Spring garden

May is a bit of an odd month in the garden, but there is a lot happening says our green-fingered expert Adam Kirtland 

May, that awkward month of the year – right in the middle of spring, but not quite summer just yet. It’s a touch like that space between Christmas and New Year, neither here nor there. The chances are that your spring bulbs have faded in the pots and borders and the rest of your garden is bounding into the full swing of things, so I’ve compiled a few of my favourite things to try in May to take us through into the start of summer.

Jack Frost has gone!

May is (usually) the first full month without any frosts, with our last frost dates being at the end of April. Because of this, our options for sowing, planting and growing become essentially endless! Those seed babies that we’ve been coddling through winter and spring can now be planted out in abundance and the warmer soil temperatures will mean that they have the space to grow on and into their full potential. Now is a great time to plant anything out really, empty your greenhouses, cold frames, windowsills and get those plants out.
This month I’ve emptied my own greenhouse and its now practically empty – except for a few bits that I’ve not managed to find the time to do! If you haven’t got a greenhouse or you haven’t sown any seeds or started anything off then that’s fine too, now is a great time to visit a garden centre to remedy that.

But what to buy?

Really, that’s up to you and at this time of year the garden centres are practically bursting with options, but don’t be fooled by the plants as you walk in. My top tip when buying from a garden centre is go to the back – ok, maybe not the very back – but delve a little further in. More often than not, garden centres will put the plants that are in flower or that are further into their growing life, right at the front – so you buy those first.
Take a stroll and head inwards, there you’ll find slightly younger plants, perhaps not in flower yet but that’s a good thing. Those plants might not be the size of some at the front, but they’ll grow on all the same and in the same time, you’ll be surprised that some of the younger ones are cheaper too.

…and the plants!

Luckily your options here are huge and the vast majority of perennials are available to buy as young plants right now. If you plant them out in May then you’ll have a garden full of colour in summer so have a look around and see what catches your eye.

Alliums are a must-buy right now – you’d usually buy these as bulbs and plant in autumn but you can get them as plants and pop them straight in the ground. These will give you tall green spikes with purple flowers atop of each. Nothing beats an Allium at the back of a border (good in sturdy pots too).

Another solid choice are dahlias and by now the garden centres will have their potted up versions ready to buy with some growth already started. Some of these will happily live in large containers and will get bigger and bigger until they flower, all the way through summer and until the very first frosts later in the year. Dahlias are available in all manner of colours and flower types and there truly is something for everyone. Treat yourself to a couple now and you’ll hopefully enjoy them for years to come. I’ll tell you in autumn/winter how to care for them through the cold months, but until then – let’s enjoy May!
Finally… don’t forget, you can join me at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival where I’ll be showing you how to upcycle a wooden pallet into any number of things. And the great thing is, you don’t need any special skills or complicated tools. I’ll be there on Thursday and Friday, 11 and 12May at the Three Counties Showground at the foot of the Malvern Hills.

You can follow Adam on Instagram @viewfromthepottingbench or listen to Adam’s podcast Tales From The Potting Bench for more gardening inspiration. You can also read Adam’s blog at viewfromthepottingbench.com