Greenfingers - May 2020

I was impressed by the lovely display of spring flowers outside Vestry Cottage in mid-March. The many clusters of miniature daffodils worked really well with the multi-coloured polyanthus, thank you Anne, Colin and Sally.

A week of dry and at times, warm weather towards the end of March has allowed some outside gardening, as opposed to greenhouse and kitchen gardening. And with GreenfingersA0520some time on our hands, the beds have never looked tidier at this time of year. I’ve been a bit too enthusiastic with some seed planting, as plants are now germinating which can’t go out for several weeks. The aim now will be to keep them light, cool and frost-free. The seeds sown so far are tomato, 3 types of lettuce, spring onion, courgette, chilli pepper, sweet peas, broad beans, mange tout, and butternut squash.

The perennials are showing, and one or two will be lifted and split in the next few days. The osmanthus, a slow growing evergreen shrub with a fragrant white flower in spring looked well this year. It’s at the top left of the photo. I’ve been out for a couple of walks along Besbury Bank looking for bumblebees as part of a survey being done by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and although I’ve seen plenty in the garden, none have been seen on the bee walks. We do try to grow plants which offer nectar and pollen all year round, so having taken out a choisya this year, the replacement may well be a mahonia, and the variety ‘soft caress’ looks interesting, as with no spines on the leaves, it will be easy to work around. The pulmonaria is loved by the bees in spring.

Gardening tasks for May are many and varied, so when you’ve had enough of one, I’m sure there will be something else to get on with. GreenfingersB0520

And as a change is as good as a rest, there should be a rash of wonderful gardens to enjoy this summer, (and hopefully lots of exhibits for the gardening show in September).

The first is a sharp and busy hoe, to keep the weeds down. Propagate plants by taking softwood cuttings, lift and divide any overcrowded clumps of spring bulbs, prune spring flowering shrubs such as Ribes, Choisya, Chaenomeles after flowering. Remove one stem in three from Spiraea and Kerria, and Viburnum Tinus and Clematis Montana (after flowering) can also be tidied up. Check and remove any reverted shoots from variegated plants. Plant out cannas and dahlias, and cut back the foliage of pulmonaria, aubrieta and alyssum after flowering.

Mow the lawn, but not too short, at least once a week, and feed with a nitrogen fertiliser. Courgettes, squashes and sweetcorn can be sown now(!), and potatoes earthed up. I’ve planted 4 Charlotte, which were sprouting in the bottom of the cupboard.

In the pond, try to keep on top of the duckweed and blanket weed.

The new doors to the church are rather splendid, but seem to be missing an ethereal voice saying ‘glad to be of service’ as they close behind. But the effect is completed by the lantern, which reminds me of the cupola on the International Space Station.
GreenfingersC0520Other off-world events expected during May include the superior solar conjunction of mercury on 4th, when it passes around the far side of the sun and will become an evening star in a few weeks’ time, and the large full moon on 7th, just a day after perigee, will have an angular diameter of 33’, noticeably larger than the average of 31’. A conjunction between mercury and venus will occur on 22nd and may be visible shortly after sunset, but at a maximum of only 10deg above the horizon, the common may be one of the few viewpoints. The new moon passes close by them on 24th.

Pete Smith