With May heralding the approach of summer, it’s time to get outside and really enjoy some gardening on longer, warmer days. As herbaceous borders flourish and bulbs fade, the garden transforms and begins the rapidly grow. It’s time to be sowing and planting out bedding, ensuring timing aligns with the last frost in your region. Softwood cuttings can also be taken to propagate new plants. Embrace the wildness of the lawn, allowing it to grow freely, and relish the sight of insects flocking to feed on the blooming flowers.

Here are our tips for making the most of the month ahead:

– Apply a rose fertiliser now to any roses you have in your garden and a high potash feed to flowering shrubs.

– Tomatoes originate from South America and will suffer as soon as temperatures drop below 10C. Therefore keep them under cover until you can be sure the weather is warm enough to plant them outside. Make sure you find the warmest spot possible to give them all the help they need but allows air movement around the plants so they don’t get too humid (resulting in tomato blight). Bush variety tomatoes are great for growing in pots on a patio or terrace.

– Get tough on weeds now.  A little and often is great for staying on top of things whilst also giving you some gentle exercise without overdoing things. Prevention is always better than cure and so consider installing weed proof membrane fabrics to your open surfaces. We sell this by the metre near our tills.

– Try growing your strawberry plants in hanging baskets this year. The fruit will hang down over the side meaning that air can circulate around them (keeping them dry and preventing mould) and slugs and snails can’t reach them. Once your strawberry plants have flowered feed regularly with a strawberry or tomato liquid feed.

– Apply a spring lawn feed to your lawn if you didn’t last month and repair thin or bare patches before the end of May.

– Are you growing potatoes this year? As soon as your plants break through the surface of the soil, earth them up by covering the foliage with soil. This protects the shoots from frost damage in late spring and ensures the developing potatoes aren’t exposed to light, which turns them green and inedible. As the stems grow taller, repeat the process several times, a few weeks apart. The final height of the ridge should be 20–30cm (8–12in). But if you are unable to earth up, or don’t have time, you should still get a good crop.

– Now is the time to start planting your summer flowering hanging baskets. We have a lovely selection of plants to choose from including all your favourites like Begonias, Petunias, Geraniums and Fuchsias. Just protect your basket under cover until all late frosts have gone.

– Look out for lily beetle adults and larvae this month. Some organic methods of control include spraying the plant with sunflower oil (makes it too slippery to climb) but the best way is to place some newspaper below your plants as the adults will drop when touched. Squish them quick or they will then fly off.

– Plant your curcurbits! Curcurbits is the family names given to gourds and squashes. They include courgettes and pumpkins. By the middle of May you should be able to plant them outside here in the south west. They are greedy feeders so preparing your soil with a well rotted manure or general fertiliser like grow more will reap reward later on. Plant trailing pumpkins and squashes 1.8m (6ft) apart or 90cm (3ft) if you are planting more compact bush varieties. Give a high potash fertiliser to your plants 6 weeks after planting and then every fortnight after that.

– If you are thinking of trimming your hedges, please give a little thought to late nesting birds. Have a quick check for active nests before you start.

– Ensure your garden birds have access to fresh drinking water and clean your feeders regularly to prevent the spread of bird diseases.

– If you are picking up fallen branches from your garden put them in a pile in somewhere to provide natural shelter for garden wildlife.

– Did you plant a new tree last autumn? If so, the tree will be coming out of its dormancy now and so a little care and attention will be needed until it is fully established. Once the leaves open, make sure you water once a week. Spring rains may save you the task but just check that the soil feels moist about an inch or two below the surface and water appropriately. If we have a dry summer period you will need to water twice a week. Ensure you cover a wide area about the tree as roots go wide as well as down.

– Sow your runner and French beans from the middle of the month onwards.

– If you don’t have a conservatory or greenhouse consider investing in a cold frame to harden off your plants before planting them out in July. Hardening off effectively means you gradually introduce the young plant (with soft growth) to lower temperatures.

– If you find your greenhouse gets too hot and sunny in the day and you end up scorching your plants you may want to consider introducing shading. You can either buy shade netting (available by the metre from our shop) or we sell liquid shading which you paint onto the glass.

– If you are planting flowering perennials we always recommend planting a group of 3 together as they then create a really impactful clump. To do this dig a hole for each plant leaving enough room around each plant for them to grow out. Immerse the plants rootball into a bucket of water to give it a good soak before planting. Remove the rootball from the pot it came in and place it in the hole you have dug. Press the soil/compost around the plants, you want to ensure there are no air gaps around the roots. Repeat with your other plants and gently water regularly.

– You may want to prune back some of your evergreen shrubs. Plants like Euonymus could be trimmed now. You basically want to think of it as a hair cut and remove any bits that are sticking out. You can prune with hedge shears or secateurs. Start at the bottom and work your way to the top, removing all outlying shoots and getting the plant back into the desired shape.