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Peter’s Gardening tips for May 2020

It is hard to believe we are in the middle of a global pandemic when you look at how our gardens are flourishing.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has revealed its plans for the first-ever “virtual” version of its world-famous flower show after the event normally held at Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, was cancelled due to the lockdown.

For the duration of the show, between May 18 and 23, the RHS website will host a range of free content from experts in the gardening world along with exclusive content for the charity’s members.

Each morning, the show will start with a tour from a leading designer, florist or gardening personality of their own private gardens.

If you want to find out more about the virtual show can visit

Jobs to tackle this month

With all this wonderful sunshine, trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, climbers and grass, have all burst into life during the last few weeks.

After a very dry April and the sunniest on record, with just enough moisture topped with bouts of very warm sunshine have made for perfect growing conditions.

We’ve seen wonderful blossom on so many trees, hawthorn trees, fabulous candles of flower on the horse chestnuts, and the myriad of fresh green leaves on everything else.

It is a very busy time now in the gardening calendar, it’s a job to know what to tackle first!


Very lush growth. Compost your grass cuttings if you can. Mix with 50% carbon-based materials – newspaper, cardboard, straw, twiggy stuff, shredded cuttings.  Keep your mower blades sharpened – better for the grass and less work for the mower engine!  Scrape out old grass from under the mower deck. If a petrol mower, tip up so the exhaust is uppermost, or else the engine oil goes into the exhaust and the mower won’t start. If the mower won’t start, leave for 30 minutes and try again to start. There might be a cloud of blue smoke!

Pruning and cutting back:




Early flowering shrubs such as Forsythias, Ribes (flowering currants), berberis, camellias and rhododendrons can all be reduced in size. The general rule of thumb prune after flowering.

Do clean your secateurs regularly, use a knife or blade to scrape off black deposits and rust, a rub with a scourer or fine sandpaper, sharpen and a drop of oil. This will stop any transmitting of diseases or infections. Keep the blade clean, spray with oil and wipe excess off on a regular basis.

Herbaceous Plants:

Amazingly lush growth. Cut back by 50% plants like – Asters (Michaelmas daisies), phlox, helenium, sedum spectabilis, nepeta six hills giant. You may think I’m mad but this will pay great dividends – stronger more compact plants, more flowers and less supporting required. Put in place plant supports, pea-sticks, canes, string etc to keep secure. This cutting back has been called the Chelsea chop because it coincides with the Chelsea flower show, which sadly won’t be held this year for the first time since World War 2.

The Chelsea Flower Show is going online with virtual garden tours, a school gardening club, recreated plant displays and growing tips from experts.


Lift, divide and replant daffodils if not flowering well. Water and liquid feed when replanted. Deadhead tulips. Feed all bulbs now for more flowers next year – Vitax Q4.

Climbing Plants:

Triffids spring to mind! Strangling honeysuckle, clematis, roses, ivy, Virginia creeper all growing so fast.  Prune early flowered clematis armandii, montana and alpina. Please check any plants prior to cutting back for birds nests. Pinch out the growing tip on summer flowering clematis if taller than 5 foot, unless you want the flowers up high!  Tie into a trellis or use masonry nails on walls with soft tie or wire. Please check wire or string isn’t cutting into stems of plants.



Sowing squash seeds

Sowing squash seeds

Potatoes keep earthing up – covering up the foliage with soil.  Sow salads every two weeks for a continual supply.

Another important month for seed sowing for autumn/winter crops – parsnips, swede, celeriac, squash, pumpkins, cauliflower, cabbages, Brussels sprouts…..

Also sowing climbing french beans, runner beans, courgettes, marrows, ridge cucumbers.


Try and keep on top of them. Easy to pull out with the ground moist. Don’t allow to flower or set seed!

Keep vegetables weed free-less for less competition. Hoe on sunny days, leave the weeds to wither in the sun.

Apply weed killers on a dry day with no wind – no spray drift.

Wild Flowers:

Wild flowers


Still a great month for sowing any annuals or perennials. Keep watered if we have a dry spell until germinated at least.


Looking ahead, it could be a rollercoaster month. Wet, windy, showers, warm, cool, wet, windy .. the kitchen sink. More like April.

Perfect planting weather if you are able to get seeds and plants online!

Don’t forget to make time to enjoy your hard work in the garden. Stop look and listen. The dawn chorus is amazing, and the scents are exquisite. Fill your senses.

Happy Gardening!


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