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May Garden Tips

Garden work for May 2018.

Flower garden

As the days get longer and the sun seems to be urging you on it is as well to remember that frost is still a threat, so be careful about planting out tender plants, especially in exposed areas of the garden. Better to wait until June. Sow biennials like Canterbury bells and Sweet William. Fast growing hardy annuals such as calendula, clarkia, cornflower, and nasturtium can also be sown, but do it early in the month.

May is a good month to divide primulas and polyanthus after they have flowered. It is a simple job to dig up a clump and then split it close to where there are crowns of leaves. Give them a place that gets equal amounts of sun and shade, as far as possible. They are woodland plants and like to have the benefits of both types of environment.

This is the month to sow hardy biennials – such as Sweet William, Canterbury bells, and Wallflowers. Start hardening off all those bedding plants you have bought from the Plant Sale earlier in the month, by keeping them under a cold frame, or putting them out during the day and putting them back under shelter at night. Keep an eye out for watering; it is easy for them to become dried out in patches, especially if there is a wind blowing. Equally, do not over water, which can be just as bad, if not worse!



Early Brussels sprouts can be planted out, and it is these that usually produce the best sprouts. Make sure to give them space, just under a metre (3’ in the old days), this way you will get a better crop. The space need not be wasted as you can inter-crop with early hearting cabbage, or early cauliflowers that will be harvested before the sprouts take up all the room.

Runner and French beans should be sown at the start of the month in seed trays with a good compost, so that you will have healthy plants at the end of the month when they can be transplanted. Keep onion rows clear of weeds by hoeing. Remember to thin out carrots and beetroot when they are still seedlings, much easier to do and makes for a better crop all round.

Ground for outdoor tomatoes should be prepared in May. They like a good rich soil containing plenty of rotted garden compost. Avoid grow bags if you want tomatoes that are flavoursome.

If you are taking part in the Potato Challenge to get the heaviest crop from a single potato in a bag, the key to success is to use Farm Yard Manure and to ensure that it has plenty of water, without overdoing it. As the shoots grow keep filling up until you reach the top of the bag.

Keep sowing lettuce in small batches in order to keep a succession going. They like cooler temperatures to germinate and once the daytime temperature goes above 20 C they will be less likely to pop up, so use May to ensure you have got them going.


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