May signals the start of a really exciting time in the garden. Every day brings new life to celebrate as new colours burst on the scene in our gardens, woodlands, countryside and hedgerow. In particular I love the incredible range and vibrance of the greens that are emerging and the way the vivid limes set off the subtle blues and purples, especially in our woodlands.

The Bank Holiday weekend is a perfect time to admire hazy carpets of bluebells under the dappled canopies of beech trees within Oxfordshire’s beautiful woodlands. The daffs have been and gone already and many deeply coloured tulips have peaked. With the evenings finally stretching, we can at last enjoy more hours outside every day. 

However, before you rush out to light that barbeque there are plenty of things you should be doing in the garden this May to make sure that you’re able to reap the benefits and enjoy your garden more and more as the summer goes on. 

General Work This May 

I know we mentioned it last month, but it’s really important to keep on top of the weeds. The recent frequent rain has benefitted the weeds, so it’s a good time to pay attention to them before they flower and spread their seeds across the garden. You also might like to mulch your flower beds to keep in all the moisture from April’s showers. 

Hopefully we should be done with the frost, but if you live further north, there’s probably still a chance. Take precautions to guard against it, especially at night, by placing garden fleece over beds, covering cold frames with either polythene or sacking, and covering tender young plants that are in the greenhouse with newspaper. 


You’ve probably already started to tend to your lawns. Keep mowing regularly with the blades set at maximum height, remembering to remove any dead foliage beforehand. This is the time to control unwanted grasses such as Yorkshire fog or couch grass, along with other weeds, by teasing them out by hand rather than cutting the roots. Regular raking with a spring tine rake may also be helpful in reducing this weed grass as Yorkshire fog does not like a lot of disturbance and wear.

Planting out 

By the middle of May you can expect to be able to put out the tender plants that have had to be protected from the frost. It’s important to harden them off gradually, exposing them gradually to cool air by degrees. If soil conditions are not too wet, dahlia tubers can be planted direct into the garden soil from early May onwards for late summer flowering. Gladioli can also be planted at this time directly outdoors for late flowering.

As long as your patio is sheltered or you have some cover from a pergola or veranda containers are ideal for planting up with tender perennials such as such as verbena, bidens, gazanias and argyranthemums.

When it comes to your vegetables, seeds can be sown outdoors at this time under cloches. However, for an early crop sow two seeds per deep pot in the greenhouse or on a windowsill, thinning out to leave the strongest seedling for planting outside in late May or June. Baby vegetables are becoming very popular especially where space is limited. Many can be sown at this time and can be grown in containers and growbags on the patio as well as in the vegetable garden.

Give perennials support 

Now is the time to get supports in place for perennials such as delphiniums and peonies while the plants are still relatively short. The supports will be quickly hidden and if you use natural supports such as hazel twigs, they will hold tender new growth firm without it losing its natural form.


May is ideal for training your roses. Wrap new growth around supports – You’ll be rewarded with more flowers as the season progresses. Also make sure to check for early signs of disease. Check for powdery mildew and black spot symptoms and treat infected plants with a fungicide.  

To help control these diseases, water roses early in the day. Delivering water directly to soil – instead of overhead watering that wets foliage is ideal.  

May is a busy month for gardeners, but it is the start of the exciting time when the fruits of your hard work over the previous few months’ pay off.   

What have you planned for your garden over the next few weeks and have you any tips to share? Leave your thoughts in our comments section below! 

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