May Seasonal Tips

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What a turnaround in the weather for the start of May.  Everything in the garden ‘took off’ with the heatwave over Easter, especially the weeds, but cold evenings are forecast for the next few days !

A busy month ahead  especially when the threat of frost is over and plants can be safely put out. Keep an eye on the weather forecast; so long as the nights are not cold, and plants have been hardened off, the earlier bedding plants such as petunias, begonias, salvias and lobelia etc  can go out the better so plan now. Dahlias and hardy chrysanthemums can also go out.

Earth up potatoes or cover with newspaper if frost is likely, sow runner beans, marrows, courgettes, peas, French beans, salads, spinach and root crops for winter storing. Grow climbing French beans to gain more space and especially try  climbing blue beans, they crop heavily and are delicious. Watch out for black fly on the broad beans and pinch put the tips once the lowest pods have set to deter infestation. Tie in greenhouse tomatoes and pinch out any side shoots, except on bush varieties ( these side shoots will root and usefully make more plants if potted on).

Those with  fruit trees can prune plums and cherries this month and pinch out shoots on grapevines. It’s also a good time to put out pheromone traps for apple, plum and raspberries fly. Talking of ‘nasties’ keep an eye out for snails and slugs, especially on the lupins, hostas and lettuces and pick them off after dark or use pet and bird friendly pellets ie ones not containing metaldehyde- remember that is banned from next year.

Metaldehyde slug pellets banned

An announcement from DEFRA has banned metaldehyde slug pellets from Spring 2020.  Metaldehyde poses an unacceptable risk to birds and mammals, its role in reducing hedgehog, amphibian and bird populations, poisoned by consuming contaminated slugs or pellets, has been well documented. It is also toxic to pets.

Although not a factor in the decision making, the ban will also stop farmers from creating widespread pollution of rivers and freshwaters with these toxic pellets. Only those using permanent greenhouses will be permitted to continue using metaldehyde pellets (where birds cannot easily venture).

If you have to resort to slug pellets use those that contain ferric phosphate which will degrade harmlessly in the soil.  Use them sparingly, only 4 or 5 pellets per plant, and only occasionally. Note however using this method means slugs will tend to go underground to die so there will be little evidence on the surface.

A number of alternative slug and snail barriers, from egg shells to hair, gypsum powder and copper tape are often suggested but only very wide and thick copper tape works. The thin products sold in garden centres doesn’t contain enough copper. A barrier of gypsum powder or chopped up young brambles also seems to do the job, but definitely not egg shells (unless you want to help snails make their own shells stronger by eating the egg shells, which might distract them from your plants).

Alternatively go hunting after dark using a torch to find them. Best of all, create a pond and encourage frogs and toads to do the eradication for you.

 

 

 

From the Pumpkin Patch

The Summer Holidays are over but the veg garden is still going strong. This is my first attempt at growing pumpkins for Halloween and the weather must have been ideal this year. Planted the seeds back in June and when I cut the leaves back last week this is what I found! All that rain has resulted in some rapid growth. There are only two pumpkins but they are whoppers. They are a bit pale but hopefully now the leaves aren’t covering them they will start to turn a lovely orange. I’m not sure if they will grow any more but I will take my bathroom scales out and weigh them soon. I’ve put them on roof tiles so they won’t rot and put Panda there for scale!