this should add a touch of the Mediterranean to the garden. They require a warm wall to prosper.

With the weather the way it is you may want to try something new like a fig tree; this should add a touch of the Mediterranean to the garden. They require a warm wall to prosper. They can be planted in a large pot and stand on the patio. When selecting pots for this type of plant it is important to choose a large container that will allow the tree to grow and not need re-potting for several years. I use John Innes number three compost as this has a high nutrient level and will help the tree establish. Fig trees can be trained against a fence or wall in a fan shape; this will help to hide the fence or wall effectively during summer. Should you be in the position of being able to plant your tree in the ground they need to have their roots restricted, so plant them in a large container or in a square of sunken paving slabs otherwise they can take over the garden.

Deadhead Azaleas, and Rhododendrons, as they finish flowering. This long winded job may seem like a waste of time but if you leave the plants to set seed it will reduce the likely hood of them producing flowers next spring. Simply twist off the finished blooms and any swelling seed capsules before they get too advanced.

Although we are now in May and the daytime temperatures are getting high and it is generally mild, night frosts are not uncommon during this month, especially after clear bright days. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and if frosts are likely cover up vulnerable plants with horticultural fleece or newspaper to give them a little extra protection. Don't be tempted to put summer bedding out until after the 20th of May, when the risk of frost is all but gone.

The main problems in the garden at this time of year are aphids and slugs, both like to feast on the young new growth that is appearing everywhere now. Aphids are a particular problem on roses and can be controlled very effectively with the use of a contact insecticide such as fatty acids, these are similar to washing up liquid but with out the detergents so they are better for the plants. Beer traps are an effective way of controlling slugs and snails; use the flat dregs in the bottom of a jar sunk into the soil leave a small lip to stop ground beetles from falling in. Should you think it is ever going to rain again place a roofing tile over the jar to keep the rain out.


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Now through to July is a good time to take softwood cuttings, from the fresh new growth produced by shrubs in the garden. Take a few shoots from any part of the shrub where they won't be missed. By taking around six cuttings you should ensure that you get at least one to take and grow on to form a new shrub. It is always best to take more than you need as an insurance policy. Have a polythene bag to hand when you take the cuttings. Cut the shoots about 8-10cm long from the plant, cutting just above a bud or leaf. Pop the cuttings into the bag straight away, and keep them out of the sun. This will help stop the cutting from wilting.

Trim the cuttings below a leaf joint with a sharp knife and remove the lower leaves, leaving them about 5-8cm long. Put five or six cuttings into a 12cm pot, containing a 50:50 mix of peat free multipurpose compost and vermiculite or washed sand. Cover the cuttings with a polythene bag, but make sure it is not in contact with the leaves (you can use some short sticks to support the bag), and hold the bag in place with a rubber band. The cuttings should root in six to eight weeks if in a greenhouse or cold frame. Once rooted, they can be potted up, and grown on.

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In the vegetable garden it is important to keep sowing, crops such as French beans, sprouting broccoli, calabrese, carrots, kale, spring onions, peas, radishes and Swedes. Keep up with the pricking out indoors, also with seeds germinating within days of sowing; they will quickly become leggy and weak if you let them hang about. A few hours spent pricking out and potting on is time well spent.

Start to harden off any bedding plants, which are large enough to plant out. Treat any tender new purchases in the same way, to make sure they are fully acclimatised before planting in beds and borders. Take the pots out into the open during the day, putting them back into the green house overnight. Gradually leave the plants out for longer periods over about a week until you are confident they have hardened off, and are ready for the great outdoors. Should you have a cold frame that is ideal, simply put them in the frame and open the lid a little each day, leaving it open longer each day, but remember to close it at night. This will take a couple of weeks so start now, and by mid May the covers can come off and stay off.

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